It happens to all of us. We think we’re just about to find what we’re looking for, and instead, Poof!, it eludes us again. It’s hard for all of us to give up the direction we’ve picked to look a different way. I thought of this last week when I was sure the keys to my car were somewhere in the house. It passed through my mind that maybe they were in the car in the garage, but I didn’t even look there because I was so sure I was on the right track searching in the house, searching the same places again and again, ever more determined.
Researchers keep looking for proof of the usefulness of altering brain chemistry with medications as a cure for depression; researchers perpetuate the idea that we just haven’t yet found the perfect drug. It has been estimated that 50% of people on medication for depression do not benefit from that medication. Discussion of the puzzling efficacy of the Placebo effect has persisted since a respected study showed that administering Placebo to depressed patients produced entirely different brain responses than those produced by drugs, yet an unexpected 38% of the Placebo participants improved. In a recent discussion of the subject, Dr. Joseph Coyle, a professor of neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, called the attribution of depression strictly to chemical imbalance “an outmoded way of thinking.” Yet it persists.
Maybe the keys are just not in the house?
Clarity is elusive. We have become adept at studying brain activity and brain chemistry after the fact, but we have not found the key to what is before the fact. We have no scientific explanation of what generates emotional upset and creates the chemical imbalance for which we seek a cure.
What answers do we have? (1) The brain is plastic and subject to inexplicable changes in chemistry and activity. (2) People respond variably to external input; it is impossible to determine a clear-cut cause and effect response to outside-in stimuli. (3) We do not have a universal explanation for brain changes.
What questions might we ask? (1) Are we looking in the right direction, given that the after-the-fact studies have led to increasing confusion? (2) If brain activity is constantly variable, should we be investigating healthy variability, rather than seeking artificial stability? (3) If we discovered the impetus for that variability, would it be easier to understand why the outcomes are so unpredictable?
Those are questions that teeter on the edge of the perceived boundary between science and spirituality. Yet, increasingly, science acknowledges that the study of human psychology involves spirituality as well. While it would be unfair to characterize the study of spirituality in psychology as “mainstream” or “hard science,” it would also be unfair to suggest that spirituality is not easing into the conversation and being taken to heart, especially in mind-body medicine. Increasingly, speculation appears in studies suggesting there may be “innate” processes not yet well understood, or that there are dimensions of human resiliency beyond the reach of current science. Are they edging towards a different place to search?
The missing idea is that our emotional states could be created from the inside-out, not the outside-in. How people respond depends on their use of thought and on their state of mind, regardless of outside stimuli. The flow from formless energy to form is internally constant; the variable is the infinite variety of what is created. The ups and downs of experience make sense because experience is after the fact, an artifact of our infinite imaginations. Forming the thought, imagining form out of the formless, is before the fact.
Everything puzzling and confusing about our current pursuit of understanding falls into place when we see it from the inside-out perspective. We use the formless energy of life to create thoughts. We are aware of our thoughts and experience them as real. Depending on our degree of awareness of our own psychological strength, we see more or less clearly that experience is coming through us, not at us. When it’s obvious to us that we are the thinkers of our own thoughts and the creators of our experience, we are buffered from ill effects. We can move through bouts of negativity and the ups and downs we feel, understanding that they are illusionary and temporary, that all our experiences come and go as our thinking changes.
This understanding would render chemical intervention superfluous over time. Such intervention might be helpful to quiet the mind sufficiently to be able to look and see and recognize the inner logic. But it would not be a long-term requirement because we would realize that it is within us to find and create real peace naturally.
I often feel like I am watching two trains racing towards a common destination from opposite directions. The science train racing from outside-in is moving towards an unexplored new place. The spiritual train racing from inside-out is moving towards a meeting point where it will surprise those who have not yet seen it and didn’t know it was coming. The journey offers promise of joyous meeting because the intent of both is simply to keep moving towards the deeply desired destination of peace of mind.