A Challenge from a Friend
Bill Muench, pastor of Redemption City Church gave me a challenge. Put together four classes for consecutive Sundays that lays out the process for emotional and spiritual healing. My admission to Bill was how I get caught up in wanting people to know the process and then to do the process.
I have to admit most people seek the relief more than have a curiosity about the process by which relief is attained. So this blog post takes care of my need to inform those who wish to understand why and how the healing process works.
Once I have laid this process out, I will be able to get out of my desire to use the cognitive process and present the practical steps to achieve healing that is tangible because of the peace it brings.
As a behavioral scientist, I am awestruck by the Creator’s design. It is only in the past two decades that science has begun to understand the brain and its functions in the human experience. This will show how science and Scripture supports one another and leads us to truth that has been evident in the Bible for centuries. The language of Scripture speaks directly to the brain so that you can experience relief from “hurts, hang-ups, and habits.”
Let’s jump in
You think in terms of your mind and may not realize that your mind uses the physical brain in every aspect of your daily functioning. When you are thinking clearly, making plans, and solving problems you are using the upstairs of your brain which is called the “cerebral cortex” or the gray matter associated to the brain. The cortex is the thinking brain.
If something leaves you feeling uneasy or stressed, the Limbic or emotional brain is giving evidence that it is active. When the emotions are present, it is difficult to be logical about yourself or circumstances. You become attentive to things and people around you and seek to find what gives you a sense of danger, then you try to fix it.
The thinking brain can plan and take action in keeping with your desires. The emotional brain reacts to situations because danger is anticipated. Both abilities of the brain rely on information that you receive from your senses. That information is a combination of what is heard, seen, touched, smelled, tasted, which are the basic five senses. In reality there are 40 or more sense inputs that goes to the brain with information about your external world. Taste is one example that that collects sensory information of salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami. Another is the kinesthetic sense that informs us where our body is in relation to up and down and where our arms and legs are in relation to our torso or head.
Without the senses, your mind could not know of your external world. This information enters through the brain stem along nerves that carry these messages to the limbic brain where it is directed to the thinking brain for more processing.
The brain stem also provides us another important function – it keeps us alive by automatically without maintaining heart beat, blood flow, breath, and so on. All this is in place from birth on and is the basis for how we learn about our external world.
The Reason Healing is Needed
The child born into a relatively healthy and normal family will experience mental injury to some degree though minor. The child may learn from family success is important, failure is unacceptable. “You have the ability. You should get As.” That can be the basis for a simple hurt that can lead the child to become a wounded adult who struggles with acceptance.
The senses bring the words of criticism heard from parents, teachers, and others through the auditory sense pathways through the brain stem to the limbic brain that feels the emotion of shame from the criticism heard. Within the limbic system are structures that do specific jobs. The emotional memory associated to criticism and the related feelings of shame is coded and stored in the hippocampus. Each time a parallel event happens, That event is associated to memory of criticism and added to the memory files of the hippocampus. The amygdala is another structure in the limbic brain. Its function is to be the alarm system to warn of danger. When the amygdala gets activated, one of three things happen for survival sake. The survival behaviors triggered by the amygdala can be one of following three:
- Freeze – in which the individual is unable to speak or act in his or her defense. The person becomes immobile or speechless. He or she basically shuts down and can’t think.
- Flee – in which the person runs away from the situation or people that are speaking the shame messages. The pattern that can develop is one of avoiding social interactions.
- Fight – in which the person attacks the critic either verbally or physically to counter the criticism and the feelings of shame. The aggression can become so intense that others will avoid the anger of the wounded person.
This cycle of reactivity and defensiveness is to preserve his or her self from further injury and can become an automatic habit that prevents the person from benefitting from close relationships. The way to break this cycle is the answer we seek. Yes, it is possible to break these habitual responses that where the hurts, hang-up, and habits come from in life.
The picture of healing is that of a person having little or no alarm reaction when events parallel to the past occur. The person no longer reacts automatically. Furthermore, the person will find that they no longer feel shame nor is he or she bombarded with humiliating memories. Rather he or she will be able to know what Isaiah wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isa 26:3 NLT)
The Evidence of Health
Psalm 119:165 contains the descriptive phrase for a healthy person. “Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.” The state of mind the individual has is one that allows the limbic system to be quiet. Thoughtful, mindful truth is known within one’s being that is free of the woundedness of the past. David writes this psalm to provide a foundation of truth and a relationship with God that provides security and strength in life.
Peace, what an amazing possibility. I had the privilege of witnessing many people find that peace of heart, mind, and soul over the 48 years of my counseling ministry. I can attest personally that it has worked in my life as well.
The Apostle Paul shared this promise with the believers in Philippi in this way. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7 NLT)
This is the assurance that is yours. You can heal from the lies you were taught and the emotions you felt as a result and live with a mind at peace. With that is the added assurance of Christ protecting your mind. The presence of Christ in your life will quiet your alarm reactions and sensitivities to this fallen world.
Thank you for reading this post. Please like it, comment on it, and send it to others. Watch for the next posts on the healing process.