The Apostle Paul admonishes Christ-followers to renew their minds for the purpose of achieving the transformation of their character (Romans 12:2). Paul insists that renewal is the outcome of using our brains to focus our attention on the things that are true, pure, and of good report (Philippians 4:8). Thus, Paul counsels young Timothy to give keen attention to the Word of God because, in Scripture, he would find the truth that will set him free from the grip of his fear (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul established a process for the promotion of mental health. With their notion of “neuroplasticity” (the brain’s neural network’s ability to change via growth and reorganization), neuroscientists have explained the science that supports this process.
Building on brain science insights, Dr. Curt Thompson, psychiatrist, speaker, and author, states that “attention is the key to the ignition of the mind” (2010). In line with Paul’s counsel on mind renewal, Dr. Thompson insists that this goal is only achievable when we discipline ourselves to “pay attention to what we are paying attention to” (2010). Recovery from trauma requires that we consistently focus our brains’ attention on that which contributes to the reversal of our trauma. We practice this attention to truth because we understand that in doing so, we are reducing the power of the negative neural connections and supporting the wiring of new, life-enhancing neural connections. Ultimately, the reversal of the effects of trauma depends on our disciplined awareness of what we are paying attention to and our readiness to live that commitment out with transparency in a circle of grace-based relationships for encouragement and accountability.
This article originally appeared in Christian Counseling Today, Vol. 24 No. 4. Christian Counseling Today is the flagship publication of the American Association of Christian Counselors. To learn more about the AACC, click here.
Gingrich, H.D. (2013). Restoring the shattered self: A Christian counselors guide to complex trauma. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, p. 58.
Jennings, T.R. (2012). Could it be this simple: A biblical model for healing the mind. Chattanooga, TN: Lennox Publishing. p. 87.
Langberg, D. (2017). How to develop an effective trauma recovery ministry. In Tim Clinton and Jared Pingleton (Ed.), The Struggle is Real. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, p. 226.
Siegel, D.J. (2012). Pocket guide to interpersonal neurobiology: An integrative handbook of the mind. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., pp. 3-5.
Thompson, C. (2010). Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising connections between neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., pp. 74-76.