Mending Broken Lives: Spirit and Mind

When we’re about the business of mending broken lives, there’s no doubting that the spirit and mind must be included. When we talk about the mind, we’re referring to the collective cognitive abilities, coupled with personality and memories that make a human being distinct from one another. “Spirit” can get a little more complex, in that for many religious folks, “spirit” and “soul” are one and the same. For many other people of religious faiths, spirit and soul don’t mean the same thing.  Those without any religious inclinations can be as spiritual as anyone else.

We can loosely define “mind” as the all the processes and expressions that enable us to think, feel and reason. The mind is subject to distorted views of reality; it is subject to error based on beliefs that do not mirror reality.  In this way, a person’s distorted beliefs about events disturb the person even more than the real, unvarnished occurrence would. Mistaken beliefs are often formed very early in life. Consider a few examples.

  • “I’m not smart.”
  • I’m not capable.”
  • “Others are better than I am.”
  • “I’m weak”

These thoughts contribute to a mindset that predisposes a person toward a lack of self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence. Drugs alleviate feelings of worthlessness temporarily, but addiction then destroys everything but the self-fulfilling prophecy of disaster. As the mind closes down to possibilities, the spirit becomes cut off from the greater world around it. This causes a person to feel isolated, alone, and often, worthless. Drugs seem as if they fill an aching hole in the psyche, but at the same time, they widen that void. Then, as a person’s life collapses, the negative thinking seems justified in that person’s mind. It’s a form of a self-fulfilling prophecy at work.

When a person gets into a recovery program, it’s important they’re reinforced for positive thinking. It’s also important they learn how unrealistically negative self-messages hurt one’s self. Of course, positive thinking works best when it’s realistic. Realism counters the highly illogical and irrational nature of cognitive distortions. Becoming grounded like this helps the mind heal. The spirit, however, heals more slowly. It usually doesn’t get better alone. The presence of other people, fellow-travellers on the road to recovery, can help one’s sense of connectedness grow. It’s hard to find a connection to something greater than ourselves if we have a profound inability to connect with others.