Mind Over Genes - The New Biology By Bruce H. Lipton, PhD
Earlier in my career as a research scientist and medical school professor, I actively supported the perspective that the human body was a ‘biochemical machine programmed by its genes.’ We scientists believed that human strengths, such as artistic or intellectual abilities, and human weaknesses, such as cardio-vascular disease, cancer or depression, represented traits that were preprogrammed into our genes. Hence I perceived life’s attributes and deficits, as well as our health and our frailties, as merely a reflection of our heredity expression.
Until recently, it was thought that genes were self-actualizing—that genes could ‘turn themselves on and off.’ Such behavior is required in order for genes to control biology. But our understanding is evolving. Though the power of genes is still emphasized in current biology courses and textbooks, a radically new understanding has emerged at the leading edge of cell science. It is now recognized that the environment, and more specifically, our perception (interpre-tation) of the environment directly controls the activity of our genes. Environ-ment controls gene activity through a process known as epigenetic control.
This new perspective of human biology does not view the body as just a mechanical device. Rather, it incorporates the role of a mind and spirit. This breakthrough in biology is fundamental in all healing, for it recognizes that when we change our perception or beliefs, we send totally different messages to our cells and thus reprogram their expression. The new-biology reveals why people can have spontaneous remissions from disease or recover from injuries deemed to be permanent disabilities.
The functional units of life are the individual cells that comprise our bodies. Though every cell is innately intelligent and can survive on its own when removed from the body, in the body, each cell foregoes its individuality and becomes a member of a multi-cellular community. The body really represents the cooperative effort of a community of fifty trillion single cells. By definition, a community is an organization of individuals committed to supporting a shared vision. Consequently, while every cell is a free-living entity, the body’s community accommodates the wishes and intents of its ‘central voice,’ a character we perceive as the mind and spirit.
When the mind perceives that the environment is safe and supportive, the cells are preoccupied with the growth and maintenance of the body. In stressful situations, cells forego their normal growth functions and adopt a defensive ‘protection’ posture. The body’s energy resources—normally used to sustain growth—are diverted to systems that provide protection during periods of stress. Simply put, growth processes are restricted or suspended in a stressed system. While our systems can accommodate periods of acute (brief) stress, prolonged or chronic stress is debilitating for its energy demands interfere with the required maintenance of the body, and as a consequence, leads to dysfunction and disease.
The principle source of stress is the system’s ‘central voice,’ the mind. The mind is like the driver of a vehicle. With good driving skills, a vehicle can be maintained and provide good performance throughout its life. Bad driving skills generate most of the wrecks that litter the roadside or are stacked in junkyards. If we employ good ‘driving skills’ in managing our behaviors and dealing with our emotions, then we should anticipate a long, happy and productive life. In contrast, inappropriate behaviors and dysfunctional emotional management, like a bad driver, stress the cellular ‘vehicle,’ interfering with its performance and provoking a breakdown.
Are you a good driver or a bad driver? Before you answer that question, realize that there are two separate minds that create the body’s controlling ‘central voice.’ The (self) conscious mind is the thinking ‘you,’ it is the creative mind that expresses free-will. Its supporting partner is the subconscious mind, a super computer loaded with a database of programmed behaviors. Some programs are derived from genetics—these are our instincts and they represent nature. But the vast majority of the subconscious programs are acquired through our developmental learning experiences, and they represent nurture.
The subconscious mind is not a seat of reasoning or creative consciousness; it is strictly a stimulus-response device. When an environmental signal is perceived, the subconscious mind reflexively activates a previously stored behavioral response—no thinking required. The subconscious mind is a programmable autopilot that can navigate the vehicle without the observation or awareness of the pilot—the conscious mind. When the subconscious autopilot is controlling behavior, consciousness is free to dream into the future or review the past.