Updated: Jan 30, 2020
Let's start with a bible verse. No need to do any memorizing or deep thinking, let's just put this out there and we'll come back to it at the end.
He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
- Matthew 17:20
I recently finished a book titled "The Biology of Belief" by Dr. Bruce Lipton. If you're like me and love to cook through easy reads (or listens) this is a great one - it's only 3 hours. The brief synopsis goes like this:
Since it's discovery, DNA has taught us many things about who we were, who we are and who we are becoming. For the longest time, genes were understood as being the end-all-be-all of this hindsight and aspiration. This is known as genetic/biological determinism.
If you're unfamiliar with this concept, I assure you it's only superficial. Unfortunately we all operate incredibly proficiently under the dogmas associated with genetic determinism each and every day and don't ever realize it.
Genetic determinism has told us that "our genes are fixed, immutable and outside of our conscious control" as quoted from the book. The problem with this kind of thinking is simple: if you believe that your genes have made you a certain way (be it depressed, angry, obese, etc.) how will you ever desire the motivation to change? That's who you are! Those are the genes God has given you; it would be obtuse to think we can do anything about it. You can see how easy it is to develop a victim mentality from this kind of thinking. I almost feel myself tending towards this way of thinking as I'm writing this because this is, in essence, what society has told us our entire lives.
Now that we have some back story about genetic determinism let's make sure we're on the same page. Genes and DNA control our biology. Right? Blue eyes? Genes. Tall? Genes. Anger? Genes.
Of course none of us would argue that our eye color is in our control. Neither would we argue for height. But what about our anger? Or maybe our depression? How many self help books have you read about any range of ailments of our behavior that resume their course after a couple valiant efforts at behavioral change? Speaking from personal experience, it's rather easy to adopt the view that we're fixed with these genes for life.
What if I told you that the most recent scientific investigation into this topic is actually revealing that DNA is actually controlled by signals from OUTSIDE the cell. Can you guess what is proving to be the most powerful form of messages that are making it to the cells? Thoughts. That's right, thoughts. Every thought that you have is impacting your body on a physical, biological level. Each time you think about what you can and can't do, you are transferring that information directly to the CELLS of your body.
Your physical building blocks at the lowest level are receiving constant instructions on how to operate in the world from YOU!
This was a really hard concept for me to understand because cells are so foreign. What makes it a little easier to understand is the awareness that you yourself are a cell. You operate the exact same way a cell does. You have a cell wall (skin), a nucleus (brain), and all the organelles (organs) to keep the body functioning just like all your little cells do. If you are made up of 37 trillion cells why would you think you are any different? A field of grass as large as it may be is still grass. You are walking around everyday, receiving input from the world around you and reacting to that input just like your cells are.
Let's really drive this home.
Picture the following scenario: you decide to take a walk one day. As soon as you step outside you feel it's a little more brisk than expected. Immediately the receptors on your skin send a signal to your metabolism and tell it to kick it up a notch and generate more body heat to keep you at your normal temperature. As you keep walking you see a curious skunk pop out of the bush. A hormonal response from your endocrine system kicks in and before you know it a surge of adrenaline is coursing through your body. Because of this response your body has already started diverting blood to your legs and arms to make it easier to run. The skunk makes a quick movement which is the final straw in the fight or flight response you're experiencing that tells your legs to move. You start to run. Once you're a safe distance away the adrenaline starts to dissipate from your body and you relax. As your body resumes its normal functions you to smell a BBQ in someone's backyard. The smell receptors in your nose send a signal to the thalamus in the brain which triggers a salivation response and maybe even some nostalgia from your childhood BBQs.
I could go on and on but you hopefully you get the idea. Every day you are taking in information, processing it and reacting. And don't forget that you yourself are a cell. Why wouldn't your cells be doing the exact same thing with all the input you give it. Instead of a cold day, maybe you tell yourself that there's no way you can fulfill the role expected of you at work. Instead of a skunk, maybe you tell yourself that your relationship is never going to work because something is wrong with how you handle conflict. Instead of the smell of a BBQ, maybe you tell yourself that you're never going to stop being depressed because you've been that way for years. By thinking these things you are literally changing your body's physical health and well being.
Let's bring this full circle.
If you're like me, when you're reading this it's easy to understand these concepts and then remain stumped at the lack of progress when you try to fix your behavior. Did you know that while your conscious brain can handle 40 bits of information per second your unconscious mind is processing up to 40 MILLION bits per second. Quick math: that's 1 million times more processing power in the unconscious brain.
Think of when you first started driving a car. You devoted all your conscious brain power to the task. Checking all your mirrors, focusing on each pedal, watching the gauges, etc. And even then if you add in an angry parent yelling at you from the passenger or being in a chaotic traffic situation sometimes you would freeze. Your conscious brain was taking in too much information to handle and it shut down.
Now I'm willing to bet we can all think of a time when we've been engaged in a conversation with a passenger or maybe even intently listening to a podcast. Have you ever had that sensation when you finally come back to conscious focus on driving and you realize you've been driving for however long completely unaware? Well you weren't actually unaware at all. Your unconscious brain was driving the car, and maybe even more proficiently than your conscious mind could because it's programmed to do so. You've given it so much input over the years it can do it whether you're conscious or not.
This is the exact same thing that happens with our thoughts. Your unconscious mind is operating all day everyday in the background. Most studies have concluded you spend as much as 99% of your day operating from the unconscious mind. That means only 1% of your day is spent thoughtfully deciding what kind of input you're going to give your brain and yet we wonder why our behavior changes don't work.
Your unconscious mind is just a stereo. Say you put a tape on in the car and you start listening. It's going well at first and then you decide you don't like it. So what do you do? You don't yell at the stereo and say "hey this was going well for awhile but I've decided I no longer enjoy this tape, can you please stop?". That's asinine. We reach over and we stop the stereo ourselves by pushing the button. Talking to your stereo is not going to stop it, same with your unconscious mind. There's no one in there. We must stop thinking that us being aware of the problem and communicating is going to stop it. It's time to put in a new tape.
Take a quick second and review that verse at the top again. The Bible tells us:
"...you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Maybe you've never read that verse through these eyes before, I know I hadn't. Essentially God is telling us to do all the concepts we've just discussed. God is not telling us to change our behavior, He's offering a completely different tape!
God tells us who we are in the Bible over and over again. He strips our old identities to the bone and give us new ones, it's US who choose to continue trying to reason with the tape rather than turning it off and playing the new one. God tells us with this kind of paradigm that "nothing will be impossible for us". I have to believe this includes any lie we could possibly be living out of that behavior can't fix.
Time to put on the new tape and go move some mountains.