Last time I began with explaining the spirit and its connection to the spirit, mind, body continuum. Today, I would like to look at the mind’s role in this threesome.
In my own spiritual journey I very quickly came up against the struggles of my mind. The great Apostle Paul once wrote, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” In essence we have two minds. The mind that reacts and wants to do things that are unhealthy and irrational and the other mind that wants to do the just things, the compassionate things, the truthful things. Think back to the time when you were a child and your mother told you not to touch the cookies before supper and when she wasn’t looking, or so you thought, you sneaked one. This childhood behaviour is in every human being even if you are 100 years of age!
The more I sought to follow spiritual principles and sought to practice spiritual disciplines I found that there was a part of me that rejoiced and experienced the abundant life but there was another part that at times wanted to throw it away! The rebel versus the saint! Now some are just rebels and some are saints that have a rebel inside of them that is looking for some unhealthy action!
Though the words of Paul can be discussed in great depth, but suffice it for now to look at the mental/emotional struggles that is inherent in all human beings. We want to do right, make the right choices – at least those that are self-aware do.
I found in my journey through life that I have repeatedly from time to time done what I hate, that I do! In 1999 I decided, after a few years of soul searching, to go back to school to better myself. While in my Master’s year I changed my course of studies to psychology. I was not so conscious that I myself needed some help as I was conscious that my counselling abilities as a pastor was not very successful. All I knew is that I wanted to be in a better position to help people. Through the course of these studies I discovered that I needed some help myself – to better myself. My wife once told me that studying psychology really helped me to be a more understanding person.
The two minds, unconscious (subconscious) and the conscious, involve spiritual and psychological elements to them. On a psychological level the two minds, involve the two hemispheres of the brain. The right hemisphere of the brain is the emotional side and the left hemisphere of the brain is the logical side. Often when new clients come in they tell me about how they don’t understand why they are having their particular struggles and they believe they should be over it, or shouldn’t be thinking or feeling a particular way. I tell them “It’s simple. The right brain stores emotional information which is the part that feels, acts, and thinks in ways that our left brain says isn’t right.”
Our emotional brain functions so fast that it can and often does over-ride the logical, rational brain. The emotional brain usually responds in about a ½ a millisecond, where the logical rational brain takes about 2 seconds to respond. That is an eternity when you think about the differences in time response. This is the natural process of brain function. For example a war veteran, particularly the Vietnam War veterans have been known to be particularly resistant to traditional talk therapy approaches. These war veterans may hear a car backfire and within a second they hit the deck! This is dangerous especially if you are driving a car on a highway. Now, you don’t need to be a war veteran to have unwanted reactions all it takes is some incidences in your life, some even that you may not be able to remember. For example, if you were an infant in a crib with a messy diaper crying for 20 minutes before someone came to assist and comfort you this could create PTSD in the brain. Through Dr. Ruth Lanius’ research, out of Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, she and her colleagues have been able to substantiate such findings through modern tools like neuroimaging, in particular fMRI brain scans. As in the above mentioned example, brain scans have shown the child to develop PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
When in life we have consciously or unconsciously experienced trauma and/or neglect of which some can go back as far as prior to ovulation, according to cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton, we end up developing a warped perception of the world around us in which we live. This perception he refers to as the perception of belief. These beliefs are based on our perception of our environment – life’s experiences. No human has gone untouched; we all have some kind of issues to work through. Some people are successful to some degree in repressing the past while others notice their inner struggles more readily.
In my own journey I further discovered that mere talk therapies only have limited effect. Even in my own life, I discovered that knowing something does not equate to solving the problem. Much like when a person goes to their family physician and discovers that they have some disease, the discovery doesn’t equate to the answer it simply unmasks the problem so that an intervention can take place, so it is with our mental/emotional struggles. As I have personally received therapy, I have learned that I can only do so much for myself; I need other qualified people to help me. I believe that is true spiritually, mentally, and physically for everyone.
In my last article I spoke of the spirit as being the unconscious mind and the soul the conscious mind. The connection is so intertwined that to be able to totally separate and distinguish the intricate differences between the two is much like trying to unravel the neural networks of the brain, or the encoding of our DNA, it is a much too complicated thing to do. It is best to simply understand that we are a unity of parts that make up the whole – the “us”.
Don’t worry about being normal or crazy; just remember that normal is a setting on your wash machine. Only God is normal the rest of us need to be working on it with divine aid and through qualified human agency. We owe it to ourselves to transform, to heal, and to better ourselves.
 Romans 7:15, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
 Lipton, Bruce; DVD & Video : Nature, Nurture, & the Power of Love: The Biology of Conscious Parenting, Spirit 2000 Inc., 2002.