Dr. Estehr Sternberg Discovers the Role of Belief in Healing


Dr. Esther Sternberg

When I interviewed Dr. Esther Sternberg for my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, she told me how she came to understand and appreciate how the mind-body connection can enhance the healing process. Here is an excerpt from her story, beginning with her bio.

Dr. Sternberg, the author of The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions, is Chief of the Section on Neuroendocrine Immunology and Behavior at the National Institute of Mental Health. She is internationally recognized for her discoveries in brain-immune interactions and the effects of the brain’s stress response on health—the science of the mind-body interaction. Recognized by her peers as a spokesperson for the field, she translates complex scientific subjects in a highly accessible manner, with a combination of academic credibility, passion for science, and compassion as a physician. Click here to visit Esther’s website.

In the book proposal, my editor and I decided to include a chapter titled “Can Stress Make You Sick?” as well as a chapter called “Can Believing Make You Well?” The plan was to debunk the notion that believing could make you well, because there wasn’t much solid research that proved that believing in anything in particular could help a person heal.

As I was writing the book proposal at my new house on a rainy March afternoon, my next-door neighbors, Tarja and Dean Pappavasiliou, rang the doorbell to introduce themselves, carrying moussaka and all kinds of delicious Greek food. When they asked me if I was a writer. I said, “I guess I am. I’m just starting to write a book proposal. Why do you ask?” They said they had always wanted a writer to stay at their cottage in Crete. I said, “Well then, yes, I guess you could call me a writer.” And so I soon went with them to stay at their cottage, an experience that was life transforming.

The Pappavasilious’ cottage was in a tiny, isolated village called Lentas on the south coast of Crete. It overlooks the Mediterranean and faces the border between Libya and Egypt. To reach it, you have to go over two chains of mountains and across the valley in the middle of Crete.

It was beautiful. I swam every day in the Mediterranean’s wonderful, warm waters. Every day, even though I had difficulty walking when I first arrived there, I would climb to the top of a hill above the village, where there were the archaeological ruins of an ancient Aesklepion—a temple to Aesklepios, the Greek God of healing. The Greeks built many of these temples, always on the top of a hill overlooking the sea. People would come there to be healed with sleep, dreams, music, social support, lots of friends, a healthy diet, and exercise.

I would sit amidst the ruins and soak in the incredible view of the ocean, of the white stucco buildings with blue trim, and of the beautiful red and pink bougainvillea. It was the most soothing and relaxing time. I would sit there for hours, effectively meditating.

On top of the temple was a Byzantine church. And on top of that, there was a little Greek chapel, where the villagers came to place religious icons and candles. It was cool and dark and very soothing to sit there and look out at the ocean. I felt very peaceful. Another thing that was wonderful about that village was there were hundreds of grandmothers who all were happy to feed me with wonderful, healthy Greek food.

By the time I left Greece ten days later, I felt well again; I could climb up to the temple easily. When I returned home, I did not need to go back into the hospital or take any experiential treatments. At that point, I realized that there was a lot more to healing than simply medicine and space-age diagnostic tests. Those are extremely important, and of course I had been on medication to help my arthritis, but I had started that medication months before going to Greece and it hadn’t been helping—until I went off and allowed my body to heal.

What I began to understand was that we’ve learned a great deal in medicine about ways to diagnose and heal disease. But it takes more than advances in medical disciplines to truly heal. You have to consider the whole body and the spirit. These space-age medicines will not do their job as well if you fight against them, if you continue to place yourself in stressful situations. You need to take yourself offline and combine those space-age treatments with the ancient knowledge that has been around for thousands and thousands of years—practices like meditation, prayer, exercise, and social support.

After my experience in Greece, the answer to that chapter on “Can Believing Make You Well?” became yes. Even if all the evidence wasn’t in at that time, which was 1999, there was certainly enough there to begin to piece together the puzzle to say that yes, believing and participating in these salubrious activities can make you well, can help you heal. The turning point for me was when I began to merge the science I did with my own personal experience, my own personal and emotional life.

In writing the book, it was almost as if I was continuing that conversation with my mother at her bedside. And my answer to her with the book was, Yes, you were right that believing can make you well.

Click here to view all my posts related to my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything.


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Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to be.
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to.
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Click here to order your copy of Through God’s Eyes from GodsEyesAmazon.com.
For an inscribed copy, click here to e-mail Phil for information.

Click here to visit the Through God’s Eyes website.

Click on the link below to download a FREE 28-page chapter!

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Here is a two-minute video introduction to Through God’s Eyes.

Like to learn more about Through God’s Eyes? Here is a free 44-page PDF sampler from the book that includes:

• an overview of the book
• the complete table of contents
• the Foreword by Caroline Myss
• my Introduction
• chapter excerpts
• a sample end-of-chapter story
• endorsements from authors and thought leaders

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Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents.

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• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
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sixty-seconds-coverPhil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.

Click here to order Sixty Seconds.

Learn more by visiting the official Sixty Seconds website.

Click here to read unsolicited testimonials from readers.

Here is a three-minute video introduction to Sixty Seconds.

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2 Responses to “Dr. Estehr Sternberg Discovers the Role of Belief in Healing”

  1. Alex Pattakos Says:

    Hi Phil,
    You are doing some meaningful work! I look forward to reading your book, Sixty Seconds. BTW: Among other things, I’m the author of Prisoners of Our Thoughts.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Great to hear from you, Alex. I just checked out “Prisoners of our Thoughts” and liked what I read! I’m a big Viktor Fankl fan!

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