Book Review:: This Is Your Brain On Joy

16 Mar

This Is Your Brain On Joy by Dr. Earl Henslin is a fresh approach to psychology and how we interpret disorders like depression, anxiety and ADHD.  Brain scans (also callet PET scans) are becoming popular tools in the psychiatric world in understanding how the human brain operates and what areas of the brain are affected when a person is experiencing emotional issues.  By looking at these at these areas, psychiatrists can not only treat patients more effectively by getting to the actual root of a chemical imbalance, they can also see how medication and therapy are helping areas of the brain to heal.

Better yet, Your Brain On Joy (Thomas Nelson) is written by a licensed counselor who’s been integrating brain imaging into his holistic approach to patient care. And here’s the kicker—Dr. Henslin is also a Christian.  So is Dr. Daniel Amen a well-respected mental health professional and a groundbreaking pioneer in SPECT (single photon emission computerized tomography) technology.  Dr. Henslin spends a good chunk of  the beginning chapters of his book talking about Dr. Amen’s work.  Despite Henslin’s attempt to “dumb-it-down” for those not trained in brain physiology, the terminology can be a bit bulky and difficult.

The meat of Henslin’s argument is this—maybe Christians aren’t sinning when they continue to battle the same ol’ issues of depression, anger, anxiety, and so on.  Perhaps there is something more going on and that something is damage to the brain itself.  In a very intelligent fashion, Henslin uses a “Brain System Checklist” to explain what goes awry in one of the brain’s five mood centers when prolonged systems of mental illness are present.  He also offers suggestions in how sufferers can find healing with a multi-faceted approach—psychological, physical, and spiritual.  His suggestions are sensible, yet profound, as many churches are still treating mental illness as solely a spiritual problem. Unfortunately, the cost of SPECT scans and subsequent treatment is still high, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

I find this book exciting on a personal level as well.  As a woman with a M.A. in Biblical Counseling and a sufferer of depression and anxiety, I found Dr. Henslin’s book makes sense.  “See!” I want to shout, “See! I’m not a bad Christian.  My brain just needs healing!”  Like many Christians, I’m tired of being told to pray my pain away or read the Bible more because that’s what I’m already doing.  In fact, my struggles have caused me to read more of the Bible than most people I know and the agony of illness brings me on my knees before God more times than I can count.  To simply dismiss those suffering from mental anguish as “unspiritual” is simply absurd.  Finally, someone with a M.D. gets it, too.

Not only is Your Brain on Joy an enlightening book, it’s a freeing book.  Sufferers will find shackles of shame and guilt fall away as they realize it’s not their fault they feel this way.  And while Christians are still asked to consider how to live a holy life despite his or her illness, there is relief in knowing that the illness itself is not a spiritual defect.

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No Responses to “Book Review:: This Is Your Brain On Joy”

  1. Douglas March 23, 2009 at 12:23 AM #

    I was having difficulties with intimacy and communication in my marriage and with my children. Life Skill’s of San Diego provided a safe environment, in a powerful group setting; where I was able overcome the fear, frustration and despair of negative behavioral traits that I had struggled with my entire life. Finally there is a process through which I can mature past them. I am experiencing a deeper level of intimacy and communication, never experienced before. I am looking to the future with hope and not despair, a life full of satisfying relationships and meaningful service to God.

    “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow”

    Douglas W. Root

    I am reading a book called “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman and he also has some great information on the “amygdala” and how it stores emotions and when triggered causes fight, flight, fright reactionary behavior. Dr. Paul Hedgestrom was talking about the amygdala twenty five years ago. I have just gone through my third divorce and have identified that the chidlhood molestation, pornography and being raise in a shame based system has caused alot of the troubles with my emotional reactionary behavior.

    The hope is that the mind is malleable or plasticity and can re-wire itself eventually. I believe that you can get off the “adrenline drip.”

    I also have started re-parenting my grown teenagers and through the proper affirmations they are responding wonderfully, for example just by giving my daughter permission not to have to be “perfect” (ionism) her countenance has change dramtically and she is now learning to trust dad as he responds instead of reacting.

    I still have a very active mind of “distortions” and I may never be delivered from these bad “files” so to speak, but recognize where they come from, and now can better manage these emotions through accountability and reality checks. As I slow the process down and seek counsel from other men who have been through Life Skill’s we can walk through the distorations and identifiy the “Arrested Development” issues as they arrise, allowing the rational mind in the neocortex to catch up and take ownership of my behavior. If my thinking is distorted, I can admit to my love ones that it is my stuff and ask for forgiveness and become 100% responsible for my behavior when the realtionship has been strained and the reactionary behavior has gotten the better part of me.

    “I can do this and I am getting better all the time”.

    Not perfect, but growing in maturity. I also will look at this other book. I am in agreement with you concerning the Church and how they may not have the latest information on anger, abuse and how to have “severe mercy” when dealing with us mis-understood saints who are praying, reading and hitting all of the marks and still struggle with our relaltionships.

    I love the Lord, and also want to experience true intimacy and long lasting realtioships, just as anyone else would.

    There is hope and I believe that the Lord, is revealing mysteries of the mind and now I have more empathy than ever, because I better understand my own struggle and can see how the Lord, could say please forgive them for they know not what they do”

    By the way “You are forgiven”

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