02 Apr The Mind: A Psychotherapist’s Perspective
Let’s face it, the mind is a pretty vague concept. Unlike the kidneys, the liver or the heart, practically no one has the same definition of what the mind is and what it does. The most common definitions describe consciousness/non-consciousness, self awareness and subjective experience, which are clearly important aspects of the mind, but they’re really not helpful when it comes to modifying your mental health.
So, here’s what the mind is from my perspective – I borrowed this from a field called Interpersonal Neurobiology:
An embodied and relational, emergent, self-organizing process that regulates the flow of energy and information.
I know that’s a mouthful, so let me break it down. As embodied and relational, it exists in your brain and extended nervous system, and between you and others. Yes, part of your mind exists outside yourself between you and others. An emergent, self-organizing process is a mathematical term related to chaos theory, which is the theory that explains how pretty much everything in nature happens. Nothing directs the system from the outside, but all the parts interact, and a process emerges from those interactions. Clouds are an example. Energy and information are basically self explanatory. Everything is energy, and information is energy that has symbolic meaning. In this case we are interested in the energy and information flow within your body and between you and others.
Now we have a definition of the mind as regulatory mechanism, a process.
What this means for you and for psychotherapy is that what we want is a flexible, adaptable, coherent, energetic and stable process/(mind). If the process/(mind) is not all these things, then what you have is either rigidity on one side of functioning, or chaos on the other – or both. If you look at the Mental Health Practitioner’s “bible,” called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, you will see that every singe symptom of every single diagnosis in that book is some version of rigidity or chaos. In fact, every behavior that is maladaptive for you, even if you don’t fit into a “mentally ill” description in that book is some version of rigidity or chaos. There are both severe and mild ways your mind can be rigid or in chaos and disrupt the easy flow of your life, your relationships and your overall happiness. My job as a mental health practitioner is to help you find your way to flexibility, adaptability, coherence, energy and stability in your process/(mind).
The way I do that is by helping you, through awareness, to create integration in your systems of energy and information flow. A few of these systems are: your left and right brain, the top and bottom of your brain, your brain and body, your different memory systems, and your relationships. A healthy mind/(regulatory process) moves the different parts of your brain into integration. The same goes for your relationships. When your relationships (the sharing of energy and information flow) honor differences between you and others and at the same time promote connection, your brain circuits are integrated. Your brain is literally changed.
What this means is that the mind changes the structure of the brain through intentionally focused attention within yourself and from others to you, and you get healthier. This is not theoretical, it is documented. As a result, you are more flexible, adaptable, coherent, energetic and stable.