Here’s One Way Which Might Help You To Understand It:
Here’s a brain inside the body. The blue lines are nerves which send messages to your muscles so you can move. They are called motor nerves. The red lines are also nerves, but they send messages back to the brain so you can feel what is happening. They are called sensory nerves. Try this experiment:
Close your eyes and make your arm and hand do several different movements. Then before you open your eyes, guess where the end of your finger tips will be. Open your eyes and see if you were right. Then close your eyes again and touch your left ear with your right hand. Did you manage it ? If you did it shows that the nerves you used are working well together. Your motor nerves told your hand where to go, but your sensory nerves told your brain where your hand was going. That’s good coordination. So the brain talks to the body and the body talks to the brain. Well the same thing also happens between the brain and the mind – or what you think.
You can make your brain concentrate on one thing or another, but if you try to think about too many things you can get very muddled and often can’t concentrate on any one of them. That’s why teachers often want to stop children from talking in class or from looking out of the window and so on. But most of us are really good at focussing even if there are lots of things going on. Try this experiment with three or more friends.:
Stand in a room and all talk at once. The amount of sound will be all the noise each one of you made added up. One friend should be selected (without the others knowing) to keep saying the name of one of the others, but no louder than the others. He or she will, probably hear their name quite soon, even though the other sounds were louder. This is because our brains can sift out or sieve out or filter out (whichever word you like best ) the things we need to pay attention to. Otherwise our minds would be overloaded and couldn’t work at all. We think that there is a part of the brain which does this job. But when someone has a severe mental illness they often can’t choose what to hear, so they hear everything. So you can see how their mind could then become very jumbled up and have strange thoughts and ideas which don’t fit. This can happen for three main reasons:
- their brain is just having to cope with too many ideas, worries, feelings and everything, so that it just can’t filter out what is important
- because in the person’s early life they have had just too many things to cope with, so that they have too many feelings and ideas going round and round inside their mind, to cope with any new ones
- because the bit of the brain that does the sifting out or filtering is not working properly. We do not know exactly why that happens to some people, but that part of the brain does seem to be a bit weaker in some families. That does not mean that those people have to get a mental illness, because it needs the other stresses for that to happen, and anyway there are ways to protect your brain from ‘overload’. In fact if your parent has had a severe mental illness, it is likely that he or she will have been given medication, and that medication will often be aimed at helping the brain ‘filter’ to cope.