As a mental health counselor, and as a human being, I’m tired of hearing about the human brain.
Nowadays you can’t discuss depression, anxiety, resilience or even a bad day without someone bringing up brain chemistry.
A counselor can’t swing a box of Kleenex without hitting a professional training on “The Neurobiology of Narcissism” or “The Angry Brain.”
It’s as if we’re all just walking, talking, jiggling gray matter ruled by chemicals — mindless, soulless biological phenomena instead of human beings.
A Piece of My Mind
I’m sick to death of this Age of the Brain. And it’s just getting started.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m fine with the idea that chemical changes in the brain parallel changes in feelings and/or behavior.
But what are the implications of this?
News flash: WE DON’T KNOW.
Just ask your favorite neuroscientist. She or he will tell you that what we actually understand about how the brain works can fit on the head of a pin.
Scientists have been able to tease out correlations here and there between brain chemistry, behavior and subjective experience. But there is zero evidence so far of which causes which.
We don’t know whether your brain chemistry causes you to be depressed, or the fact that you’re depressed changes your brain chemistry.
Or maybe neither is true.
What makes me grumpy is that the brain, not the person, has too often become the focus of clinical attention for both mental health professionals and lay people alike.
Minds, hearts and souls are getting lost in a forest of dendrites and axons.
Brain Chemistry vs. Mental Health
Brain health is not the same as mental health. (And don’t even get me started on “behavioral health.” What does that even mean? As long as your behavior looks healthy, you don’t need help?)
If the chemicals in our brains actually held the keys to mental health, as the pharmaceutical industry would have us believe … AND if we could fix whatever was “broken” with the right pill, we wouldn’t need to pay so much attention to this project we call *life.*
No more relationships, no need to find meaningful work, no goals, dreams or aspirations required. Just the right brain chemistry, courtesy of Big Pharma.
Sound like heaven to you?
Well, it doesn’t to me.
Let’s keep up the important work of learning about the brain, but let’s not be in such a hurry to throw away our souls.
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