(Originally posted 12/31/16 on Read With The Gringa)
The next time you hear the snarky comment, “It’s all in your mind,” be sure to tell them, “But I’ve LOST my mind!” That’s right. The mind is a crazy place and the truth is that we have all lost our minds. Well, to be more precise, it’s just not in the place you think, your brain. In fact, your mind might not actually be located anywhere in your physical body! Say what?! Yep, the gringa agrees. The mind, or consciousness to be exact, is a mystery without an address.
Medical professionals have traditionally considered the consciousness to be the product of brain activity and chemistry. They have historically given it an address located at the end of neurons, when it fires off “something”. But, about 20 years ago, a Psychiatry Professor at UCLA’s School of Medicine turned the medical community on its head (pardon the pun) with the idea that the mind is not confined to the boundaries of the skull.
Dr. Dan Siegel astounded about 40 medical professionals and social scientists at a meeting where he announced his groundbreaking theory. In the end, he won them over. As a result of this brainstorming session of scholarly elites, they came up with a definition of the mind/consciousness:
“emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within us and among us.”
The gringa’s first question is, “What the heck do all of those words mean?” So, the best thing to do when a jumble of important words confuses you is to break it down bit by bit. Let’s go:
- Emergent: Medically speaking (which these guys were), it means a comprehensive neural network that creates and analyzes complex models of reality in order to create simulations. Basically, what this means is the brain’s ability to visualize. If you can close your eyes and still see the form of the rose in the vase on your table, you have just performed an “emergent” brain exercise. In short, creating memories.
- Self-organizing: Spontaneously creating order from disorder. We are constantly surrounded by information and stimuli. Our brain automatically processes every single iota of information and organizes it. We don’t even have to exert ourselves. The brain just does what it does. It’s a processor and vast self-filing file cabinet.
- Embodied: Within, or having, or giving, a physical form to something non-physical. Happiness is “embodied” in a smile, fear in a scream.
- Relational: The way in which 2 things, or people, are connected.
- Regulates: Controlling the speed or activity of a function.
Let’s put all of that together. The human consciousness simulates everything that we experience in the physical world as well as emotions. It organizes all this stimuli and creates a visual/audio/experiential recording within our brain, a memory. Once the memory is filed away in the brain, this memory becomes embodied through different body functions but it originated in the consciousness. This memory is then the resource used to determine our responses to stimuli and how we interact with the physical world and other people. Our consciousness’ are us.
What this means is that our brain is the computer. Our body the different systems commanded by the brain. However, the consciousness is the user that is separate from the computer and operating systems. The consciousness is what controls the computer and decides which operating systems are put to use. So, then, what and where is this consciousness?
The What: Our consciousness is not an experiential function. It is not the reaction of the human to an experience. The consciousness is the experience itself. The consciousness is pleasure when eating chocolate. The mind is fear when watching a horror flick. That means that the bodily responses are our mind manifest in the physical world. It may sound confusing but think about this. Is the shoreline the sand or is it the water? It’s both. One does not exist without the other. Is the smile the happiness? No, of course not. It is the emergent emotion embodied in the lips. The mind is the experience but we cannot share the experience with others unless we are able to have the consciousness emerge through the physical.
The relational aspect of the mind/body connection is key to sound mental health. Modern society may be seeing a rash of mental illness because we are so disconnected with regard to relationships. The reason for this is based in mathematics. In order for the mind to self-organize the influx of information that bombards us every moment of every day, the brain must be able to determine links and correlations between ideas, feelings, and events. Then it is able to integrate everything in a coherent, stable fashion.
If a person is routinely exposed to relationships that are dysfunctional or, perhaps, not even real (isolation from society and immersion into cyberworld) they will not be able to create healthy order out of chaos. Our consciousness learns by example. The order a person creates who has been chronically exposed to relationship dysfunction, or deprived of relationships altogether, will not be “normal”. The connections they make between stimuli and response may be based on link examples that are downright horrendous or even false.
Dr. Siegel has continued to be a pioneer in psychiatry, authoring many books, instructing medical professionals and practicing innovative medicine at the clinics he has established. His focus is on how relationship experiences shape our emotions and behavior, eventually molding us into who we are. In essence, relationships form our consciousness. Our consciousness controls our brain. Our brain drives our body.
The Where: Who knows? Our mind has nothing to do with our physical body. If that’s the case, does it survive the death of our bodies? If the mind is not dependent on the body for survival, but only needs the body to embody in the physical world what is created through the emergent process, what happens to it after death? What are the possibilities?
Dr. Siegel offers no answers yet on that front. So, the gringa is going to have to get hot on the trail of those answers because it is bad enough that I’ve lost my mind in the here and now. I certainly don’t want to lose it after my body expires! Where the heck is my mind?
Image Credit: huuhaablog.wordpress.com