Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brain Science: Do We All Have the Same Amount of Free Will?

(Photo of Dr. Earl Henslin. Is that a kind face, or what?)

Be compassionate, as I am compassionate." Jesus (Often wrongly translated to say, "Be perfect as I am perfect.")

Yesterday, my friend, Dr. Earl Henslin, once again helped a dear friend of mine stuck in complicated emotional pain. She said, as every one says, after talking with Earl in person or by phone for a typical intake/counseling session, some version of ..."He is an angel. I cannot tell you how much hope I feel. How deeply heard and understood and encouraged I am. I have a plan and a future and I understand my brain and behavior. I get that I am loved by God, that I have value, but that I just need a little help to get where I need to be."

(By the way, if you or someone you love may want a phone counseling session with Dr. Henslin, please tell him or his assistant, Pam, that I sent you. Here's the contact information:

It was a giant privilege to write books with Dr. Henslin because I was able to learn so much more about a subject I've been intensely interested in for many years: the brain. To get to meet his colleague, Dr. Amen, and have my own brain scanned was a life-altering experience.

People sometimes ask me, "Becky, how can you and Greg be so compassionate to people who are hurting or acting out, emotionally?" And I say, "I've looked inside brains, including my own. I cannot argue with the truth that Dr. Amen and Dr. Henslin came to when they saw the wide variety of emotional pain, visible in people's brains.... that we do not all have the same amount of free will. This is why only God can look into our 'innermost parts' and see our brain chemistry; only He knows the stories behind our depression or our anger or addictions. Mother Teresa said, 'If I am too busy judging people, I won't have time to love them.' I feel like saying, 'If I waste time judging someone, I won't have time to get them to the real help they need.'"

These days Greg and I both feel like the "stretcher-bearers" who brought the paralytic man to Jesus for healing. Only, we're bringing them most often to Dr. Henslin, who is one of the most compassionate, brilliant therapists and life coaches we know. Well, that and serving them a cup of hot tea, or a warm meal, or a night or two in the "beach room" -- a place to feel loved and heard in our home. Greg and I offer compassionate "aunt and uncle" lay counseling:) But we know when a person needs more than a hot meal and an empathetic ear, and we are so very grateful to have Dr. Henslin as our top resource.

(To see my post on my brain scan experience click on or click on "brain scan" on the list of posts on the current blog page.)

I have a book of before and after pictures of Spect Scans that I often show people. You can also see many of these for yourself, in living color, at (Click on Spect Images)

One of the most impactful to me was a woman before and after PMS. During PMS, her cingulate (the obsessive & angry part of the brain) fired up like a literal red flame.
Her cingulate gyrus (the center of anxiety) was also aglow. Even the limbic system, (the area where depression is seen) was red hot. Then a week later, all is calm, all is cool. I have never speculated again, after seeing that scan, if hormones make us crazy. They affect every single neurotransmitter in the brain, and we simply are not functioning with our best brain with untreated PMS. And this is just one small example!

In my next post, I'll share an excerpt This is Your Brain on Joy that will describe Dr. Henslin's first encounter with Spect Imaging, fourteen years ago, and the risk he took to halt practicing therapy as he'd been trained, take 10 years to study the brain with Dr. Amen, and apply it to his counseling practice.


  1. Thanks for this post Becky. Good reminders. I'm needing big doses of compassion for others lately. I especially liked "Be compassionate, as I am compassionate." -Jesus

    And....I don't think I came in on a stretcher but I was so exhausted from traveling when I visited you. I can certainly vouch for the restfulness of your "beach room". Thanks again for your hospitality and friendship.


  2. Hi Becky-
    As a therapist I am developing a true interest in brain science. Not all of us are capable of the same things. If I could, I'd love to halt my practice to gain an even better understanding in brain science! Oh a girl can dream!

  3. Julie, our beach room door is always open for you, whatever shape you arrive in!

    Stephanie, I just love therapists:) Seems like I have always had one or two therapists as my closest friends throughout life. thanks for what you are doing and for being open to learn.

    You are the second therapist this week to tell me this. I will find out if Dr Henslin or Dr. Amen are teaching any professional seminars in the coming year and let you know about them.