Mental and Emotional Integration

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Douglas Bass, formerly of Belief Seeking Understanding, has a new blog, Apprehension (which I still need to add to my blogroll). A recent post invites my response. He refers to a thesis that can be abbreviated "we feel the way we think", which simply means "the thoughts that people dwell on, meditate on, rehearse, cherish and fondle the most, are the thoughts that are expressed in feelings and behavior."

He refers to the last time I took up a post of his, and I don't want him to think this will be like that. I've spent much time contemplating God's relation to time and how that affects prayer, and I'm willing to class myself a specialist in philosophy of time. I've even got a publication to show for it, even if it's just a book review (though one that makes several substantive points I've never seen anyone make in print before). I will try to say something in response, though, but much of this is just one person's reflections rather than the view of a scholar, as the last one was.

I'll just say right now that this is going to be a very weird post, moving from my own thoughts about my own mental and emotional integration (or lack thereof) to complete speculation about theological matters. It's thus a fitting post for the landmarkish number of #1150, since I like my round-numbered posts to be unusual and momentous things or so mundane that they stand out. You can decide which this is. It's not the usual sort of thing I do, anyway.

I'm probably not the best person to reflect on how this goes normally, because I'm abnormal with respect to how my emotions are integrated with the rest of me. In tests for autism and related disorders I test about halfway between normal male results and Asperger's Syndrome results. The effect of this is that I'm not very in touch with how I'm feeling. I don't have a broad vocabulary for describing my internal states, and I hardly ever consciously think about what I'm feeling, enough that I have really no answer sometimes if I'm asked how something has affected me.

I think I can be in a really good mood when thinking about very dark things. I'm just not emotionally affected by thinking about the problem of evil and trying to figure out whether an explanation offered to defend against the charge that God is cruel is successful. I'm simply thinking about the issue. I can often read about theological truths and not be grasping emotionally what they mean for me. It often takes a moving speaker to bring that out from the depths of my soul/spirit/heart (let's not get into that one now; Douglas and I have a history on that question). What it really takes is for my mind to engage my emotions. If the emotive power of the speaker engages my mind to think about the emotional impact, then it will bring up the emotional response.

I can move back and forth between very different things quite easily. I can be doing mathematical calculations or keeping my kids in line in church in between pondering the prayer taking place or the song being sung. I can't do both at once, and it's harder to grasp all that's going on while I've got distractions, but when I'm focusing on one or the other I'm there even if I just wasn't a few seconds earlier. In this case it's what I'm actually thinking about that affects how I'm feeling. I sang a song at my brother's funeral in 1997, and it was a song he'd written that I'd rewritten to be about him. As I was singing the song, I was enjoying singing his song. At times I was focused on what it meant, and I was sad and glad for his life and what his death means for him now (which is what it's about), and at times I was focusing on the mechanics of getting the song out, which meant not thinking at all about what it's about. The same back and forth pull happens when I lead worship, and it happened as I was singing to my wife from the Song of Solomon at our wedding, though then it was harder not to think about the content. I was glad for a piano backup when I wasn't able to concentrate as much on what my hands were doing with my guitar. When I'm dwelling on something, I can allow it to affect me emotionally, but when I'm not thinking about it it's just not there.

Even with more mundane things, unless they affect me very deeply, it's easy for me to move among very different things that usually bring different emotional states. I can get upset at my kid for dumping stuff on the floor, clean it up, and keep working without even being affected by it, as long as I don't have to spend so much time that I'm dwelling on it. I can criticize something someone is doing and expect to be joking with the person in the next breath. These sorts of things don't affect me all that deeply most of the time, so I don't have trouble moving right along and not dwelling on it. What's going on here is what I'm thinking is affecting how I'm feeling, and I'm not thinking about the other thing anymore.

This is somewhat harder when I haven't eaten enough recently or have had too much sugar, since I've got blood sugar issues that amplify the extent to which something sets me emotionally off when my blood sugar is off. If Sam gets upset at me near bedtime, I don't sleep. If I've got a sugar low from eating cookies or ice cream or haven't had breakfast yet, and someone says some baseless and deeply hurtful things about me in a comment on my blog, I'm going to take it much more personally than I might otherwise. This is a case of other things affecting how I feel besides simply what I'm thinking. I imagine chemical and neurological issues will have some effect on everyone. This is just the way it's most pronounced with me.

So what do I think of "you feel what you think"? I think it's true in one respect, at least for me. When I'm really dwelling on some truth, and I'm thinking about exactly how that should affect me, it does affect me in that way. Sometimes that takes conscious effort beyond just thinking about the content. Sometimes it takes someone else drawing it out of me. But I do think it's the content that brings about the feeling, with these other things as merely the agent or means of its doing so. For some reason I can be aware of the content without dwelling on what it really means. So does thinking always lead to feeling? I'm not sure we simply grasp the significance all the time of some of the things we believe. Do I say that my not consciously expecting and looking forward to the return of Christ means I'm not really believing it at the time, or does it simply mean I'm not grasping its significance? I don't know how best to think about that.

Now we can come to Douglas' main question. What about non-humans? Can an animal be said to be like us in this respect? I don't think so. Animals don't think about their emotional states, as far as we can tell. They certainly experience emotions, but they don't seem to think about them the way we do. They simply respond. We do have our simple emotional responses too in addition to ones brought out by things with cognitive content (and my sugar issues would be one of them), but I don't think they have the cognitive reflection on their emotional states that we can have, and I don't think all people have it equally well. Autistic people have it less than I do, I have it less than the average man, the average man has it less than the average woman, and people with Williams Syndrome might even have it more than the average woman.

So I don't think it's true that animals' thoughts bring about their feelings. I would assume angels would be more like us, because they do seem to be rational in the Bible, and they do seem to have emotions. I don't see why the capacity to be excited by something that's true that one appreciates being the case or being upset by something one wishes were not the case is going to be totally a result of things related to the fall. Unfallen creatures would have them too (and irreversibly fallen creatures as well). Maybe the process doesn't work in entirely the same way, but I don't see why it would be thoroughly dissimilar.

The same would be true of God. It's interesting to think about this with respect to the Trinity. Jesus seemed to be experiencing an emotion at Gethsemane that we wouldn't say the Father experienced in the same way. He was looking toward the separation from his Father that would come, and he was dreading it yet was willing to surrender to the Father's will because his higher priorities outweighed his desire not to go through with it. The Father apparently wasn't go through the same thing, perhaps because he is atemporal (as I believe) and is interacting with all creation across time at once, experiencing the separation from the Son at that point simultaneous with the complete restoration of the universe, and the Son had to experience it at a time.

Even if God is in time, I can see thinking of the Father's response as different from the Son's, simply because each would be approaching it from a different perspective. No one things the sameness of God element of the Trinity makes the Father and Son have exactly the same perspective. Yet what the Father and Son were thinking about was exactly the same proposition, each approaching it from a different perspective. That suggests that there's more than simply thinking about the proposition. It's how it applies to you that affects how you respond emotionally, and I think at least some degree of that is true for God. If there are supposed to be well-functioning properties of our emotional and intellectual integration that don't work right, and work even less right in me, then surely God has perfect integration in ways we don't, though it might be that those wouldn't have worked perfectly in Jesus the same way his immune system might not have worked perfectly. (Maybe it did, but I wouldn't assume that.)

As I said, I'm just sort of stumbling around here, offering various considerations as a break in between various stages of grading, but this is what came out of that stumbling, and maybe it helps get at some of the things Douglas was wondering.

14 Comments

When my now-almost-12-year-old son was diagnosed with Asperger's a few years ago, I felt like someone was reading my mail. Sometimes I show up on tests like I'm more or less autistic, and sometimes I show up halfway between normal and Aspergery. My dear wife helps me to grasp things I wouldn't grasp otherwise.

But I was thinking that God definitely has both thoughts and feelings, and shares those thoughts and feelings on many occasions. I was thinking along the same lines with you that God is completely integrated in His thoughts and feelings. There's nothing about any of His thoughts that are inconsistent with His feelings, and vice versa. Humans think things without realizing the consequences that entertaining certain thoughts will have on their feelings and behavior.

When I'm dwelling on something, I can allow it to affect me emotionally, but when I'm not thinking about it it's just not there....it's easy for me to move among very different things that usually bring different emotional states...This is somewhat harder when I haven't eaten enough recently or have had too much sugar, since I've got blood sugar issues that amplify the extent to which something sets me emotionally off when my blood sugar is off.

You are one extraordinarily self-controlled individual. These words echo ideas that I heard on the NPR radio program just the day before yesterday, The Infinite Mind, focusing this week on Asperger's. Timely I should run across a reference so soon.

I have two comments.
First, the notion that we become what we think about is pretty universal. It is the basis of most self-help courses, coaching techniques and various therapies. Considering what Paul said about taking every thought captive, I think it is also scriptural.

Second, free will offers liberation. Easier said than done, of course, but at some point we arrive at a moment where we are able, if we choose to exercise that ability, to select those thoughts, feelings, role models and memories that lead us to redemption, and deselect the rest. Trusting that the first point is accurate, behavior falls in line.

For most people this seems to be the dynamic tying emotions to behavior so I am mystified by Asperger's. It seems to me that the syndrome enables one to go directly to the second step without any need for the first.

For me, the most compelling evidence of the Divine origin of the Christian faith is the commands (I don't think it was an option) to love one's enemies and to forgive those who would do us harm. Such injunctions have to from God, for no mortal could have dreamed them up.

People with Asperger's can be just as easily controlled by emotions. For instance, interfering with normal ways of doing things can easily throw them off, and they'll have a harder time doing it. It's hard for them to form deep relationships, and they can get easily frustrated when things don't go their way emotionally. Sometimes their behavior seems irrational, but sometimes it seems more rational than that of others. It depends on a number of factors. The point is that it's not simply that the emotional component gets skipped. It's that the awareness of emotions and connection with others' emotions isn't always as strong.

Since there is less awareness of emotions and connection with others' emotions, would it be fair to say that someone who scores as you do on the pendulum of Asperger's might have more difficulty with empathy and sympathy. And would this affect daily life or just the deeper, more profound emotional experiences?

Good post, Jeremy. Brave of you to share so openly.

More difficulty than most, yes; less difficulty than someone with Asperger's, probably; lack of empathy and sympathy, no. The difficulties even in full-blown Asperger's can be overcome to some extent. With Asperger's kids, some people will get flash cards with people's faces to teach them which facial expressions correspond to which emotions. Someone who is more observant and makes greater efforts to learn how to be more observant can overcome that kind of difficulty at least to some extent.

It's probably more likely to affect daily life than deeper experiences, because deeper experiences are more obvious. Daily life is normal, and it will be assumed to be normal (i.e. no unusual emotions).

Interesting thoughts and thanks for sharing yourself:) It always helps to see someones perspectives on how they approach things. Made me think of the Myers-Briggs model a bit.
Lesson 1: now I know to ask you, Jeremy, if you've had breakfast with some quality protein;) JK.

Real Lesson: We don't all approach things in the same manner, although the truths of the scriptures apply to all of us across the board. So when it says that as we think in our hearts, so are we.... we know that our calibre of thinking, our meditations of our Lord, our practice of bringing our thoughts into alignment with Christ's... are all sources of character change: of our cooperation with God.

The emotional parts of us follow our thinking, more than the other way around, I believe, but it seems that we are not so in tune with what is really in our hearts,so that we are surprised by our own emotions... and again, this is given as a universal: The heart is desperately wicked -who can know it?

'In tuneness' seems to be a matter of degree- but at the end, who of us really knows our own heart?
Perhaps we 'feel what we think' when it is something that we have allowed to take deep root within us, and it then colors and saturates us, which then expresses as 'feeling'?

At any rate, I think the Philipians admonition to "think on these things" that are good, lovely, and true is good advice indeed.

And thank you for this point of encounter with some worthwhile thinking...must have had some good eating today;)

Actually, the Hebrew word usually translated as 'heart' isn't about the emotions. The body part associated with that in Hebrew thought is the kidneys. The heart is sort of a combination of all of our inner life, including what we now call the mind and what we now call the heart. This doesn't always make a difference in interpretation, but it's important to remember that when the Bible speaks of the heart it's not always speaking of emotions. It might be speaking of thoughts in general or the center of what guides us, whether emotional or cognitive (or most often some combination).

This makes me curious then, since you make such a determined distinction, about the whole idea of emotions.

Where do the emotions spring from? If we look scientifically we could find several sources. Our thoughts create emotion, our inner self(self image/identity), our glands and hormones, and probably more than that all working interdependently. I intuit that a bible study of the words and the references would help particularize the subject, but I tend to think -unless I find otherwise- that when we read "heart" it is that place from where emotions arise, as well as thoughts and convictions.
It makes me wonder whether the mind is simply a staging field, where the input and output meet, but the heart is where the real essence is stored.

It is a conception rather opposite to the Western rational approach which holds the intellect primary.

Jeremy,
I havent finished reading your post since I am at work right. Sounds like its going to be good though.

Uh ... wanted to ask ... Where do you currently stand as regards the issue of backwards causation and prayer.

I am wondering if your views have changed since I last discussed this with you (Years ago).

- Raj

Actually, I posted about this in February.

One of the elders at Trinity prayed a retroactive prayer on Sunday. I don't think anyone else noticed it, but he prayed for one of our elders who happens to be traveling and ministering overseas for a few weeks. He prayed for him "as he already preached this morning".

Jeremy,
I am not able to follow through on any of your links. For example try clicking on the link that you suggested to me of an older article of yours. Try it from an S.U. computer.

I have the same follow through problems with your Quiver full response article. That set is worth putting into a separate article at your website.

Thanks,
Raj

All the links have changed because of the move. There was absolutely nothing I could do about this. The only thing I can do is go back and manually change all of them as I get time, and it's going to take a while before I can do much of that. Until then, the only thing to do is use the search function in the sidebar. That's what I have to do to find the posts to fix the links.

Jeremy,

Hi. I hope that you remember me from 5 months ago when I promised to find some biblical answers to some of the questions that you had raised. I can't get back to the post that you had written so I will try to answer these questions using the bible. I have been spending the last few months looking up bible verses to show you God's view on the issues that you have posted about.

The question that you have to ask yourself is " Do I believe the truth or the lie." The lie is very convincing, but the truth is Jesus Christ and His Word. Even when things seem a certain way, the ultimate question is, " Is what I am believing in agreement with the Word of God."

So I will try to lay out what I found in the word of God relating to the issues that you raised. We can all find this out for ourselves if we have a bible.

Healing

From what I have found, healing is available to all without partiality. Because we are in a fallen world, disease, and anything that causes brokeness is in the world. But when we become a devoted follower of Christ, Christ's promises are ours...
salvation, healing and wholeness. Even in the OT, when God's people turned to Him in obedience God blessed them. You can see how God dealt with people in the old testament. Yes in OT, He brought calamity and disease and affliction onto people who turned away from Him and sinned.

But, in the NT, the New Covenant was made*Hebrews 8:13). God could see the man needed a Savior. The new Covenant is wholeness-Spiritual and physical because Christ made all things new and He became the curse for us(Galatians 3:13). In the NT, disease, calamity etc. comes from the enemy. The man who was born blind was not born blind due to sin.(John 9:1-7) It was so that Christ could be glorified in making him see. But a lot of times, if we give the devil a foot hold, he is then given the right to operate in our lives. So, sin can still bring on disease, but the author of the disease is Satan. So, disease either comes on a person through sin or from an attack from the enemy. But we can curse it(the disease), and be confident that it will leave us if we have faith in what Christ has promised. If it is due to sin, we have to repent of our sin and walk in Him to be healed(James 5:14-16). Also, if someone is healed and then starts to live in sin again, it will come on the person again, but worse(John 5:14-15) If you read the OT and NT, you can see that God always commands obedience and faith in Him, but our promises are complete in Christ. God is the giver of good things.

Support for us being able to claim healing:

Isaiah 53-prophesied about the "Christ"
1st Peter 2:24
3rd John verse 2
James 1:17
James 5:14-16
Mark 16:15-18
Hebrews 11:11
Acts 3:1-8
Luke 13:10-17
Acts Chapter 3
Acts 5:16- No partiality in healing the sick or those tormented by evil spirits
Acts 4:9-"an act of kindness"
Individual stories-look in concordance
Acts 9:40-42
Luke 4:40-"healed all"
John 5:5-9
Jeremiah 30:16-17
Psalm 41:1-3

Illness questions in NT-

w/Paul and the thorn

is a mystery, but whatever had come against him did not hinder his ministry. He was able to travel and preach the gospel. People should not assume that he had a disease since it is not stated.

2 Corinthian 12:7-10

but I found another reference to thorns in flesh in the OT, but it wasn't related to illness.
Judges 2:2-5

Paul did have an illness when he first preached the gospel before the thorn in the flesh

Galatians 4:13-14

and lastly a little wine was given as an anecdote for illnesses of the stomach

1st Timothy 5:23

These are the only verses that could raise questions about healing from illnesses. Paul is really the only question. Timothy obviously had the solution-" a little wine," but we do not know for sure about Paul. But from what I have gathered, in the NT, the overriding message is healing can be claimed because of Christ. His earthly ministry was to proclaim the truth of His Salvation and to heal those who were afflicted with various diseases and evil spirits, etc.
I like these verses(2 Corinthias 1:20, Philippians 4:19)

Suffering and disease are not interchangeable

A lot of churches have tried to equate the verses relating to suffering with disease. Suffering is in the world. Yes, people suffer from diseases, but it is not biblical that a Christian has to live with a disease and cannot be freed from that disease.See verses on healing. And there are people who still suffer nonetheless from diseases-Christian and non-Christian. But the Christian does not have to continue to suffer with a disease. He or she can be freed from the disease because of what Christ did on the cross. It may not be instantaneous, but by faith we hope for things we cannot see. For example, you believe that you have been healed before you see the evidence of it. When the woman with the bleeding touched Christ's garments, she believed first.

Suffering for being a Christian is to be expected. We suffer from persecutions, heartache and the like. Christ suffered. He was the Suffering servant.(Isaiah 53)

1st Peter 4:1
1st Peter 2:20-21
1st Peter 17
1st Peter 1:6-7
1st Peter 5:10
Hebrews 5:8-10-Christ's
Romans 5:3-5


Regarding Barreness

Since it is a promise to be fruitful and multiply, as Christians we can claim that promise. Abraham and Sarah thought that it was a joke when God told Abraham that Sarah would conceive. But they did. God can do anything. It is His will for us to procreate and not be barren, but we have to be in a position(right with the Lord through Christ) to claim the promises. Sarah was barren, but then God made her able to conceive. We can claim all of God's promises when we are right with Him. So, barrenesss does not have to be something that a Christian has to live with.

Genesis 11:30
but Sarai was barren, but Sarai or Sarah was able to conceive-Hebrews 11:11

Promise for a long life if we obey our parents

Ephesians 6:1

Years of our life-Long life

Psalm 90:10-11

If someone's life is cut short, for example if a child dies at the age of 3 or a person dies at the age of 30, this is obviously not God's will. Either the devil has attacked a person for no reason or it is due to sin and the devil has gained a foothold. Usually children and babies---result of a fallen world and the attack of the evil one. Children who have contracted Aids through no fault of their own serve as an example.

In the Old Testament, Job was an example of a righteous man who was tested, but the Devil did the afflicting. This was before the cross, but Job did prosper more in the end then in the beginning.
Job 42:12-17

Homosexuality/Tranvestism/Transexuality

God does not condone

Genesis 19
1st Corinthians 6:9
Romans 1:24-27
Leviticus 18:22
Leviticus:13

Deuteronomy 22:5
Psalm 139:14-16

And to add to this, Genesis 1:27.

God made male and female in His image. He did not make any mistake with anyone. He made His creation and it was good.


Intersexuality

Yes, there are people that are born with what appearance of two sexes at same time; however, that is not the case. God made male and female. It does not say anywhere in the bible that He made a person to be both male and female. What one is seeing is a deformity and this is of the devil. I read something where the parents should let the child develop. I think it said that in the cases where the parents didn't interfere w/an operation, the children developed as males.I think that that is what I read. The closest that I could come for as support in the bible about it being a possible defect is Leviticus 12:7-8-referring to the OT priests. It may not be related. This is something that a couple would have to pray in the Lord about. I believe that He, Christ, can perform a miracle and heal the deformity. Also, when a baby is in the womb, all generational curses should be cursed and all things that the devil tries to do to jeopardize the well-being of the baby. All evil can be cursed by the blood of Jesus Christ. So, you can be confident that all is well and all will be well. Amen.

Hope this helps.

Because we are in a fallen world, disease, and anything that causes brokeness is in the world. But when we become a devoted follower of Christ, Christ's promises are ours...salvation, healing and wholeness.

Yes, and sometimes the coming fulfillment of those promises breaks into the here and now. Yet sometimes it doesn't, and we have no explanation why (e.g. Job). Our promises are fulfilled in Christ, and yet we're still in a fallen world. Our promises are fulfilled in Christ, and yet we still sin. Our promises are fulfilled in Christ, and yet we still die. Our promises are fulfilled in Christ, and yet we still hunger. Our promises are fulfilled in Christ. That the promises are fulfilled doesn't mean they're fulfilled in every sense. The full effect of their completion has not arrived, and there's no reason to assume that sickness is any different from death, hunger, or tears.

I have no problem with saying that God can heal anything. I do have a problem with assuming that God will heal anything unless God has given you a particular gift of faith with respect to a particular illness that God is going to heal. That seems to me to be thoroughly unbiblical. The particular cases of healing of barrenness were to illustrate the power of God, particularly in fulfilling his promises when they seem impossible to fulfill. All of these people were in the line of promise or involved a child who would play a particular role in the progress of God's revelation (e.g. Samuel, John the Baptist). There's no indication in any of those passages that God will do this for anyone who asks.

Even in the OT, when God's people turned to Him in obedience God blessed them.

Yes and no. He delivered them from their enemies, which for physical Israel was a physical thing, but we don't take that military issue as literally military for the spiritual Israel of the church. He didn't heal all their diseases immediately, and we have no indication that he will do so simply because we repent and are righteous. Jesus in fact says the opposite. Some sin is not caused by anyone's sin, which is what Job already had made clear.

But we can curse it(the disease), and be confident that it will leave us if we have faith in what Christ has promised.

Where is there any biblical warrant that we can curse any disease? Even if we could, do we have any reason to think that this kind of manipulation of God by mere ritual is what God wants? It seems more like Baal worship as presented by the prophets. Yahweh worship is recognition that God is God and submission to him for him to do as he pleases, knowing that in the end it will be for the best, even if it involves sickness now. Baal worship is going through the right rituals because then God will have to do what you want. That kind of manipulation does not move God to action.

As for the final issues, God made his creation. It was good. Then it was devastated by the fall. People are born without the capacity for moral reasoning or sympathy. People are born without the ability to develop complex reasoning. People are born with their desires directed toward things that are not what God intended, including sexual desires toward those of the same sex. People are born with their DNA damaged so that their traits don't develop according to their genetic sex.

You are simply wrong about development. I agree that those operations people have done to their children are usually a very bad idea. But that doesn't mean they just develop as males. A large number of women are genetically male and never know it. Their Y chromosome just never turned on. They're phenotypically women and are normal women in every way. Other people have an extra chromosome, and that leads to strange things that happen with or without any operations. Still others have X and Y chromosomes but with some of the Y chromosome damaged, and they develop with some characteristics of males and some of females. They will not develop as normal males or normal females.

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