Transformation: The Mind
Posted on September 11, 2015
As we have followed our hero from normal life through trauma, suffering, challenges, the abyss, meeting the mentor, hope, and transformation, it is my hope that it has become apparent that this journey is one of pain and survival. As we, as mentors, meet the hero in the abyss and shine hope into the darkness, we begin the difficult process of transformation. In the last post, we examined the alchemy analogy and how the physical brain can be transformed into a brain able to thrive in “normal” life, while still retaining the wisdom and courage gained by the journey.
This week, I want to dig deeper into how transformation happens and how we, as mentors, can help the client make difficult changes and take back control of their lives. Our goal in this examination is to emerge with a practical framework for those of us in the mentor or helping role. As we start, it is important to remember that change can be a long and difficult process, and that it requires patience, compassion, and support of the mentor.
This will be our model for the journey to help put some science and practicality around transformation.
We’ll start our journey with the mind, and move to two concepts that can help to strengthen control of oneself through mindfulness, and provide insight and a greater understanding of one’s self through mindsight. At the deepest, genetic, level, we are trying to influence the expression of the client’s genetic makeup from one designed to survive the abyss to one that can thrive in safe and “normal” societal structures. Throughout this process, it is important to keep in mind the concept of homeostasis, or how the brain, through neuroplasticity, will create a biological structure that allows it to survive/succeed in the environment in which it exists.
It is counterproductive, and even dangerous, to ask someone to make life changes in unsafe or unstable environments. If a client needs to continue to survive poverty, prostitution, homelessness, or violence, it is important to start with changes that will increase the safety and stability of their environment. These changes are part of the transformation process as it helps the hero out of the abyss. However, it is important to keep in mind that changes involving things like medical adherence, addiction, employment, and education will be nearly impossible for someone trying to meet their most basic physiological, safety, and social needs. These changes are critical but, as the mentor, it is important to help prioritize which issues to address first in order to create improved levels of safety and stability.
We have covered the mind in great detail throughout the life of Matt’s Mumblings, and if you have not read these posts, I encourage you to type “mind” in the search bar and catch up. For a brief overview, I want to revisit a February post Descent into the Mind, as a foundation for the transformative process.
The human mind is a relational, environmental, and biological emergent phenomena that has the power to regulate the flow of energy and information. Let’s break this down so we know exactly what we are trying to access.
Relational – According to author Daniel Siegel and others, there is a transfer of energy and information between individuals that impacts the functioning of the people in those relationships. This is shown powerfully in the impact of childhood attachment and in the impact of traumatic relationships (abuse, neglect, domestic violence, war).
Environmental – Through epigenetics, the environment interacts with our genetics to express certain genes which determine our biology and brain structure. While we have mentioned social and economic factors already, things like climate and cultural norms also play key roles in who we are as people and how our minds develop and operate.
Biological – Biology is a combination of all the systems in our body. It is important to remember that all systems within the body are highly connected and dependent on one another.
Emergent – Google Dictionary defines “emergent” as, “The process of coming into being, or becoming prominent.” While the mind is highly dependent on biological and social (relationships/environmental) factors, it appears to be something greater than just the sum of these parts. We know that the mind (our psychology) can change our brain and body (biology) in real and measurable ways.
Power – The mind is the seat of our volition or free will. The power of the mind is the ability to choose our own destiny.
Flow – Our biological and social systems are both designed to efficiently move energy and information (see below for more on information) from a place that has energy and information to a place that needs that energy and information. The internet is a great example of how massive amounts of energy and information flow between people through time and space. The brain is another great example.
Energy – Our bodies are energy systems. There is a constant flow of chemical electrical currents that allow us to take action in the world. Energy is the biological activation of systems that result in a responsive action or response. This action can be something physical, such as walking, or psychological, such as experiencing a mental state like sadness, or having a spiritual experience.
Information – Information is a signal or symbol that provides context (cognitive or emotional) for something being processed internally or in the environment. Emotions and memories provide a rich context for our experiences in the world.
Over the next several weeks, we’ll look at approaches and concepts that can help the mind gain control of behavior and biology. This week my challenge to you is to think of a couple of clients – pick at least one doing great and one that is struggling. Keeping them in mind, reread the definitions above. Does breaking down their mindsets, struggles, and challenges in terms of the components of the mind help to bring insight to their current state and life?