Friday, January 15, 2010

Thoughts About Brain Research and Scripture Part 3

So how does the need for our minds (our thought patterns and emotional response patterns) to be transformed impact counseling?

Nearly all counselors have had clients who echoed Paul's words about not doing what they know they should do and doing what they don't want to do. Even though we know what we should do--like love our neighbor, or not scream at our child, or not be jealous of our sister, or forgiving a spouse that has deeply wounded us--we find ourselves struggling with responding the way we know we should. As Christians we have been taught that we should love our neighbor, we should be patient with our child, that love is not jealous, and that w should forgive others as God has forgiven us. However, it is one thing to know what we should do and another thing to find a way to do it. Clients often say "I know (or believe) that truth in my mind, but not in my heart." It seems that the old patterns of thinking and responding overpower our knowledge.

Michael Merzenich, one of the developers of the design for the cochlear implant which allows congenitally deaf children to hear, discovered that competitive plasticity (the idea that brain areas, or maps, are governed by competition for the resources available in the brain, and that they utilize the principles of use it or lose it) explains why our bad habits are so difficult to break or "unlearn." Most of us think of the brain as a container and learning as putting something in it. When we try to break a bad habit, we think the soution is to put something new into the container. But when we learn a bad habit, it takes over a brain map, and each time we repeat it, it claims more control of that map and prevents the use of that space for 'good' habits. That is why 'unlearning' is often a lot harder than learning." (Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself, 1125, Kindle version). Those old patterns of thinking and responding (that are not consistent with God's truth) have claimed a huge amount of territory in our brains!

Because we all grow up watching models of people who are imperfect (we are all "tainted" by sin) we develop neural pathways of thinking--beliefs about ourselves, others, and God--which are often untrue. Identifying those thought and emotional response patterns which are not consistent with God's truth is one of the keys to transforming our lives.

If we, as Christian counselors, are to help others discover thought patterns and emotional responses that are not consistent with God's truth, we must know God's truth ourselves. It is of utmost importance that we learn God's Word and how it applies to our lives. But knowing that we can change, that we can find solutions to life's problems in applying God's truth, and that He has created us with a brain that can be transformed, should give us great hope!

1 comment:

  1. hey kathy! glad to see that you're on here. :) i just "refound" the NOBTS psych alum group page again, which led me here.

    anyway...hope you're doing great!
    The Character Therapist