Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Excitement of Positive Psychology

The following video is exciting. It is energetic. It is fun.

Watch it. Enjoy it. Then, I’ll share how the truth is even better!

The Truth:

Psychology is not about the brain.

This concept has been abandoned by the modern pseudoscientists.

Psychology is not about the brain.

The pseudoscientists have taken true science and minimized it to something less. It still has many powerful aspects of the truth, but it does not have the full and limitless power of the truth.

Psychology is not about the brain!

Psychology is about the SOUL!

This includes the brain and the electrochemical reactions within the brain and the rest of the nervous system and the rest of the body. It includes the mind, which is more than the brain. It includes the emotions. It includes the physical condition. It includes the ego or personhood and thereby includes esteem and worth. In short, it includes the entire living being of a person.

Psychology is about the SOUL! It is Soul-ology, or Soul-knowledge.

When we approach matters of happiness and health within the understanding that a person is not a composite of parts but is actually a being, a living and functioning body with absolute integrity and dependency throughout, a body that is made to be integral through the incorporation of the spirit so that it becomes not a mere lump of structured organic material (clay/dust/ash), but a living soul, then we move beyond conjecture to actual knowledge of the truth. Then we deal not with suppositions but with what is.

This is what true theology provides. This is what God declares so that we may know with certainty what we otherwise stumble to discover and hypothesize.

Through His apostle, Paul, the Lord informs us:

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

If we pay attention to what is declared here, which is fully integral with what is declared throughout the Holy Scriptures, we learn the true meaning of positive psychology.

Unquestionably, thinking positively and enjoying our daily activities produces good, healthy, positive changes in our hormonal and other chemical levels. What Shawn Achor shares in the video above has valid points, as far as they go. But they are not really the truth. His facts only tell part of the story. He does not deal with the entire person, not even with the person’s mind. Instead of the mind he studies the brain and the responses of the brain’s chemical activity to behavior modification.

This approach ignores the fact that life is more than cellular activity. Life for humans is much more than even life for the animals. But even for the animals, life is more than merely having cells and organs and body parts that are alive. We are able to produce living cells in a laboratory. We can even produce living brain tissue. We can keep a dead person’s body alive through artificial respirators and dialysis machines and heart pumps and chemical infusions. But we cannot make that composite of living cells and organs and body parts to live as a person. A human being is more than such a composite. A human being is a living soul.

This is what the Lord reveals throughout His Holy Scriptures, beginning in the beginning, in Genesis 2. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

This is the connection that Adam broke by turning from the Word of the Lord to his own ways. Adam’s attempt to remedy this was to deal only with the physical, for he did not have the power to revive the spirit. This is why modern psychology has divorced itself from treatment of the soul and merely deals with the physical symptoms.

This is why St. Paul directs us to fix our affection on things above. Actually, he literally says, “Upward mind yourselves.” Our minds with all that this includes we are to turn upward. But this is not a vague sense of looking for more positive and happy thoughts and feelings. This upward turning of your thoughts and feelings and reasoning and understanding has an object. That object is Christ, into whom we have been baptized and thus have our place with Him already in the heavenly abode so that the things of this earthy turmoil are ineffectual against us. Through our baptism we are made to die to the world and alive in Christ. And this new life of freedom and joy is hidden to those whose eyes are closed to it.

Yet the world does catch glimpses of it as the saints are gathered into the name of Jesus to partake of His life given in the Sacrament. This regular renewal of the life of Christ in us continues with us in our daily activities so that the freedom and joy of the Gospel permeates our activities and our displays of emotions and of God’s goodness.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this is that it does not require any real effort on our part. Rather, it is the outflow of the new life and new understanding that God gives to us through faith. This outflow of positiveness remains undaunted even when every other thing seems to fall to pieces. This is much more than programing oneself with positive thinking. This is a direct connection to that which is above all the trouble and sorrow and defeat of this fallen world.

This is the power of the Gospel.

I have seen suicidal people comforted and turned from their despair. I have witnessed many dying people consoled so that like Stephen, they saw the face of Jesus as they were dying. People with AIDS and cancer who were being eaten alive and in perpetual immeasurable pain that even morphine could not dull, I have heard them say, “I am at peace.” I have heard despairing people with advancing necrosis from diabetes with multiple amputations kept alive through dialysis and feeding tubes say, “I believe that I have faith again, and I am content.” I have seen a woman comforted whose mother for years shoved a fireplace poker inside her. I have seen how the Gospel brought peace to people with visions of spiders and snakes and rats chewing on their brains. I have observed the power of the Gospel to set free a man living with the shame of having molested his daughters and to free the adult daughters so that they were empowered to forgive their father. I have counseled people who suffered years of other forms of abuse, too.

I’ve witnessed the power of the Gospel accomplish these things for people over and over.

And this is much more than merely being conditioned through mental and emotional gymnastics or drug manipulation. This is true healing. It is a setting free of the spirit so that the entire soul is freed to live again without the dominance of these other things. God has the power to do for us what we absolutely cannot do for ourselves. No matter how we try to seduce our brains to believe positive things, we cannot overpower the things that ultimately defeat us.

But God has! He not only can but He has! Christ took all of our suffering and anguish and misery and died with these on our behalf. Then, on the third day, He raised Himself again, not only mentally, not only emotionally, not only spiritually, but bodily. He did not leave our humanity behind, but raised it up and carried it to the very throne of God in heaven.

Moreover, He provided the means through which we are joined with Him in His body to be partakers or communicants of the fullness of this victory. As St. Paul admonishes, we have been made to be more than conquerors through Him that loved us. (Rom. 8:37)

The victory is already won for us in Christ. We do not have to achieve victory, for it is already ours. Moreover, this victory is a “beyond or over victory.” It is over and above all victories that we would seek for ourselves. This victory is not merely temporal, but everlasting. It is far above merely overcoming the disappointments and even the terrors of this world so as to live out our time until we die. This victory extends beyond death unto the resurrection. No amount of positive thinking can touch this. This is freedom that cannot be taken away. This is hope and joy and peace without end.

Interestingly, in Shawn’s presentation, he counters the false approach of seeking to achieve happiness through success and various other goal oriented methods with yet another goal oriented method.

Thus he really is running in a big circle ending up right back at the starting line again. This circle or cycle cannot be broken or escaped without a total change of perception.

What is the problem? What is missing in this understanding that always brings people back to the same failing methodology?

What is missing is the understanding that happiness is not achieved but received.

Happiness is not something that we achieve for ourselves but what we receive as a gift from the one true source of happiness. When God rejoins us into His Holy Communion of grace, mercy, peace, love, and joy, we live in this communion. Life is not a goal. Life is a gift from the Creator. All that we seek to obtain is already given freely. By seeking to grasp this or obtain this for ourselves, we cut ourselves off from the Giver. We set ourselves up in our imaginations as though we were able to do what only He can do. When we hear Him for who He is, as our loving and gracious Father who freely gives all good things without any requirement of merit or effort on our part, then what He gives we receive. Then we look not to ourselves and what we must change in our lives to that which He has already done in Christ and we find that our lives have been changed. When we are restored through the means that God has ordained, all that we would strive to change in ourselves we discover He has already done for us. Then we simply go forward and enjoy what He has done by grace through faith (Ephesians 2).

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