By Ricardo Márquez
News of bombings, conflicting interpretations of what happened; commentaries that favor one group over another; growing suspicions, doubts, contradictions.
It all contributes to stoking anxiety, depression and violence. That is why we are beginning to be more aware of mental illness, of our own emotional instability.
Our humanity already has endured times of hate, destruction and war. Bloody struggles motivated by religious beliefs, of my God against yours; fratricidal wars over politics, territory and exploitation of natural resources. Faced with these realities, how should we react?
Our brain, which processes all of this information and stimuli, has various systems to respond. These are highly sophisticated and complex neurochemical and physiological processes that help us to understand the immense potential we have to live more consciously as human beings.
If we compare the human brain with a symphony orchestra, with diverse instruments and sounds, all follow the same sheet music, all contribute, with their differences, to create the music that is life. The director of this cerebral symphony orchestra is each one of us. A good orchestra director knows how to harmonize and make the most of the orchestra’s resources, pulling the best each one offers. That is what we’re called to do to live in good physical, mental and spiritual health.
Three sections make up this cerebral symphony: intellectual, emotional and behavioral. All of them are interrelated. Within the intellectual area, we can pick from two functions: analyze and/or appreciate. Here we can choose to focus on the details, what’s missing, what doesn’t work, criticisms … or, look for what is possible, appreciate the qualities of what exists, imagine or dream something different. Some functions are going to “contract” us, while others are going to “expand” us. The director decides what to use to create his own music.
The decisions in the intellectual section affect what occurs in the emotional one. Excessive analysis, and the focus on what is lacking, can produce the contraction of the emotional system and generate anxiety, sadness and depression. The appreciative use of intellectual capacity offers hope and inspiration to the emotional system, expanding it, opening the heart to acceptance and love. The orchestra director, that is each of us, decides what nourishes or depresses our emotional system.
The behavioral section has to do with our responses of “fight,” “flee” or “freeze.” The values we have learned in our families and in society are present here: customs, traditions, beliefs and rhythms. If we lived in an environment where the value was to avoid conflict, we would flee; if we had experience in facing and resolving problems, we would fight. Our values and beliefs guide our actions and behaviors; that’s why having an understanding of our personal, cultural and family history is so important in this section of our brain.
This is just a prelude of all the potential of what we are and can develop to have a full life, abundant and healthy. The results are not just the fruit of personal effort. We need people to help us, guides, friends, communities, to support each other – especially, in these times.
We all carry the voice of the Director within us. We can nourish it with the message of the Good News that invites us to see beyond the limits of a dark reality, where death does not have the final word. The interior voice is our Teacher, who we hear in the quietness of prayer, who offers us His presence and unconditional love, a love that allows us to accept ourselves, to heal our wounds and to serve; it’s the voice that whispers to us: “Rise and go, you are My beloved son.”