Saturday, July 10, 2010

What's "mind"?

I introduce here excerpts from my book Happiness Discovered, in which I extensively write about mind as well as about psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), previously called behavioral medicine, which explores the mind - body connection and its impact on health and wellbeing.

First, let us have a brief look at the definition of mind. What is this thing called mind? What does it do? How does it work? Are we in control of our mind? And if we don’t control it, who does?

Good questions and not new ones either; but disappointingly, there is not a single universally acceptable definition of mind. Aristotle, Buddha, Zarathustra, Plato and other theorists, from the ancient Greek culture to the Islamic and Indian culture proffered their views. In modern time one of the most eminent psychologists, the great Sigmund Freud opined extensively on the subject matter. Not surprisingly there are probably almost as many answers as there are theorists, and needless to say, some of them differ greatly from others. Explanations were sought in religion, the supernatural, the divine and luckily also in science. Some theorists favoured dualism, which means that body and mind are two separate entities. Others favoured monism, meaning that body and mind are not physiologically distinct.

Based on our modern understanding of the human brain, we say that mind is a product of the brain, and consists of the conscious and unconscious aspect; plus, according to followers of Freud, the preconscious aspect. Mind is a product of the brain but not restricted to the brain alone; it is in every cell of our physiology. Mind and the physical body are completely intertwined, dependent on one another and one cannot do without the other. This has become the view that most modern psychologists accept. It is this view that really was essential for the development of PNI. Without accepting that mind and body are completely dependent on each other, PNI or any form of energy therapy could not exist.

There are still arguments continuing as to what is governed by the conscious and what by the unconscious mind. As I said earlier, Sigmund Freud added to the debate a third element, the preconscious mind. 1932 he lectured: “... distinguish two kinds of unconscious - one which is easily, under frequently occurring circumstances, transformed into something conscious, and another one with which this transformation is difficult and takes place only subject to considerable expenditure of effort or possibly never at all ... We call the unconscious which is only latent, and thus becomes easily conscious, the “preconscious,” and retain the term” unconscious” for the other.”

The reason why I talk about mind is to emphasize that we can influence it; not only our conscious mind, but also our unconscious mind. We can do it directly using our own powers, the power of our thoughts; or indirectly using a third party, with the use of hypnosis.

We have here not only a bi-directional but a multi-directional effect: feelings created unconsciously by thoughts through the mind and brain connection, can be consciously changed by changing the thoughts, thereby exercising control over our mind and brain.

Happiness Discovered by Udo Stadtsbuchler

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I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow.

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