Home Inspiration CHOPPING UP BRAINS AND THE SCIENCE OF ANXIETY
CHOPPING UP BRAINS AND THE SCIENCE OF ANXIETY
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CHOPPING UP BRAINS AND THE SCIENCE OF ANXIETY

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Over the last few decades, scientists have discovered that the part of the brain responsible for “thinking ahead” is called the prefrontal cortex. And unfortunately, doctors figured this out the hard way.

Back in 1940s and ’50s, there was a popular surgery called a lobotomy, in which doctors would strategically sever that part of the brain in people who suffered with extreme anxiety. After severing the connection in the brain with a surgical knife, these people would become super-relaxed. (Some of you are thinking, Sign me up! But hold that thought.)

Ironically, the medical experts didn’t foresee a significant side effect of the operation. Once surgeons disconnected this part of the brain, none of the same patients could plan for the future. Sure, they worried less, but, if you asked them, “What do you want to do tomorrow?” they would go blank. It’s like someone telling someone to think about infinity. Human beings simply don’t have the capacity to imagine the infinite. In the same way, when lobotomy patients were asked to plan their vacation next week, they simply couldn’t wrap their minds around it.

So the gruesome yet powerful revelation was this: Anxiety comes from the same part of the brain that helps us think about the future. When we think about the future and feel out of control, it causes us to feel anxious.

In other words, the ability that makes us unique among all other creatures is the same brain function that causes us to feel anxious. Or, to frame this in a biblical context: to imagine the future without the complete security of our heavenly Father is terrifying. After sin entered the world, we lost that intimacy—which means the very organ that enabled us to dream can now also torture us.

In the introduction, I explained that I would reveal the myths about happiness or promotion. So, our first one is:

THE ANXIETY MYTH: If I don’t worry, my dreams won’t stay on track.

Although anxiety comes from thinking about the future, God the Father doesn’t want us to be anxious—unless, of course, we deny Him. But before exploring Christ’s unique way of dealing with anxiety, let’s explore how other religions try to solve this.

TRY A LITTLE DENIAL

Those of you who’ve studied Hinduism (or other forms of Eastern Yoga) know that Eastern meditation obsesses over “being present in the now”—not the past or the future. In other words, Hindus achieve peace by living in the present. If we think about this from a scientific standpoint, the associated meditations are basically a clever technique for ignoring the part of our brain that’s driving us nuts, the prefrontal cortex.

However, the Bible teaches a completely different way of achieving peace. I’ll reduce the process down to three simple steps:

  1. GET A HEAVENLY FATHER.
  2. USE PRAYER AND PETITION TO COMMUNICATE WITH GOD—which reinforces both your relationship to the Father and your sense of security.
  3. GIVE THANKS WHEN PRESENTING YOUR REQUESTS TO GOD. In doing so, the Bible promises that, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7).

By contrast, Hinduism and Eastern Yoga reason that if your lack of control is what causes anxiety, then simply ignore your need to have control! But Jesus says, “No! Don’t ignore your need to control. Rather, get a Father who can control it. Don’t stop thinking about the future because, frankly, you need to think about it. Heaven and hell are real.” Indeed, Jesus points out, “I want you to think about it so much that you actually ‘store up treasure in heaven’” (Matt. 6:20). Yet at the same time, He argues, “Don’t worry about it. You have a Father who will help you.”

In other words, if we have a heavenly Father, we don’t need to live in denial of our future or fear of our lack of control. And in doing the three disciplines noted above, God literally redeems our prefrontal cortex—the uniquely human part of our brains.

To put this in less nerdy terms: God wants to restore our capacity to dream! He wants us to look to the future and speak things into existence with awe-inspiring confidence and creativity. We speak forth passion into our marriages, clarity to our children’s callings, peace into our workplaces, joy into our friendships, and richness into every area of our lives.

This excerpt is from chapter 1 of Broken Escalators by Peter Haas. To purchase Broken Escalators, or learn more about this title, visit BrokenEscalators.com.

About Peter Haas

While working in a nightclub as a rave-dj, Peter challenged the God of the Universe to “reveal himself” in an unmistakable way. Only seconds later, God responded to him with a jaw dropping Gospel encounter that shook the foundation of his life. Since converting to Christianity on the spot, Peter has travelled the world, sharing his radical story and calling others to experience the same joy and power.

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