Anatomy of the Soul (Book Review)

May 10, 2022 | 34 comments

As part of “Mental Health Month” we have the following book review of and opportunity to win: Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising connections between neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships. By Curt Thompson, M.D.


At Global Trellis, we believe a healthy life on the field is a balance of good soul care and personal development. So what does that have to do with mental health? 

According to psychiatrist and author, Curt Thompson, new breakthroughs in neuroscience are revealing just how integrated our soul (spiritual formation) and mind (mental health) are when talking about knowing and being known by God. The two work in unison and when we separate them, we are disintegrating the whole of who God created us to be. 

Written in an accessible way, Anatomy of the Soul helps us understand the anatomy of the brain and how it connects with our emotions and intellect. Thompson addresses the importance of emotions as a way to access communion with God and others. When we pay attention to our emotions, acknowledge them, and begin to understand them through spiritual practices, we can begin to have breakthroughs in communication with God and in our relationships. 

At Global Trellis we’ve introduced practices in Ignatian spirituality. If you’ve prayed the Examen or Imaginative prayer, you have begun to grow in your awareness of how your emotions assist you in communicating with God in prayer. St. Ignatius of Loyola, before times of neuroscience and psychology, developed these prayer practices by noticing how his emotions were movements of God’s Spirit in his life. He noticed that his emotions either lead him toward walking closer to God or further from God. St. Ignatius shared his noticing with the world when he wrote the Spiritual Exercises. 

Today neuroscientists are catching up and adding to the work of early saints by defining and fleshing out what it means when we say that our emotions are our experience of God. 

Anatomy of the Soul explains the science behind what is happening in our brains as we engage in spiritual practices and prayer. My favorite part about this book is how Thompson takes Bible stories we’ve read all of our lives and shows what is happening within the minds and hearts of the characters. For example, he unpacks the psychological dialogue within the story of the Fall and then connects it with our struggle of sin and shame. It puts a fresh perspective on our inner struggles of faith, our stories, and our relationships.

In very practical ways, Thompson shares spiritual practices throughout the book that lead to the holistic integration of the mind, body, and soul of a person toward a deeper awareness concerning our relationship with God. Some examples are: story-telling, fasting, confession, and the body scan.

Personally, the information concerning attachment moved me. As an adoptive mother, a person who struggles with attachment, and has read many books on attachment, I found this book most comprehensive and life-changing. Neuroscience and psychology today are finding more and more evidence concerning the importance of attachment, and this book links it to our created-ness. Thompson says, “attachment is a reflection of God’s own state of being—one of community, integration and connection.” He works to move us towards restoration and reconnection.

Other topics discussed that may interest you are empathy, trust, having the mind of Christ, shame, and elements of repair. Often cross-cultural workers find themselves ministering to others in places of pain. I believe this book offers tremendous resources that will give you different ways to be offer compassion to those with whom you minister. At the heart of this book is a desire to see all of God’s children, in community, transformed by the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives through Jesus Christ for the ushering of God’s Kingdom. 

I found Anatomy of the Soul to be challenging, encouraging, easy to read, and practical. I honestly could not put it down. If you only have time to read one book on mental health, this is the book I’d recommend. It is engaging, practical, and touches on so many areas of mental/spiritual health in one book. I have no doubt it will lead you toward a deeper relationship with God that will pour over into the lives of those you serve and with whom you live in community.

Leave a comment and two of you will win a copy of Anatomy of a Soul! Winners drawn Thursday.


Mental Health Month Special: Have you ever been unsure what to do when locals tell you things they feel safe telling you because you’re an outsider? Or in over your head when expats come to you for unofficial counseling? This bundle is for you! You’ll be equipped in the basics of lay counseling, have tangible resources in hand, and answers to the key questions you face repeatedly. You no longer have to feel lost or unable to help! Get the bundle here.

Photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing on Unsplash

Elizabeth Forshee

Spiritual director. Follower of Jesus. Mom and Wife. Former cross-cultural worker. Enjoys a good book and a cup of coffee. 

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34 Comments

  1. Jennie Work

    Wow this book sounds very interesting and will be helpful for my journey with the Lord at this time in my life. Thank you for sharing!!

    Jennie Work

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      I agree that it sounds interesting! And am grateful for God’s good timing to bring it across your path at this time!

      Reply
      • Lindsay

        I would love this. It sounds like a much needed book for today’s world

        Reply
        • Rebekah

          I’ve been loving the “Being Known” podcast and would love to read this book!

          Reply
  2. Christen Richardson

    Thanks for the review…sounds like a book I’d like to read! Both Peter Scazerro’s and Brene Brown’s work have deeply impacted and influenced my spiritual practices, especially in the realm of my emotions. This book seems like it hits on similar themes–I hope I win the give away!

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      I hope you win too 🙂 … and I’ve also found Scazerro’s and Brown’s book to be so helpful!!

      Reply
  3. Lynn

    I have this book on my kindle, but have yet to read it. I am now looking forward to it even more! Our brains are amazing and complex.

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      Our brains ARE amazing and complex 🙂

      Reply
  4. Joanna

    Thank you for passing along this resource! Looking forward to reading it regardless of if I win it or not! 😄

    Reply
  5. Karrie

    I have read one of Curt Thompson’s other books (“The Soul of Shame”) and found it fascinating. It sounds like this one is on par.

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      I’ve recently purchased his “The Soul of Desire” and plan to dive into it later this week 🙂

      Reply
  6. Christine y

    The description sounds powerful and compelling!

    Reply
  7. Kim A.

    I have heard such wonderful things about this book!! Definitely on my reading list!

    Reply
  8. Amanda

    This is the first I’ve heard of this book, but it seems insightful and thought-provoking. Recently in a study of God’s character from Exodus 34:6-7, I learned that the trait translated as “compassion” is a highly emotional concept! It was definitely a new perspective to think of God as an emotional being, and as people made in his image, we reflect that as well. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      Oooh, that’s fascinating! Thank you for sharing what you’re learning :)!

      Reply
  9. Megan

    Looking forward to reading it! adding to my kindle library list

    Reply
  10. Judy Huston

    A career in Interior Design has provided many years of opportunity to speak into peoples lives and living spaces, in these recent. years neuroscience, life coaching and spiritual direction have been dawning in my mind, heart and sense of availability and purpose for the works the Spirit has prepared for me to do. I follow on..just recently connected to Global Trellis through a friend…thank you for this opportunity. A current reading of Jim Wilder’s RENOVATED is proving fruitful.

    Reply
    • Lori

      Such an amazing book!

      Reply
    • Amy Young

      Judy, glad that you’ve been connected with Global Trellis :)! Your career in Interior Design and the connections it lets you make sounds interesting and able to good (and important) conversations!

      Reply
  11. Lauren

    I have heard of this book but your review really intrigues me. As I am learning more about spiritual formation, I will be adding Anatomy of the Soul to my list to read.

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      I had the same response to Elizabeth’s review!

      Reply
  12. Petra Dekker

    This sounds like a ‘must’ read and a great addition to my work as a counselor.
    Thank you for posting this review.

    Reply
  13. Hannah

    Books that address the intersection of science and spirituality fascinate me so adding this to my want to read list.

    Reply
  14. Gail

    I value book recommendations that come with the validation of personal experience. Thank you, Elizabeth, for introducing me to a new (to me) author. I think reading it will bring fresh insights to me and enrich my own journey of spiritual formation.

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      Gail, I value these kind of book recommendations too!

      Reply
  15. Michele Zintz

    This sounds fantastic! Putting it on my “to read” list right now!

    Reply
  16. Stephanie Dehani

    I have two of Dr. Thompson’s other books and have been so thankful for the hard work he has done to make freedom and wholeness present in our lives. I want to read this one, too!

    Reply
    • Amy Young

      Though I’ve heard of Dr. Thompson for years, it’s only been recently that I’ve gone deeper than just his name 🙂 … and I agree with you. He’s “done the hard work to make freedom and wholeness present.” Thanks be to God!

      Reply
  17. Mechthild Roth

    I downloaded the free sample from Kindle to check the book out. Already the introduction hit really close to home. And Thompson’s statement in chapter 1: “Attachment. In order to fully engage our relationship with God, it is most helpful to be fully aware of the patterns by which we have attached to our primary caregivers. The ways we have connected have important correlations with the structure and function of our brains.” makes me really think. – This book goes on my “Need-to-Read” list.

    Reply
  18. Christopher

    Thanks so much for recommending this book… I look forward to reading it as a personal resource, as well as a resource to care for others.

    Reply
  19. Derrick T

    I’m personally not surprised! After all, paraphrasing Westminster Catechism, we were created to worship! Now we have science to back that statement.

    Reply
  20. Jeremy Stewart

    I’ve been listening to Curt Thompson’s “Being Known” podcast, but haven’t read any of his books. This one sounds like a great place to start!

    Reply

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