Deceits of the Mind is a major effort at developing a comprehensive theory of disease, one incorporating knowledge of how the mind works, how the body works, and how the two interface. This interface, traditionally called psychosomatic medicine, newly labeled psychoneuro-immunology, has piqued the interest of a great many researchers and lay people alike in the last decade. Most recently, it has shown great promise in the psychological treatment of physical disorders. Although books on the mind/body dynamic usually end with the basic principle of mind affecting the body, this is the point at which Jane Goldberg's Deceits of the Mind begins.
Goldberg begins by challenging the traditional medical model of the disease process. Since the advent of modern medicine, sickness has been seen as caused by factors from without--environmental stressors, germs, carcinogens, and so on. In contrast, Goldberg's research and observations indicate that diseases, both biological and psychological, are often rooted in processes that have their origins within the human organism itself. She shows that an organism's ability to defend itself is crucial to the maintenance of both physical and emotional well-being. She describes the variety of psychological and biological methods of defense the human organism has available to it, and how these go awry in the formation of disease.
Moving beyond the traditional psychosomatic postulate of mind affecting body, Goldberg goes a step farther, and proposes the adventuresome notion that mind and body imitate each other. A malfunction at any level of mind or body, she says, is reflected in all other levels. She shows how, in disease conditions, psychosis can exist in the body, not just the mind, and how the cancer process is embedded in the mind, not just the body.