What a Shame: The Disintegration of the Mind

Posted on by Curt Thompson

For those of you who have read these posts, what you encounter in this one may seem tired and worn. That, incidentally, is exactly what evil would want you to feel, how it would want you to interpret what seems like the common stuff that makes up the substance of these blogs. You already know about the integration of the mind, so why not just skip this post.

But did you know that it is that which is so beautifully elegant about the mind—the possibility of integration—that is the very dynamic that shame targets to do evil’s dirty work? If you take the biblical narrative seriously, you will soon see that evil will do anything it can to promote within and between us the sensation of disintegration. And it has no more effective weapon to accomplish this than shame.

From the perspective of interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB), the mind is not merely isolated to the brain, nor is it reducible to rational thought. Rather, it emerges within the context of relationships as a complex constellation of sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, and physical actions. When those various functions of the mind are working in harmonious concert, the resulting emotion is often that of joy, and we find great potential for meaningful creative, risk-taking adventures. But evil will have none of that. Whereas, in IPNB terms, human flourishing is highly correlated with deeply integrated states of mind, evil’s intention, embodied in the affect of shame, leads to broken, disintegrated states of mind, which lead to disintegrated families, and thus communities, and nations. Think: Middle Eastern refugee crisis.

If we are to love God with our entire mind, and if that loving activity leads to joy, no wonder shame has other plans. When the Psalmist asks God to “create within me an undivided heart,” (Ps. 86:11) he knows that it will require outside help to bring together all the disparate parts of the mind’s activity in order that he “…might fear your name.” And that type of fear, that awareness of the overwhelming beauty and goodness of God, only leads to the type of creative endeavors that God had in mind when he made us in the first place to live like he lives. The only problem is that evil knows this, and the most effective way to subvert God’s intention is to disintegrate that which leads to goodness, beauty, and joy. This is shame’s purpose, its mission: to promote the ongoing sensation of the disintegration of the mind. And with that, the disintegration of everything else, including the very earth to which we are bound, soon follows.

How aware are you of the various functions of your mind? Your sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors? How attuned are you to the continual shaping of your mind’s activity by the important relationships in your life, be they friends or enemies, the living or the dead? We are only able to love God with our whole mind to the degree that we are aware of what all it entails, and to the extent that we perceive shame’s attempt to dismantle those features of our mind that would otherwise lead us to a world of joy. By whom you are so well known that your awareness of your mind—and your growth in loving God with it—is not locked away in some hidden inner vault, but rather is out in the open, exposed to the light of One who would rather die than let anything—not least our shame—come between us and him?

This week, when you sense shame attempting to tighten its grip (even if at first it feels light to the touch), just remember that Jesus is in the business of healing shame; integrating your mind; leading you beside still waters and to lie down in green pastures; and to rest in places of goodness and beauty.

It would be a shame to think that life with God is anything less than this.

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