Understanding the Mind

brainBefore we can renew our minds, we must understand how the mind works. Don’t allow this to scare you. You don’t have to have the knowledge of a doctor, psychologist or a neurologist; however, you do need a basic working knowledge of how things work. It is similar to operating a car. You don’t have to be an automotive designer or even a mechanic to operate a car. However, you must know where to place the gasoline and oil in your car. If you put the gasoline where the oil goes or vice versa, your car will not operate.

The Difference Between the Brain and the Mind

We must first begin with an understanding that there is a difference between the brain and the mind. If you were to compare the brain and mind to a computer, the brain would be the actual, physical computer hardware, while the mind could be seen as the software.

The Brain

The brain is a part of the central nervous system situated within the skull. It includes two cerebral hemispheres, the brainstem and cerebellum. Its functions include muscle control and coordination, sensory reception and integration, speech production, memory storage, and the elaboration of thought and emotion.

The Mind

The mind is the term most commonly used to describe the higher functions of the human brain. It includes personality, thought, reason, memory, intelligence, emotion and all unconscious cognitive processes. Although the mind has been the subject of much research over the years, it is still a great mystery. There is still much to learn about this important facet of our psyche. As the scripture states, we are wonderfully made.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-14 (New International Version)

You can hear a person speak to you because of your brain. You understand what they are saying because of your mind. Your brain handles the raw information as energy waves. The sound of a person’s voice is produced by the vibrations of their vocal cords. These waves of energy vibrate at a certain frequency that is picked up by parts of your ears. Those waves are then processed by the portion of your brain that deals with sound and audible waves. However, it is your mind that interprets what those waves mean to you.

Faculties of the Mind

Depending on the literature that you review, you will find that there are several faculties or inherent powers or abilities of the mind. We will briefly look at six, the will, memory, perception, reason, intuition, and imagination.

Will

Will is the mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action. It is our ability to choose, to focus, to concentrate, to commit to something or someone.  Characteristics of courage, loyalty, discipline and perseverance are all a part of the will.

Memory

Memory is the mental faculty of retaining and recalling past experience. Research is discovering that everything that has ever happened to us, around us or by us is permanently fixed in our memories. However, we don’t always know how to recall it.

Perception

Perception is the recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based chiefly on memory. How you perceive things will determine how you feel about things. This feeling can bring about mental and physical changes. Two people can be in a room, experiencing the same sensory inputs and describe completely different perceptions of what is going on.

Reason

Reason is the capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought.  We sometimes refer to this as intelligence. This is where we “connect the dots” and figure things out. There are basically two types of reasoning, inductive reasoning which is an educated guess and deductive reasoning which is based on facts.

Intuition

Intuition is the act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes. They are the thoughts and preferences that come to our minds quickly and without much reflection. In church, we sometimes associate this ability with the Holy Spirit; however, every person has this faculty.

Imagination

Imagination is the formation of a mental image of something that is neither perceived as real or present to the senses. It is sometimes referred to as the highest function of our minds. Napolean Hill called imagination “the most marvelous, miraculous, inconceivably powerful force that the world has ever known. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

State of Mind

In addition to the faculties of our minds, we must understand the state of mind that we are in. You may remember from your high school psychology class that the state of mind has several levels, including the conscious, subconscious and unconscious.

The Conscious Mind

The conscious mind is the part of the mind from which we operate out of conscious awareness. It is responsible for our day to day cognitive activity. It is believed that not more than 5 to 10% percent of the total operation in our mind occurs at the conscious level.

The Subconscious Mind

Subconscious mind stores all learned ideas, beliefs, attitudes and habits, prejudices, basic needs and drives. It is programmable but once the program is in it is very resistant to change. It is believed that 90% of our subconscious mind is programmed by the time we are 7 or 8 years old.

It is estimated that your mind is processing over 400 million bits of information per second. However, we are only aware of about 2000 of those bits. Those 2000 bits are being handled by our conscious mind. The rest is being stored and dealt with by our subconscious mind.

Many of the activities that are going on in your body right now are happening at a subconscious level. You are not consciously instructing your stomach to digest your last meal; it is automatically getting signals from your brain to do that. Many activities that you do outside your body are also being handled by your subconscious. If you have never driven to a particular place before, you would probably drive there very consciously. You would pay attention to the street signs and may have even counted the traffic lights if that were part of the directions that were given to you. However, if you are driving to a place that you drive often to, you probably drive there using more of your subconscious mind.

Unconscious mind 

The unconscious mind contains context that is harder to access and is usually repressed and hidden by sophisticated defense mechanisms. It results in behavior but it is well camouflaged. Our deepest fears, shame, painful wounds, strongly held resentments, unresolved grief and profound self-hatred are held buried and unresolved in this part of our mind. This is where most of our self-sabotage arises from.

The Bottom Line

When we “renew our minds” only at the conscious level, we are only dealing with a small fraction of our minds. We must reprogram and renew our minds at the subconscious level also. That includes the will, memory, perception, reason, intuition and imagination on both the conscious and subconscious levels. During the course of this study, we will look at tools and technology today to help us achieve this goal.