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Posted: April 22, 2005

Spiritual Caregiving

Facing and Overcoming Life's Inner and Outer Challenges

(Editor's Note: How do you deal with challenges -- inner or outer? Sometimes it may be hard to tell the difference, as you'll see in this collection of brief articles on the topic. Where do you see your caregiving self in this picture?)


Healing as a Sacred Path: A Story of Personal, Medical and Spiritual Transformation
L. Robert Keck
Chrysalis Books 10/02 Hardcover $24.95
ISBN 0-87785-389-4

L. Robert Keck has spent seven decades "navigating the changing rapids of illness" with polio, a broken back, chronic pain, and crippling. With a master's degree in theology and a doctorate in the philosophy of health, he has served on the medical school faculty of The Ohio State University, founded and managed a corporate wellness consulting firm, and was president of Boulder Graduate School. He currently teaches at the Graduate Theological Union, the University of Creation Spirituality, and Iliff School of Theology. He is the author of four books including Sacred Quest in which he shares his major ideas as an evolutionary theologian.

All of this experience makes him uniquely qualified to sit in the catbird seat and ponder what he calls "a profoundly promising and catalytic synergy between medicine and spirituality."

The subtitle of this book, A Story of Personal, Medical and Spiritual Transformation, provides a fitting overview of the proceedings. Keck believes that healing is an "escalation of meaning and purpose, growth and development" as the mind, body, and spirit work together. The inner healer comes alive as "the soul-self" keeps renewing itself on the journey through life.

Keck has some interesting things to say about prayer, the wisdom of the heart, dreams, and miracles. He is encouraged by the attitudes of physicians who have acknowledged the mysteries involved in the healing process. He hopes that more clergy will take up the challenges of applying spirituality to health challenges. And he is confident that members of the baby boom generation will take seriously the out-of-the-box possibilities inherent in mind-body interactions. He envisions a future when more people will read the inherent spiritual teachings in their illnesses and call upon a variety of helpers for help in their recoveries.

This book is a very helpful overview of spirituality and healing.

-- Book Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Almost Perfect, But Totally Depressed?

There are two kinds of perfectionists, psychologists say: One kind seems inspired and challenged to excellence; the other is driven by feelings of not being good enough. To understand the differences, psychological researchers led by Georgia State University's Jeffrey S. Ashby recruited 140 undergraduates to complete two questionnaires: the Almost Perfect Scale and the Comparative Feeling of Inferiority Index.

Results showed that a key to satisfaction lies in how an individual deals with feelings of inferiority. If you're driven by high standards, your perfection is likely to benefit both you and others and will probably lead to high levels of life satisfaction. But if you strive for perfection because you feel inferior to others, your perfectionism is less likely to be helpful to you or anybody else.

Not surprisingly, feeling inferior leads to lower levels of life satisfaction. In other words, not all practice makes perfect. The kind that does comes from challenge and inspiration.

-- The Editors


Risks from Loneliness May Have Nothing to Do with Other People

There is plenty of evidence that feeling lonely is hard on your health.

For example, how a person rates the statement "I feel lonely" has been shown to predict survival of heart bypass patients at 30 days and after five years. So, you might expect that the lives of the lonely and the socially connected are quite different. But apparently not.

In a major survey of 2,362 college students that was funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, two University of Chicago psychologists, Louise C. Hawkley, Ph.D., and John T. Cacioppo, found no real difference between the health behaviors of lonely and socially connected individuals -- except that lonely undergraduates were slightly less likely to consume alcohol. The researchers also found "no differences in the number of major life events, traumas, or intrusive events reported by lonely and non-lonely individuals."

Even more fascinating, lonely and socially connected students engage in the same activities with the same frequency. The two groups even spend the same amount of time alone.

Of course, the inside story is different. According to Cacioppo, "Lonely individuals reported higher levels of perceived stress, more frequent and more severe hassles, and less intense 'uplifts' than non-lonely individuals." They were significantly less likely to use active coping techniques or to seek help and emotional support from others.

In stress tests, blood flow in the hearts of lonely college students was chronically worse than that of the socially connected, to an extent that could over the years impair cardiovascular functioning; in fact, lonely elderly people are more likely to have high blood pressure than their socially connected peers.

The research also suggests that loneliness impairs the body's natural methods of restoring itself, such as sleeping well and healing wounds. In other words, a lonely heart is a real phenomenon, and is not healed merely by the presence of other people.

-- The Editors

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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