Molecules of Emotion by Candice Pert

January 31, 2007 at 9:37 am 3 comments

Having just finished Candace Pert’s – Molecules Of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine, here is a review and some thoughts on why I found it such a worthwhile read.

One of the most memorable scenes from the movie What the Bleep Do We Know!? is the wedding scene and Amanda’s (the photographer) self loathing scene the morning after.

 It is the films’ graphic illustrations of what happens to our cells when we experience strong emotions or drugs that were a big eye opener for me and I wanted to understand more. “Molecules of Emotion” gives you and indepth understanding of this and then some.  Candace Pert weaves the detailed technical research with her own inspiring story and this is the strength of the book. Just when you find it too brain boggling, some relief comes in the way of her personal experience in the cut-throat world of scientific research and her journey as she embraces alternative therapies. I am not going to do an extensive book review of Molecules Of Emotion but rather pick a few of the key things that made an impact on me.

Holistic not Mechanistic – BodyMind

One of the revolutionary findings that Candace Pert discusses is that body chemicals form an information network that links the body and mind.  So as an organism we are not just mechanistic, e.g., electrical stimulus across a synapse resulting in muscular reflex, but rather that we have intelligence in our body in the form of information that runs all systems and creates behaviour. This intelligence is both in the brain and in the cells of the body.

She explains and demonstrates how the brain, immune system and endocrine system link and communicate with each other. Candace refers to Norman Cousins Anatomy of an Illness where after being diagnosed with a life threatening illness, he holes himself up in a hotel and watches funny videos, laughing himself back to health. Essentially, your mind affects your emotions and your emotions affect your mind, i.e., a biochemical basis for emotions.


Although she does not give you a recipe for how to heal yourself, she helps you understand why healing takes place.  For example, you learn that the cells of immune system move to wherever they are needed to repair damage or defend.  I found explanations like these are good visualization tool for healing and changing the body.

Molecules of emotion and addiction

Early in her career, Candace Pert discovered opiate receptors on cells and explains that we have receptors for drugs like heroin and marijuana because ironically they are similar to the chemicals our own body produces. Equally, emotions produce peptides and these are the “molecules of emotion” which also dock onto their matching receptors in cells. In the same way we can get addicted to heroin and marijuana because we have receptors for these drugs we can become addicted to emotions.  So what?  

Well in the case of say heroin, the more heroin you take, the less internal endorphins (your own form of heroin) you make and the less sensitive and fewer your receptors become, i.e., you make less of those brain cells.  So you need more heroin to get a hit and so a cycle of less brain cells being made gets you stuck in a pattern just thinking the same thoughts over and over. Exactly the same happens with molecules of emotions, like anger or power, we get addicted to the emotion and we act out the same patterns over and over again.

For me this was a confronting, as having experienced addiction in a parent I steered well clear of drugs and alcohol, only to find I have some key addictions including anger, worrying and sugar, to name a few.  The What the Bleep Do We Know book covers this well. The good news here is when you break the addiction, new brain cells continue to grow and you can completely recover and create a new vision for yourself and basically a new brain. How to break an addiction is a subject for another post.

Molecules Of Emotion seems to be almost be in two parts, the first part is fairly technical and research-based and I have one friend who gave up reading the book because it became too much for her. She read it before watching “What the Bleep” or the extended version “Down the Rabbit Hole ”. Having one of the movies as a background may have made things easier. You are well rewarded for persevering (skip parts if you must) as the second section of the book explores Candace Perts journey as a scientist  embracing alternative therapies including, massage, meditation, nutrition etc.

The first part of the book is for the left logical detailed brain and food for the mind, whereas the second part is more conceptual right brain and food for the soul. This is not strictly true as her personal story and experiences weave in and out throughout the book. In the concluding sections of Molecules of Emotion, Candace Pert offers a helpful eight point programme titled “Lifestyles of the Healthy, Whole and Conscious” as well as a very down-to-earth short appendix titled “Prevention oriented tips for helpful, blissful living”

For me, Molecules Of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine, is a book you buy, dipping into it over a period of time, with a pencil in hand, highlighting the many nuggets that are worthwhile referring to again and again.

Happy reading – regards Des.

Molecules Of Emotion:
The Science Behind
Mind-Body Medicine

What the Bleep Do We Know!?
Anatomy of an
Illness as Perceived
by the Patient

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Entry filed under: addiction, book review, candace pert, molecules of emotion, neuroscience, what the bleep.

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