by Stanley H. Block and Carolyn Bryant Block
New Harbinger, 2014
Review by Kamuran Elbeyoğlu on Jul 7th 2015
The legacy of Descartes' mind-body dualism has shaped our understanding of the relationship between mind and body beyond academia into our everyday thinking for centuries. Even for those, who are arguing against Descartes' vision of mind-body dualism, the tendency of treating the mind as the captain of the ship has been irresistible. Antonio Damasio's little but wonderfully written book Descartes' Error was the first book to appear arguing against the duality of mind and body by restoring our appreciation for the perspective of the body in forming consciousness. And since then, Damasio's work undoubtedly has stood out as inspiration for a great deal of research in neurobiology as well as in clinical psychology and philosophy during the twenty-first century and prepared the groundwork for mindfulness based treatment approaches in psychiatry and clinical psychology, today by showing that emotion is inherently part of human reasoning.
Mind-Body Workbook for Anxiety: Effective Tools for Overcoming Panic, Fear and Worry is a wonderful example of putting together the brain-based research with methods for teaching mindful awareness. In Mind-Body Workbook for Anxiety: Effective Tools for Overcoming Panic, Fear and Worry Stanley H. Block and Carolyn Bryant Block offer a mind-body bridging approach that shows how to regulate the thoughts and emotions that can trigger anxiety. Their main argument is that mind and body function together as a unit and cannot be separated; so, the word the mind-body is used throughout the book to emphasize the oneness of mind and body as a single unit.
Stanley H. Block and Carolyn Bryant Block argue that human beings are ideally suited for anxiety. Our minds work in such a way that we continuously connect stories about past with expectations about the future that potential disasters are always in our consciousness. And our nervous system is designed so that whatever happens in our brain is immediately relayed to every organ in our system. So, worrying about certain things or being in an anxious situation dominates our mind and body to such an extent that fear and avoidance take control of our whole system, our life. Overcoming anxiety, then, would only be possible by taking a holistic approach, which they call mind-body bridging. Mind-body bridging rests on the idea that there is an Identity system, "I-System" that regulates mind-body states such that when it is active the person is having anxiety symptoms and by turning it off the person can reduce anxiety symptoms. Mind-body bridging, which is an effective and easy way to put the I-system to rest and overcome fear, worry and panic, is similar to existing therapeutic approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction but it is more akin to mindfulness-based approaches, since its main premise is that we are always connected to a wellspring of healing, goodness and wisdom.
This workbook is based on the fact that your mind-body (mind and body as a unified whole unit) state is your powerful self that always function is the executive mode and can heal your anxiety and allow you to live your best life. But when the I-system becomes active, the state of mind and body is the powerless self, in which case your mind is cluttered with fearful and troubling thoughts and your body responds with a variety of symptoms. This book is designed as a self-help workbook to learn mind-body bridging in order to put I-system to rest and reduce anxiety by easy to do exercises. Every chapter offer simple exercises by discover, experience and apply method and since each chapter serves a building unit for the next one, the list of self-healing tools grow bigger towards the last chapters.
There are altogether nine chapters. The first chapter is an introductory chapter aimed to introduce the reader to the I-system and how we can use our senses to reduce anxiety. The reader is to discover how the I-system causes anxiety, to experience how tuning into his/her senses reduces anxiety and to apply his/her anxiety reduction tools in his/her daily life. In this chapter two main anxiety reduction tools, namely thought labeling and bridging awareness practices are explained.
Second chapter is titled "Start Self-Healing Anxiety by Recognizing Requirements". As the title suggests in this chapter the reader discovers how requirements prevent his/her self-healing, experiences how recognizing requirements help him/her self-heal and applies his/her anxiety reduction tools in his/her daily life.
After explaining the theoretical and practical underpinnings of the mind-body system and the requirements that the reader needs to fight to build an anxiety free mind-body state, the following chapters are devoted to exercises to notice and reduce depressors and anxiety filled behaviors. The third chapter is devoted to taking charge of one's depressor and self-heal. In this chapter, the reader is to discover how his/her depressor stops him/her from managing his/her troubling thoughts and sets the stage for his/her anxiety symptoms, to experience how taking charge of his/her depressor help him/her manage his/her troubling thoughts and allow him/her to self-heal and to apply his/her anxiety reduction tools in his/her daily life.
Chapter four is titled "Overcome Anxiety-Filled Behaviors by Managing Your Fixer". In this chapter, the reader is to discover how his/her fixer drives his/her anxiety-filled behaviors, to experience how defusing the fixer help him/her overcome anxiety-filled behaviors and to apply his/her anxiety reduction tools in his/her daily life.
Chapter five is about defusing one's requirements to prevent anxiety. The reader is to discover how requirements are root cause of anxiety, to experience how defusing his/her requirements prevents anxiety and to apply the anxiety reduction tools in his/her daily life.
Next two chapters are designed to help the reader get to know how the requirements of his/her I-system prevents him/her building and managing anxiety-free relationships and how learning to master his/her emotions one can live a more meaningful, fulfilled life. Chapter six is about building anxiety-free relationships. In this chapter, the reader discovers how the I-system prevents him/her from having anxiety-free relationships, experiences how defusing his/her requirements for oneself improves his/her relationships and applies his/her anxiety reduction tools in his/her daily life.
Chapter seven is about mastering one's emotions. The reader learns to master his/her emotions by discovering how his/her I-system causes his/her emotions to get out of control, experiencing how calming the I-system allows him/her to be in charge of his/her emotions and applying his/her anxiety reduction tools in his/her daily life.
All the exercises in these chapters prepare the reader for a mindful state of being who achieves health and wellness. At this stage the reader discovers how anxiety interferes with his/her health and wellness, experience how defusing requirements reduces anxiety and improves health and wellness and applies his/her anxiety reduction tools in his/her daily life.
The last chapter is aptly titled as "Live Free of Anxiety", where the reader discovers how the I-system stops you from living free of anxiety, experiences the powerful effect of using his/her anxiety reduction tools regularly and applies his/her anxiety reduction tools in his/her daily life.
Bridging over a decade of research, clinical experience and different therapeutic tools, Stanley H. Block and Carolyn Bryant Block introduce us a very powerful and effective technique of mind-body bridging to regulate thoughts and emotions that can trigger anxiety. What makes this book really outstanding is making such a complicated issue of mind-body unity accessible for lay persons and applicable to their lives through easy to follow instructions and exercises. This book is designed such that every person reading this book will find that each mind-body bridging map is uniquely himself or herself and by doing easy to follow exercises will gain insight into what is happening his or her life. I not only recommend this book for people who suffer from panic attacks, phobias or social anxiety, so that they are not able to navigate the challenges of everyday life, but also for anyone who wants to learn how to unleash his or her body's self-healing power and a better control of his or her life. I also recommend this book as a practical companion to any clinical psychology or therapeutic techniques class.
© 2015 Kamuran Elbeyoğlu (Ph.D)
Kamuran Elbeyoğlu (Ph.D), Toros University, School of Management and Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Mersin, Turkey