Healing the Hardware of the Soul : How Making the Brain-Soul Connection Can Optimize Your Life, Love, and Spiritual Growth
Dr. Daniel Amens breakthrough brain-healing program has helped hundreds of thousands to overcome depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention deficit disorder. The maverick author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life and Healing ADD now presents his proven program for repairing and strengthening our relationships, child-rearing practices, work and study routines, and, ultimately, our soulful connections, in the deepest ways possible. Guided by this book, each of us can learn to balance and optimize the parts of the brain responsible for inner growth, intimacy, and spiritual health. Drawing upon his experience with over fourteen thousand brain-imaging studies of patients from all walks of life, Dr. Amen has developed an essential tool called the Amen Brain System Checklist, a 101-question self-test used to evaluate the five brain systems that are key to achieving and maintaining a healthy brain-soul connection. The questionnaire identifies the problem brain areas readers may need to work on, offers insight into the degree to which these imbalances affect their lives, and provides targeted strategies for each area of the brain involved with spiritual issues. These are just a few of the many brain prescriptions to be found in Healing the Hardware of the Soul: Develop focus and improve decision-making with the One-Page Miracle for the Soul Use prayer, meditation, and diaphragmatic breathing exercises for superior emotional and spiritual flexibility Heal painful deep soul memories through thought and behavior exercises Learn how forming strong, positive new bonds actually controls impulsive behavior and stabilizes mood swings Dr. Amens recommendations include cutting-edge advice on diet, nutritional supplements, and the judicious use of medication when needed. He also explains which medications can unbalance the brain when used improperly. Dramatic before-and-after pictures of the brain demonstrate the medical effectiveness of these clinically based healing techniques. Whether we learn the self-help strategies of cognitive reprogramming, self-hypnosis, or nutraceutical therapy, seek out psychotherapy, or rely on prescription antidepressants and antianxiety medications, Dr. Amens sage advice and comprehensive treatment programs give us all the tools we need to optimize our work, relationships, and spiritual connections to become the people we want to be.
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September 16, 2008
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Excerpt from Healing the Hardware of the Soul by Daniel Amen
Chapter One: The Brain Is the Soul's Fragile Dwelling Place
The Feedback Loop Between the Brain and the Soul Offers New Answers
The brain is the violin and the soul is the violinist. They both need to work together in order to make beautiful music.
-- FATHER CHARLES ARA, CATHOLIC PRIEST
Josey experienced a living hell. Not as a far-off place where people burn for unforgiven sins, but in her everyday life. Josey suffered from panic disorder, the most common psychiatric disorder in the United States. It began in her early twenties. She worried constantly, saw the future as negative and frightening, and endured many anxiety attacks. The attacks, which came on suddenly, were associated with crushing chest pain, her heart pounding hard against her chest wall; she also had trouble catching her breath, and she felt that something terrible was about to happen. The attacks made her hide from the world. They came in waves, eight to ten in a month, and then months with none at all. They were unpredictable. Her life started to revolve around the fear of attacks. She dropped out of college after her sophomore year, stopped driving, stopped seeing her boyfriend, and worked at home doing transcription so that she would not have to go out unaccompanied. She did not seek help for years for fear of being labeled crazy.
Josey prayed to God for deliverance from the anxiety attacks. As a child she had felt close to God and prayed every night before bed. Like many young adults, she had drifted away from her prayers but had still believed in a loving, present God, as her parents had taught her. When the attacks first occurred, she prayed many times a day that God would take this curse from her. Over time, as the anxiety attacks persisted, she prayed less and finally stopped. She became angry at God, and wondered why He was punishing her with the attacks. On several occasions the attacks were so bad that she contemplated suicide. When her parents heard about her suicidal ideas, they forced her to see me because I had helped her cousin with similar problems.
The day I met Josey I thought this young woman was in hell -- years of torture and torment from her anxiety disorder and disconnection from her friends, her work, her future, and even her God. Many theologians believe that hell is disconnection from God. The illness had caused Josey to lose herself, her relationship with God, and nearly her life.
As part of Josey's evaluation, I ordered a brain SPECT study -- an amazing test that examines how the brain works. Josey's scan showed a number of "hot spots," overactive areas, in the part of the brain that generates fear and anxiety. Seeing the physiological problem in her brain for herself was the first step in the healing process that would unfold over the next several months. Rather than thinking that she had a moral, character, or personality problem, she now accepted the fact that she had a medical illness needing treatment. The treatment involved medication, prayer and meditation, and targeted mental exercises. Over time, she successfully rebuilt her life. She was able to travel unaccompanied to work; she fell in love, married, had children, and made peace with God. Josey's brain, the hardware of her soul, all that she was inside, had been ill, a fact that caused everything else in her life to suffer. Helping her brain allowed her to once again have access to her soul, her real self, and even her God.
Josey's SPECT Study
The white color indicates the areas of greatest brain activity. A healthy scan shows white in the back of the brain only (cerebellum). Josey's brain shows white or hot areas in the emotional and anxiety centers of her brain.
The word "soul" as translated from Old Testament Hebrew means "all of your thoughts, feelings, personality characteristics, self, desires, and passions." The soul is who we are inside, from the top of our head to the bottom of our feet. The soul is felt and translated into action through the day-to-day function of the brain. William Shakespeare said, "The brain is the soul's fragile dwelling place." We can now see actual evidence of this brain-soul connection through the latest brain-imaging techniques. These studies have so clearly taught me that when the brain is healthy we are compassionate, thoughtful, loving, relaxed, and goal directed, and when the brain is sick or damaged we are unfeeling, impulsive, angry, tense, and unfocused, and it is very hard for our souls and our relationship with God to be at peace.
In my previous books Change Your Brain, Change Your Life and Healing ADD, I use my work with the latest brain-imaging science to teach readers about brain-behavioral problems like anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, obsession, anger, and attention deficit disorder. Through images of the brain the books show that behavioral problems are often related to brain dysfunction and are not the result of a weak will or a character defect.