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Mind over Matter: Things I Didn’t Learn in College


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My psychology degree taught me a little about the mind: cognitive psychology, the study of consciousness…. mostly, it taught me about the brain and behavior. I guess it gave me a introductory framework, but most of the valuable stuff I’ve learned seems to have come after college, once I got beyond the craziness of adolescence and became more curious about the mind. Not that I wasn’t curious before, but, well, you know. The brain/mind is not fully developed, research tells us, until somewhere around the age of 24. And they say it takes longer for the male brain to develop. That’s a whole other subject, I didn’t mean to go there. I really didn’t.

Where I meant to go was how fascinating the mind/body connection is. Oh, yeah, and that stuff I’ve learned since college: about meditation and thoughts. How positive thoughts can help us feel better physically and improve our health compared to negative thoughts. The mind is powerful. There’s the placebo effect, for example, that makes some people better just by believing they are taking medicine. Well, I did learn about that in college, but I’ve seen it more in action since then. Music is like medicine for me. Meditative music, like Taize, can be and healing.

For many years, I’ve worked in a  program that uses Methadone therapy to treat heroin and opiate addiction. Addiction to pain pills is a bigger problems than heroin these days. That’s another story. Controversial, I know. It’s helped a lot of people, Methadone, I mean, and some, not as much. Some people, not all, on Methadone tend to attribute aches and pains due to aging or illness to not having enough Methadone. Their minds are used to going down that road. They risk covering up other problems that need specific treatment. What I find fascinating are the occasional accounts of clients who were arrested and couldn’t get their Methadone when in jail and said it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as they thought it would be. (For most people sudden withdrawal is horrible.). A couple of times, I’ve been told by people that he or she didn’t have hardly any withdrawal in jail, even thought they expected it to be bad. Why is that? These are people we need to study. I must add that the people who are successful in recovery, regardless of the type of treatment, get that recovery is a lot of work. I wrote about that here.

Where am I going with this? Oh, yeah. The mind is powerful. It can make us feel miserable or it can make us feel strong.  If we know something is not available, whether it’s a drug, or ice cream, we can accept it and it’s not so bad as when the thing we want is close, but just out of reach.

Twenty-nine years ago, I was going to have my first baby without any medication at all. Ha! After the first shot of Stadol started wearing off, I was asking for another. They said it was too late; it was almost time to push. I sighed and accepted it. It was not available, so I didn’t ask again, didn’t even think about medication again. About thirty minutes later, I pushed my son out and immediately felt better and ready to take care of him, fight off tigers or whatever. A total change in consciousness.

Who’s really in charge? Sometimes my mind is all over the place and all the meditation techniques I know don’t help me sleep, usually because I’ve been up on the computer to late and I got my mind busy.  But thankfully, I am usually able to get enough sleep when I have the discipline to turn the computer off at a reasonable time. Discipline. That’s a mind thing. Mind over matter.

And yet, sometimes we need help. Addiction, whether it’s to heroin, or to the internet, (not that I’m saying I’m addicted to the internet, I’m not saying that at all….but it is the next wave of addiction for our culture, I believe….)  Addiction is often too much for one mind to handle alone. When the mind is overcome by a mental illness or an addiction, we need help. I know a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. When I ask that power (for me, God) to help me turn off the lights by midnight, and I allow that power to help me click on the x and turn out the lights, it works a lot better.

I didn’t learn that in college.

Today’s prompt for Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness Post was: “mind.”

If you’d like to join the fun of Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness visit:

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!

Author: JoAnna

An open minded, tree-hugging Jesus follower, former counselor, and life-long lover of animals, I'm returning to my creative roots and have published my first book: Trust the Timing, A Memoir of Finding Love Again as well as the short version: From Loneliness to Love.

7 thoughts on “Mind over Matter: Things I Didn’t Learn in College

  1. Who is in charge? That’s a very good question. I do relaxation and breathing exercises at night to help myself stop thinking so I can actually sleep…and some of the things that pass into and out of my mind are really weird but fascinating. why would I think that? What made that image come to my thoughts? I often fall asleep with a few questions on my mind, which is better than a million what-if scenarios. 🙂

  2. Oh yeah. Those what if’s could make me crazy if I let them. I do enjoy the hazy, weird and fascinating thoughts that dance around in my mind in the place between awake and asleep. Most of the time, their pleasant.

  3. I find psychology fascinating – it’s one of the reasons I write fiction. Very interesting post, JoAnne. You’ve given me a lot to think about. 🙂

  4. May I ask, did you ever look into the work of Benjamin Libet during your studies JoAnne, I mean in particular the experiments he conducted on the timing of conscious choice? The findings go to the question you put of who is in charge – the conscious will, the sub-conscious body, or perhaps, no one?

  5. I don’t recall studying his work, though college was many years ago. I just took a quick look and will definitely read more about this soon. I tend to believe that the conscious and subconscious mind work together most of the time, though timing is the issue I think he was getting at. I do know that when I can’t find something, and turn off my conscious efforts to look for it, my body (subconscious?) often takes me right where the thing is. That’s pretty fascinating.

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