According to Science and the Bible, What Does It Mean to be Mentally Healthy?

What does it mean to be mentally healthy? Dr. Curt Thompson and journalist Ana Marie Cox spoke about this question at a recent Faith Angle Forum.

The Apostle Paul would relate to the current scientific understandings of the mind if he were alive today, Thompson said.

Thompson is a psychiatrist and founder of Being Known, an organization that seeks to better understand the connection between neurobiology and Christian spirituality. He went to medical school for four years and psychiatry residency training for four years, and in all that time never had training, not even a single lecture, on mental health, he recalled with astonishment.

“If you come to see a psychiatrist, you might hope to think the psychiatrist would know exactly what mental health is,” he said. “But we’re much more highly trained to identify pathology than we are trained to identify, ‘what is mental health?’ if we were to see that.”

We have a good sense of when the brain is not healthy, Thompson said, such as with depression or anxiety, but have difficulty understanding what it means to be mentally healthy.

During the Q&A, Thompson explained it this way: “Like what is mental illness? Like who knows, right? I mean there’s no scientific evidence that has studied what mental illness is and what it isn’t. And in some respects, as we like to say, there are two kinds of people in the world: There are those of us who are screwed up and know it and those of us who are screwed up and don’t. And everything else is just a matter of, you know, degree. There are different ways in which we can find ourselves in disintegrated states where there will be parts of our story that aren’t being incorporated, aren’t being included but that are having influence.”

To understand when a mind is flourishing, he continued, start with a definition of the mind, which is an “embodied and relational process that emerges from within and between brains whose task it is to regulate the flow of energy and information.”

Our mind is embodied, he explained, in that it encompasses our whole body, not just our brain. When we feel anxiety, for instance, we might feel it in our gut, not our head. And our minds function in relation to each other, not just within ourselves. The neurons in a newborn’s brain don’t start making the connections needed to survive until she interacts with other humans. These interactions involve a flow of energy, either within our bodies or between bodies via light or sound waves.

This definition would make sense to Paul because he would say, “renewing people’s minds is not just a figment of our imagination; it’s not just an abstraction. It is deeply connected to our embodied experience. And those embodied experiences are deeply connected to interpersonal interactions,” Thompson explained.

In Romans 12:2, Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect” (NRSV).

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christian Post, Napp Nazworth