There is an important distinction we must make in the work we do. Am I dealing with a person suffering from a disease of the brain or a disease of the mind? If we find that the person’s symptoms and struggle is a result of a problem in the functioning of the brain, we have to ask ourselves if the severity of the issue needs attention from a neurologist or psychiatrist. We have had clients come to us with a challenge that mirrors AD/HD in many ways. Upon further investigation we quickly discover that the issues are not limited to traditional AD/HD challenges. Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it is an intuition that something does not make sense. There are many diseases of the brain that mimic AD/HD or are comorbid with AD/HD (meaning they often occur along with AD/HD). We have seen things like anxiety, depression, minimal brain damage, epilepsy, lyme disease, autoimmune disease, visual processing problems, and learning disabilities, all manifest AD/HD type symptoms. AD/HD is a medical condition. It requires psychiatric attention along with coaching and/or therapy depending on the severity of the impact of the disorder.
And then there are what I call “diseases of the mind.” Diseases of the mind are thought-based. When we think negative and self-defeating thoughts, we can have somatic and psychological symptoms very similar to diseases of the brain. The power of thought can manifest real illness and whatever our genes might be harboring including cancer, schizophrenia, autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. I still love the book ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers’ by Robert Sapolsky. If you want to understand the danger of living with stress, read it.
Faulty thoughts can be addressed by a number of therapies including cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, coaching, positive psychology, and spiritual counseling. The key to all of these approaches is identifying the faulty thought. It is not as easy as it sounds. Many people do not want to let go of their faulty thought because maybe when they were a child, it kept them safe. Personally, I believed it was safer to go unseen. I carried this thought with me into my adult life which manifested into social anxiety and extreme introversion. This belief did keep me safer as a small child. However, this thought no longer serves me as a wise, powerful adult, and, in fact, has caused much suffering. Even when I can recognize that the thought is harmful to me as an adult, there is a voice inside my head that screams in my ears, “It isn’t safe! You must not be noticed!” So, we struggle to let go of even the most illogical of fears.
This faulty thought becomes a disease of the mind and can actually manifest all kinds of medical problems. Consider for a moment all of your chronic pain and medical conundrums. If you heal the pain or the problem but fail to heal the underlying faulty thought, it is very possible you will manifest a similar if not identical problem after some period of time. This might anger you to consider that I am suggesting that you are manifesting your own medical problems, however, on a very deep level, I believe we are. We know our positive mental attitude can stave off whatever our genes may carry. Yet, we are slow to embrace how our negative mental attitude is triggering our body to function poorly. I offer this for you to consider. Don’t stop seeing the doctor. Just consider that if you continually suffer from some sort of malady, it might serve you to consider how your mind is playing into the problem.
Thoughts act like the roots of a tree. There are the main branches that sprout all kinds of little roots. For example, I might have a core belief that I cannot trust people. This thought can spring all kinds of other thoughts that confound my ability to be a fulfilled and happy person. If I cannot trust people, I might have difficulty making friends, because they will eventually disappoint me, so I discard them without giving them a second chance. If I cannot trust people, I should always be on guard and be paranoid that people are going to take advantage of me. If I am paranoid I should worry about what my spouse is doing whenever he is not at home. I might even start to ask questions that imply I do not trust my spouse which creates tension in the relationship. And no matter how hard I try to work on my relationship with my spouse, I am baffled why we keep having the same arguments over and over.
What is not happening for me in this scenario is I am not addressing the core faulty belief. I am focusing on the fallout from lack of trust. I get no where except frustrated, sad, and depressed. This is a disease of the mind. While negative thoughts can manifest from neurosis and psychosis, every human has negative thoughts about themselves and others that they would be better off if they let them go.
We find that identifying and healing harmful thoughts is very difficult for someone to do on their own. Humans by design are not great self-observers. They can see the folly of others, but have difficulty looking in the mirror objectively. Our ego really does not want us to look in the mirror. The ego would prefer that everything stay the same because, well, simply, we are alive in this very moment. If we change something, we might be at risk, and the ego does not like that. While our ego is a necessary part of our psyche, it can be incredibly stubborn and resistant to change. It has all kinds of tricks to keep us stuck in our crap (for lack of a better or more sophisticated word).
I have had long circular discussions with clients that sometimes span months. We poke all kinds of holes in their faulty thoughts and self-limiting beliefs only to end up right back at the beginning. That is when we know we have not hit bedrock. We have not pulled up the main root; we have just trimmed some branches. Sometimes we have to resort to tactics that bypass the conscious mind to uncover that nasty root. These thoughts are like those weeds that you pull out only to find them back 2 days later because you didn’t get the entire root when you pulled it. Time to get out the shovel and dig the whole thing up so it can be seen. Some of these tactics include hypnotherapy, Yhandi, and RoHun therapy (a form of spiritual psychotherapy).
Then the negative thought can be fully exposed and examined. The adult can then decide what they would like to do with the thought. Hopefully, they can realize how much damage the thought weed has done to the garden of their mind and throw it away. Maybe they decide to plant some flowers, or positive thoughts, instead. For example, if I uncover I do not trust myself or others, I might replace that thought with a gentler one — I am human, and it is ok for me and others to make mistakes. I can love myself even if I am not perfect, because no one is perfect.
Diseases of the mind can be as dangerous as diseases of the brain. Be vigilant about what you are thinking. If you are overly critical of yourself or others, be curious. I invite you to find some help in digging deeper to discover why. Many of us are unwilling to look deeply at our own negative thinking yet remain resentful when life is not going the way we would like or our health is not optimal. Ask yourself, what is scarier, taking an honest look at your mind or living an entire life being victimized by a thought.