What Is The Soul?

All humans have three elements to their beings: mind, soul, and body. People often confuse their soul with their emotions, but this is not correct. Your soul and mind each have their own set of emotions, and once you understand this, you can start making sense out of the many conflicting feelings you have in life.

Suppose that your family is a dysfunctional mess and they seem to enjoy riling you up. So when Christmas rolls around and your mom assigns you the task of bringing the mashed potatoes, you really don’t want to go. You don’t want to go because you know you’ll have a miserable time and you just aren’t interested in having your feelings hurt…again. Plus it makes you very nervous when your father and uncles start tossing back the liquor, because you know they are prone to violence when they are drunk. But even though hanging out with your family is guaranteed to be a painful experience–emotionally and perhaps even physically–you feel like you can’t say “no”. You feel like you have to go because if you don’t, you’ll be acting like a jerk.

This kind of internal angst is a very common experience for humans. But what exactly is going on here? In these kinds of scenarios, the conflict you experience is a result of two different elements of your being–your soul and your mind–arguing with each other about what you ought to do. You see, while your soul and mind agree on some things, they also have some major differences. One important difference to be aware of is that your safety is a top priority for your mind, while your soul cares about morality. In the scenario I described, your mind is the part of you urging you not to go to your mom’s for Christmas because your mind believes you are not safe around that crowd. Your soul is the part of you that is insisting you should go because it’s the right thing to do.

Your Soul & Morality

Your soul is the only part of you that cares about morality. Your mind and body couldn’t care less about right and wrong. Now when people hear words like soul and spirit, they tend to think of religion. And yet even if you think religion is ridiculous, you still have a moral code. When you say things like “That’s not fair!” or “I deserved that promotion!” you are expressing soul beliefs. Regardless of whether or not you believe in a God, and regardless of how religious you are, your soul has some very strong opinions about what is right and wrong, fair and unfair. If your spouse gets mugged or your child gets hit by a car, your soul will have a lot to say about the injustice of those situations.

So where does your soul get its morals from? Your upbringing plays a major role in shaping your soul’s moral code. How your parents treat each other and you, what your siblings do and don’t get punished for, and your own reactions to circumstances all end up shaping a moral code that your soul then refers to when it is trying to make wise choices in life. Your culture also plays a big role in defining right and wrong for you, as different cultures have different definitions of concepts like rudeness, immodesty, and stingy. In some cultures, it would be considered morally indecent for a man to run around in public wearing nothing but a coconut shell over his privates. In certain tropical jungle tribes, this kind of clothing is considered totally decent, acceptable, and practical given the humid conditions. Your family, your culture, your religion (if you have one), and your personal experiences in life all play a big part in teaching your soul how it ought to define concepts like right and wrong.

Like all beliefs, soul beliefs are constantly changing as you collect new experiences in life. Maybe there was a time when you thought smoking was a sin. Now you’re totally comfortable with it. As your soul is exposed to new ideas and experiences, it adjusts its beliefs accordingly. Again, don’t confuse morals with religion, because these things are separate concepts. While religions can certainly influence your soul’s moral code, every human has a set of morals with or without subscribing to any particular religion.

Your Soul & God

For those of you who do believe in God, your soul is the part of you that you use to talk to Him (or Her). Prayer is a soul thing, not a mind thing. People often think they are talking to God using their minds, because they are aware that they are forming verbal thoughts in their heads when they pray. Yet those thoughts are merely translations of what your soul is saying to God (see Where Do Thoughts Come From?).

When God talks to you, He talks directly to your soul. And by the way, you don’t have to personally believe in God to receive communications from Him. When a total stranger calls out to you on a public street, your lack of familiarity with him doesn’t impair your ability to understand what he’s saying. In the same way, your soul can be constantly hearing from supernatural beings and responding to what they are saying without you feeling like you have a personal relationship with those beings. This sort of thing happens to humans all the time. Our souls are a lot busier than we realize.

Soul Concerns & Interests

Your soul has different needs and interests than your mind and body. Your soul doesn’t have a sex drive, it doesn’t need food or water, and it doesn’t need to take naps. While things like sex, food, water, and sleep are very important to your mind and body, your soul only cares about the morality of these things and how they might affect your soul’s relationship with supernatural beings such as God. For example, if your soul cares about pleasing God, and it also believes that same God thinks watching porn is a loathsome sin, then your soul will feel very distressed by your mind pushing you to watch porn. There are many kinds of psychological traumas that can result in porn addictions, and in these situations, your mind and body often feel that watching porn is a very necessary stress-relieving activity. But if your soul feels that such an activity might cause God to get angry with you, then your soul will feel very upset by you watching porn, and this strong difference of opinion will result in an intense internal conflict between your mind, body and soul.

When you ask philosophical questions like “What is the meaning of life?”or “Is there life after death?”, that is your soul talking. Your mind and body don’t care about these kinds of issues; they are more focused on dealing with the present.

All humans have certain core needs which must be met if they are going to feel calm, comfortable, and happy. Different needs stem from different elements of your being. For example, your body needs nourishment, exercise, rest, and protection from harsh elements. Your mind needs sleep, entertainment, and stimulation. Your soul needs to feel that you are significant–that you somehow matter in the great scheme of life. Your soul also needs to feel that you have the same intrinsic value as all other humans and it needs to feel that you are respectable.

Self-respect is a core need for humans, and because your soul’s moral code plays such a big role in determining whether you feel worthy of respect or not, your soul’s beliefs become an important factor in therapy. Many forms of trauma result in a loss of self-respect. Classic examples are victims of sexual assault, who often blame themselves for what happened to them and decide that their experience of being assaulted means they are worthless trash. Another group that often struggles with a loss of self-respect are traumatized soldiers. The battlefield is infamous for pinning soldiers in impossible moral dilemmas that they can’t find any way to resolve without going against their own moral codes. After the crisis is over, men often feel terrible about the things they’ve done or failed to do. They return home from their tours of duty wracked with shame and guilt.

Feelings of shame, guilt, and self-loathing, always indicate a soul that is in great distress. Helping people in these situations requires helping their souls as well as their minds, and recognizing that these two elements can have very different opinions about what happened in the past.

Warring Elements

Whenever two or more of your elements lock horns with each other, you are going to feel stressed and agitated. The longer the fight drags on, the more drained you will feel. Often the first step in trauma counseling is to get your mind and soul on the same team. Your soul can easily get into a pattern of viciously bullying your mind and refusing to show any sympathy for your mind’s troubles. This is especially common in cases of emotional suppression, where your mind is trying to refrain from expressing how upset it is because it’s tired of being attacked by your soul.

Because a lot of psychological training is based on an atheistic platform, in which the reality of supernatural beings and the separateness of the soul are not acknowledged, many counselors do not understand how to differentiate between the mind and soul, so they end up trying to treat these separate elements as a single unit. This is problematic for several reasons, one of which is that without acknowledging the separateness of mind and soul, a counselor won’t be able to give accurate answers to many of his client’s questions. Unanswered questions hold up the healing process, as both mind and soul need to have helpful answers to their individual concerns before they will be able to calm down.

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