Dark Days 3, Brain or Consciousness?


Finding a path out of our dark days begins at a fork in the road. This decision point presupposes certain ideas about reality. Thus the path is ultimately based on ones truth assumptions. This means that depression and anxiety are fundamentally truth problems. That may come as a shock if you are only familiar with one path, so let me explain.

Does the brain produce consciousness?  Yes it most certainly does. This is the presupposition of the traditional path. It is proven by the fact that any change to the physical composition or function of the brain will directly impact consciousness. A shot of tequila or a shot to the head can alter a lot. Out of this seed grows modern psychology and brain science. The key truth assumption here is that consciousness is a by-product, and since it cannot be empirically defined, it cannot be the focus of therapy. Thus a depressed person is really only a brain that is emitting depressed brain chemicals. Therapy will find out why.

Does consciousness produce the brain? Scientists don’t like this question. Yet the latest discoveries in brain science and neuroplacticity (the brains ability to rewire itself) are clearly proving that our brains are byproducts of our consciousness. Addictions, compulsions, traumas, and countless events create feedback loops where our brain has hard wired itself toward certain responses. Thus many therapies are now including a “brain retraining” period whereby the brain rewires itself toward a favorable outcome. A negative thought imprints chemicals on the brain faster and much stronger than a positive thought. Pleasure chemicals have a similar effect and become linked to our preferred delivery system. A depressed person is a person whose thinking/consciousness has gradually formed neuro-pathways that bias the brain toward feeling bad. Of course, the clinical therapy is to introduce new chemicals until the brain rewires itself.

These presuppositions produce a chicken and the egg scenario. Our problems are essentially a feedback loop. Both result in the chemical manipulation of the brain to bring oneself back on track. But what happens if you change brain chemistry but haven’t dealt with the underlying narrative that created the problem in the first place? This is our second clue on our path out. Namely, that our narrative (truth story we tell ourself) has far more influence than we give it credit. This opens the door to the possibility that if ones story brings us to a dark day, then ones story must also be able to bring us out.

If that sounds too simple then perhaps we don’t know our story or how to access it, or how to change it. This will be the focus of next weeks installment.

Learn more in my book “Getting Better When You Can’t