Hospice medical director Kearney presents his views of the healing process in the context of the stories of 10 patients, so general concepts and processes are brought to bear on concrete situations. He defines his concept soul pain
as "the experience of an individual who has become disconnected and alienated from the deepest and most fundamental aspects of himself or herself" and says good palliative care is a prerequisite before healing from this pain can be attempted. Kearney has learned from his mistakes with this process, as he shows by relating how he and each patient grew in understanding of themselves and one another. He discovered that healer and patient do not always progress at the same rate and that healers must not only adjust their approaches but also determine whose pain they are trying to alleviate. As for his successes, many have come because of his use of image work, in which the patient is placed in an imaginary setting and chooses where and how to move onward. William Beatty
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From Kirkus Reviews
Through somber stories, a hospice physician shares his experiences of working with people near death, revealing how the dying process can be a time of personal growth. Kearney, medical director of palliative care at Our Lady's Hospice in Dublin, Ireland, argues that the terror of death stems from a split between the rational and intuitive minds. When an individual becomes alienated from his deepest and most fundamental aspect, he says, the result is soul pain. In a series of stories about dying patients, he illustrates how soul pain is manifested and how, using such psychotherapeutic tools as guided imagery, dream work, and prayer, he sometimes is able to relieve that pain. Two models, one mythological and one psychological, provide Kearney's framework. The first is the story of Chiron, a wounded healer in Greek mythology who willingly descended into the underworld of death before achieving immortality in the heavens. The second is a Jungian model, positing that the ego of the surface mind fears and mistrusts the deep mind, or underworld, of the self. As they make their journey toward death, some patients find their own way through soul pain to acceptance and equanimity; many, however, experience overwhelming fear and suffering. Kearney, who stresses that palliative care is always the first step in what he calls ``depth work,'' describes his successes and failures in helping these patients get in touch with their deepest feelings and experience inner transformations that bring them comfort and peace. This is not light reading. All of Kearney's patients have terminal illnesses; there are no miracles and no happy endings--unless a good death can be viewed as one. For those concerned about the growing strength of the assisted-suicide movement, Kearney's approach provides a welcome antidote to that of Dr. Kevorkian. For those curious about the hospice movement, this is a forceful introduction. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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