In 1998 I purchased a book that had been published two years prior entitled “The Healing Power of the Mind.” The Foreword was written by Daniel Goldman who had just broken ground with his publication of Emotional Intelligence. The Healing Power of the Mind intrigued me because (a) it was written by a Tibetan Monk (Tulku Thondup) who was a visiting scholar at Harvard, and (b) because the work focused on something so simple yet so profound, compelling and straightforward – that as an emerging Social Worker with all the attendant enthusiasm and rose colored lenses of optimism, I wanted EVERYONE to read it. My friends, my colleagues, my doctoral professors, strangers, potential clients – but they all looked at me with the blankest of stares: What do you mean meditation as a means to heal the mind? What do you mean the mind can heal? Tell that to the mentally ill or the addict!
“Read the book! Read the book!” I exclaimed over and over. But the scoffing was certain, and the opinions set. This was nonsense and of no scientific consequence, no evidence-based principles, no validity or reliability. Never mind that the techniques had been used for over 3,000 years – the reaction was, across the board, “bah humbug.”
Fast forward to the first decade of the new Millennium. By 2008 the world it seemed was busting at the seams with “Mindfulness”, “Meditation”, and the healing power of that thing called “mind.” In fact a day doesn’t go by that one doesn’t see some reference to it at some level.
Schopenhauer said that when a new idea (known as a truth) is introduced it is immediately dismissed as impossible; then violently opposed; and finally accepted as self evident.
Nothing could be more true of Mindfulness and Mind. In the world of addiction, my chosen field (or perhaps it chose me), the acceptance of self evidence of the addicted brain is ubiquitous. We now understand the workings of the Amygdala, Hippocampus, Nucleus Accumbens and the like, and have established evidence based, scientific certainties of the cause of addiction.
But one thing that is not certain is the path to treatment. In the days of Synanon, patients were stripped down to the core to be built up again. In the era of Betty Ford a kinder more gentle approach emerged. But what of today?
Today we need to re-examine our addiction treatment approaches and ask ourselves if we are using outdated methods for what is essentially a cutting edge understanding. If addiction is a disease of the brain, then shouldn’t we be using the mind to heal the brain? Daniel Seigel, MD, for one would say “Yes!” As would Rick Hanson, PhD. And many others whose work has influenced the science of neurobiology and addiction.
I propose that there is a “neuroscience of recovery” waiting in the wings – poised to make its grand entrance. The curtain is rising, the spotlight is pointed to center stage.
I propose the time is right to develop a mechanism of treatment that can become the new paradigm of wellness for those “still suffering”.
Call me an eternal optimist – an enthusiast for the profound and the simple – but I know this much is true: our minds are the ultimate final frontiers.