The Power of Love to Improve Mental Health

The Power of Love to Improve Mental Health

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Models used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Bob Cummings, the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan

Mental health can be improved and maintained by treating the whole person and by helping the patient feel connected with – and loved by – others and the divine.

Treating the whole person

In 2007 Malkia Newman was appointed to the board of the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority and she now chairs this board. Speaking at last month’s Public Services Committee meeting, she shared her insights from being the only person ever to be treated by the program and, then, to become its board chair. “Having received the treatment, having received the education, because education and treatment go hand in hand – you can’t just throw medicine at a problem, you have to treat the whole person.”

And she is passionate about this. She said, “I came out of the darkness and I walk in the light.” “I have a life that I never had before.” She shared how, after 30 years of going undiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, she is now able to be in a marriage and be active in the community.

Jeffrey Brown, Executive Director of the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority, also spoke at this Public Services Committee meeting. He said, “Mental health… is a part of someone’s whole being. It’s the health of thinking, the health of feeling, the health of interpreting and perceiving information…” It’s “being able to participate [in the world] as a full human being.”

The Bible (in KJV Mark chapter 5) relates that Jesus once healed an insane man who was then found “in his right mind” and on another occasion, before restoring him to health, Jesus asked an invalid, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (KJV John 5:6). These give us a glimpse into how to improve mental health through a broader approach that takes into account spirituality and the patient’s wholeness as intrinsic aspects of their health.

Feeling connected

Having a connection with others allows for participating fully, with others, in the world.

In a Daily Mail article in the U.K. entitled, The power of prayer: Believing in God can help treat depression, Rachel Reilly writes of research conducted at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, saying, “Researchers concluded that a belief in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care.”

So, it’s not only feeling connected to other people but also to the divine that’s beneficial.

Professor John Swinton of the University of Aberdeen says: “…good dementia care has to do with enabling the persons to remain in relationship with God and with one another despite the ravages of the condition.”

Feeling loved

But another study found that people who believe in an angry, vengeful god are more likely to suffer from four psychiatric symptoms: social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion.

What are we to make of this? It appears that a connection with a higher power helps with mental health when it results in feeling loved, and this is hindered – even reversed – when one conceives of the divine as punitive. What helps is understanding that the divine is beneficent and loves, and then feeling a connection to this view of a higher power and being.

In his book entitled, Proof of Heaven, Eban Alexander, M.D., a neurosurgeon who spent fifteen years on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, writes about the healing effects of finding a loving connection both with family and with the divine.

Dr. Alexander was adopted at birth and he knew of that from childhood and he loved his adoptive parents. But as an adult, he longed to find his biological parents. After struggling unsuccessfully to connect with his birth mother, he said, “over the next few months an ocean of sadness opened up within me… And I watched in disbelief as my roles as doctor, father, and husband became ever more difficult to fulfill.”1 At this point, his ability to “participate [in the world] as a full human being” was impaired, perhaps similar to that of Malkia Newman before treatment from Oakland County mental health services helped her.

When he finally met his biological mother, she told him of how she loved him so much and how she had tried so hard to find a way to keep him. Dr. Alexander writes, “Discovering that I had been loved, since the very beginning, began to heal me in the most profound way imaginable. I felt a wholeness I had never known before.”2

And later, through a near death experience during seven days in a coma – which is the main focus of his book – Dr. Alexander found his connection with the divine and says that the message he received was:

  • “You are loved and cherished.”
  • “You have nothing to fear.”
  • “There is nothing you can do wrong.”

And he says that if he had to boil this down to one sentence, it would be, “You are loved.”3

Dr. Alexander emphasizes that the characteristic that makes this love so powerful is that it is unconditional. He writes, “The unconditional love and acceptance that I experienced on my journey is the single most important discovery I have ever made, or will ever make…”4

He calls this both an emotional truth and a scientific truth.

Dr. Alexander found his mental capacities restored: language, memories, recognition, and even his sense of humor. He put it succinctly, “I wasn’t sick, or brain-damaged. I was completely well.”5

And he offers this insight: “The (false) suspicion that we can somehow be separated from God is the root of every form of anxiety in the universe, and the cure for it…was the knowledge that nothing can tear us from God, ever.”6

When it comes to mental health, perhaps the apostle Paul connects the dots for us when he said, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”7

References

  1. Proof of Heaven, A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D., © 2012, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, NY, page 56.
  2.  Ibid page 67.
  3. Ibid page 71.
  4. Ibid page 73.
  5. Ibid page 123.
  6. Ibid page 76.
  7. KJV 2 Timothy 1:7

Link to Bob Cummings blog

About the author

Guest We are pleased to present Notes from the Field authors, who are assistant committees and church members in the Southern California region; and Notes from The Mother Church authors, who are Committees from the United States and around the world, as well as the Federal Committee on Publication office.

Comments

  1. Tracy says

    What a beautiful, thoughtful, and inspiring post, Bob! I am hearing more and more good things about this book “Proof of Heaven”, and I’m so glad you shared some of the author’s insights. Clearly, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Thank you!

  2. says

    This is a very insightful article and I totally relate to it! When a member of my family was told this “bipolar” condition “might be” something he’d have to deal with, my husband and I rejected the whole thought with Mrs. Eddys statement from Science and Health (P. 279: 25-29) “A logical and Scientific conclusion is reached only through the knowledge that there are not two bases of being, matter and mind, but one alone, Mind. “. The very name “Bipolar” screams of error’s false claim of “two (‘Bi’ means 2 or more!) bases of being” of mind in matter, of a creation created by a “mighty potentate who loves and hates” (ibid 42:3-4) made from dust and matter! The upshot is that as we continued to refuse to accept this for him or anyone, a sibling told me “it’s amazing! when he’s with you all, he’s like the person we’ve always known and loved!”. When we explained it on the bases of Christian Science’s stand of “one Mind alone” not two, they understood why, being raised in the Sunday school with us all! Now, many years later, that “label” has been removed from him, and he is the wonderful caring man ” of Gods creating” with no taint of a dual identity! This is a great post and memory of “one God, one Man, one Mind” Only!

  3. Anne says

    To discover that (in spiritual reality) we can never be separated from God, even though a “(false) suspicion” might suggest otherwise, is a tremendous insight of Dr. Alexander’s.

    I also appreciated his comment on unconditional love, calling it “both an emotional truth and a scientific truth.”

    An excellent blog with much food for thought.

    Thank you.

  4. Sue says

    Thank you for this insightful article. It shows how world thought is opening up to seeing God as an ever present loving presence. We can all be aware of this unconditional love and how it transforms us & lifts us from human labels of limitation to freedom and life in God.
    Thank you too Diana for your compelling personal experience with a family member. Understanding that each person is directed by one loving Father/Mother God has a healing effect. This practical truth touches and blesses everyone around them.

  5. Pamela says

    Well I was on a train all day yesterday so didn’t get to see this amazing post until this morning. What a a wonderful blog Bob, thank you so very much. More and more I am hearing about this wonderful book by Dr. Alexander so I guess I had better get a copy and read it.

    Thanks too for your inspiring comments Diana about your family member who was healed of this dualism that claims to be a part of man, but certainly not the man God made. God’s man we are told in the Bible was made in his (God’s) image and likeness. Well God certainly is not Bipolar so how can man, who is His relection, be that.

    I think it is wonderful how so many doctors and indivlduals are waking to the fact that man’s well being is very dependent upon a divine influence and not just a material influence. Our world is waking up to the truth of man’s being and isn’t that wonderful.