Mind the Gap of Your Mind

Sabrina de Boer (ESR9)

As you can see from the headline, my intention was to write about the mind. As soon as the idea for this article emerged in my brain, I started to put it into English words. After checking some useful expressions, I realized, once again, that thinking in another language can completely alter your original perspective. I realized that the English term “mind” synthesizes rational and emotional aspects while my mother language German has strictly distinguished terms for the rational and less rational parts of our mind. From this point of view, it seems logical that the Austrian Sigmund Freud developed the fundamentals of Psychoanalysis more than hundred years ago.

At that stage, I did not want to change the headline, even though I originally wanted to write about plain reason. The part of your brain dealing with the hard facts. Those I deal with every day as a scientist. During my youth, the irrevocability of definitions gave me stability. The reason does not trick you. Reasonable actions will produce reasonable results. You can control everything if you only think it through. Science is true, honest, reliable.

Only recently, I became fully aware that this focus and reliance on the reason is sometimes not enough to confront every obstacle in your life. You are facing people who do not act rationally towards you. You live in a society that is desperately grasping every straw, reasonable or not, to pretend everything will stay as it was. And, of course, it is an ignorant illusion to think that your actions are only guided by your reason.

So, you better start to look at the other side of the mind, I would call soul. The part of feelings, good and bad, intuition and gratitude. Suppose you become aware (the term “mindfulness” is recently advertised as a cure for every problem you might have with yourself and the world) of the power of this part. In that case, it can serve you as a solid fundament equally important as your reason. It can help you neutralize the doubts and drawbacks which might burst into your life and nourish your idealism to reach your real-world goals. Standing on this firm ground, you do not have to be afraid or ashamed of your subconscious fears, desires, and sociocultural imprinting. They are a part of your unique personality you can unconditionally embrace.

Due to the restrictions imposed during the lockdowns, most of us quit doing sports. Of course, we gained some weight, but there is more to it. We lost the connection to our body to a certain extent. Always in the resting state, wobbling around, it has no longer means to attract our attention by growing muscles or a beating heart, but by fatigue, backpain, or even serious diseases. Even though the linkage between your state of mind and measurable biochemical processes was long neglected by western medicine, researchers have only recently tackled this unexplored field. For example, exosomes, small vesicles that can pass the blood-brain barrier, have been found to play crucial roles in diseases like cancer. In fact, fitting my blog’s title, the EU-funded project MindGAP aims to study alterations of the exosome community in dependence of the health status and to find biochemical evidence for the benefits of meditation.[1]

Freud might cringe upon the dilettante picture I drew above. But I learned that every theory, as irrevocable it may seem, always has room for interpretation and development. And this is particularly true for theories describing yourself.

In order to gain more equilibrium between all these important parts of the mind, I have decided to increasingly mind my body. I had never been very kind to it, especially during long days in the lab. Therefore, I have started yoga this year and remarkably do not want to quit yet, also because I found an inspiring instructor on Youtube (Mady Morrison). She does her classes in German. But even if you don’t speak German yet, maybe you got interested in exploring your mind in another language.

[1] https://mindgap-fet-open.eu/project
Picture based on