Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.
When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.
During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?
From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.
After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29
Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.
Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.
At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.
The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.
I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.
I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.
Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.
We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.
It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.
When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.
But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.
Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.
I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.
Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.
Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.
After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.
As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.
To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.
I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.
I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.
Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.
In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.
I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.
My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.
It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.
Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?
But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.
I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.
Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.
Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.
Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.
Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?
When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.
Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.
I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.
Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.
Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.
Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.
Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.
Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.
Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.
I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.
Do you remember what your priorities were when you were eight years old? When I was that age (1965), I was in third grade. One of my jobs at home was to make breakfast on certain weekday mornings for my younger brothers and sisters. At that age, my primary goal was to figure out ways to get out of work around the house, so I could go outside to our family neighborhood and play with my cousins.
By the time I was eight years old, I had received my first communion. Once a month, I was required to go with my Saint Mark Catholic School classmates to the church so we could all line up and go to confession. In preparation for my first communion, I had learned several prayers, including the Act of Contrition, Act of Faith, Act of Hope, and Act of Love. I knew the mysteries of the rosary by memory because my mom insisted that we pray the rosary together every day as a family.
I had already learned and accepted as true that I was a child of God and that I was created by Him to know, love, and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him in Heaven for eternity.
My memories of being eight years old were triggered on Friday (August 4) when I read an article on the internet about a discrimination lawsuit that had been filed against Heritage Oak, a secular private grade school in California.
The lawsuit was filed by the parents of an 8-year-old child who was born as a boy, but shortly before turning seven years old, decided that he wanted to be a girl. When he announced the news to his parents, he said, “I am a girl. I want to be called a girl.” He then requested that his name be changed to Nicole (Nikki) Brar. The boy’s parents went along with his newly declared identity and enrolled him in Heritage Oak, for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.
The lawsuit claims that the school rejected the child’s request to wear a girl’s uniform and rejected a request that he be referred to with pronouns that would indicate that he was a girl. The lawsuit further claims that the school failed to address issues that related to him being bullied in the classroom, and that the school required that he use an individual staff restroom instead of the girls’ restroom.
I’ve written before about Matt Furey, a former collegiate wrestling champion and the gold-medal winner of the 1997 world title in kung fu. I met Matt in 2002, when I joined a marketing mastermind group of 20 business owners. The group met three times a year in Phoenix for two days each time.
At the meetings, each of the members of the group had a chance to stand up in front of the group and showcase the marketing we were doing and to bring up any issues we were concerned about in our businesses. The group leader and members provided useful feedback, and all of us benefited from the wide range of knowledge and skills that the members possessed.
On one occasion, Matt told a story about his friend, Dr. Tom Hanson, who had a transformative experience while he was climbing a mountain in Colorado. After Hanson climbed halfway up the mountain, he became fearful and his mind locked up on him. All of a sudden, it felt as though the side of the mountain had turned into an ice rink on its side.
Hanson yelled up to the coach who was leading him and the other climbers, “I can’t do it.” The coach looked down at him and said, “Look at your feet.” Hanson looked down at his feet and the coach yelled, “Which foot is higher than the other foot, your left or your right?” Hanson replied that his left foot was higher. The coach then yelled, “Okay, then move the right foot so it’s higher than the left foot.”
After Hanson did what the coach told him to do, the coach shouted, “Now which foot is higher than the other foot?” Hanson replied that the right foot was higher. “Okay, then move the left foot until it’s higher than the right foot,” the coach shouted. Eventually, by continuing to follow the process that the coach had introduced to him, Hanson successfully climbed the mountain.
In anticipation of writing this article, I Googled the word “anxiety.” The results showed that within the previous 24 hours, there were more than three dozen articles posted on the internet about anxiety. Here are some titles of those articles:
• “America’s New ‘Anxiety’ Disorder”
• “Most Children With Anxiety Relapse, Regardless of Treatment”
• “Early Intervention Program Tackles Anxiety in Primary Care”
• “Poor Sleep in Anxiety, Depression May Make It Harder to See Positive”
• “Post-Election, Doctors See Kids Suffering Trump-Related Anxiety”
• “How to Find a Good Job for Yourself When You Have Anxiety”
• “Can Hypnosis Improve Post-Op Anxiety Pain in Children?”
• “‘Game of Thrones’ Star Lena Headey Tweets With Fans About Anxiety”
As I scrolled through the Google results pages, I saw more than 250 articles that were published within the past 30 days about anxiety.
Why so many articles about anxiety?
It seems as though everywhere I turn, someone is talking or writing about anxiety. On Facebook, numerous people post comments about their own anxiety. In their anguish, they often reveal shocking and embarrassing details about their family situations and what they are personally experiencing.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders, costing the U.S. more than $42 billion a year.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has reported that anxiety disorders often cause chronic pain and other ailments such as migraines, instability, weakness, muscle pain, fatigue, and persistent aches or stiffness anywhere along the spine, including “sharp, localized pain in the neck, upper back, or lower back, especially after lifting heavy objects or engaging in strenuous activity; and chronic ache in the middle or lower back, especially after sitting or standing for extended periods.”
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was early June 1977. I was 20 years old. I had completed my sophomore year in college and was home for the summer working as a laborer for a construction company.
All of a sudden, everyone was talking about Star Wars, the new movie that had been released at the end of May. The movie had quickly gained momentum and was breaking box office records.
Star Wars was about a 19-year-old farm boy, Luke, who was expected to take over the family farm someday. Luke was itching to get away from the farm and start exploring the universe, but his dad made him feel guilty about abandoning the family farm and leaving it up to his aging parents to continue to maintain.
After his parents were killed by enemy soldiers, Luke joined forces with an old Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and they set out to assist the Rebel Alliance in stopping the evil Empire from taking over the universe.
One of the most interesting things about Star Wars was that it was modeled on the westerns that moviegoers in the 1960s and 1970s had grown up with. In the westerns, we were accustomed to seeing a villain who always used force and violence to take over the land of local farmers. In Star Wars, the villain’s goal was to take over planets that were controlled by local governments.
In the westerns, the heroes were always sharpshooters who rode into town on horses to save the day. In Star Wars, the heroes arrived in spaceships to save the day. In westerns, the heroes used conventional guns with bullets. In Star Wars, they used high-tech guns that could blast holes in buildings.
But it wasn’t just the westerns that Star Wars was modeled on. It was also modeled on the old pirate movies where pirates hijacked and took over waterborne ships with gunpowder-based cannons and swords. In Star Wars, the villains hijacked spaceships with laser cannons and laser swords.
Every so often, my wife tells me that I’m living in the wrong times. Because of my old-fashioned beliefs, she claims that I would have been better off living during the 1800s. Whenever she comments about this, I remind her that I spent the better part of my early years at my grandfather’s (Tom Williams’s) house, and since he was born in 1898, that’s probably where I picked up a lot of my beliefs.
I’ve written before about how my grandparents lived next-door to my parents’ house. During the years that I was growing up, my grandfather owned a coin-operated laundromat. He was semiretired at that time and worked 20 to 30 hours a week at the laundromat. The rest of the time, he was home.
During the 1960s, I spent a lot of time in my grandfather’s living room, watching his favorite television shows with him. The heroes in those shows were always men who were smart, tough, bold, and decisive — virile warriors who always practiced and lived the virtues of honor and courage.
During those years, the movie studios released several Westerns that starred John Wayne. One such Western was McLintock, a 1963 comedy that starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. In the movie, Wayne’s character was a wealthy rancher, George Washington (“GW”) McLintock. His wife, “Kate,” was played by O’Hara. For a reason unknown to GW, Kate moved out of their house and separated from him. She then became a snobbish diva in the local community, insisting that she be called by her formal name, “Katherine.”
After living on her own for two years, Kate returned to GW’s home at the same time their daughter returned home from college. Kate then announced that she was going to take their daughter back to the state capitol to live with her. At one point, Kate embarrassed GW in front of the local townspeople and GW grabbed her, turned her over his knee, and then spanked her bottom with a small coal shovel. The townspeople cheered when they saw Kate get what they felt she deserved.
If you read my article last week, you know about the May 2013 Internet Trends Report that revealed that the typical smartphone user checks his or her phone 150 times a day. I finished writing the article on a Saturday, and the following Monday I met with “Tim,” a 27-year-old man who was in need of legal assistance. During the first five minutes of our meeting, Tim received four text messages on his iPhone. Since he was holding his phone in his hand, he immediately read the messages. On two occasions, he stopped talking to me so he could respond to the messages.
When he received the fourth message, I abruptly said, “When I meet with people in my office, I don’t have my cell phone with me and I tell my receptionist not to interrupt me with any client calls. The reason I do this is because I want to focus all my attention on the person I’m meeting with. I don’t want any interruptions. I expect the same courtesy from the people I meet with. If you want to continue having a conversation with me, you’ll have to silence your phone and put it away until we’re done with our meeting.”
I was surprised by Tim’s reaction to my statement. He was visibly shaken. He started stammering and stuttering in an attempt to come up with an excuse for his behavior. I’m probably the only stranger who has ever challenged his rude and inappropriate behavior.
I always forget how intimidating I can be when I confront someone. When I saw that Tim was stuttering, I tried to make him feel at ease by telling him that whenever I sit down with my college-aged daughters to watch a movie, I require that they silence their phones and put them away so they cannot see any calls or messages that come in during the movie. The statement about my daughters didn’t help.
Tim did what I asked. He silenced his phone and put it away. We were able to have an adult conversation for the next 30 minutes. He asked several intelligent questions and did his best to be courteous and attentive. Most people who have become addicted to the constant activity of checking and reacting to calls and messages have either never learned basic manners or have forgotten what they were taught when they were growing up.
After the recent suicide of the famous American actor and comedian Robin Williams, various reasons were given to explain why he killed himself. Some of the reasons included the fact that he had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, suffered from severe depression, and was having money problems. For whatever reason, at the age of 63, Williams ended his life after determining that he was better off dead than alive.
To put Robin Williams’ suffering into perspective, I would like you to consider another “old man” who despite enduring immense suffering refused to give up. His name was Alphonsus Liguori, a Catholic saint who during the prime of his life was a well-known and respected Catholic bishop, theologian, and scholastic philosopher. During his lifetime, St. Alphonsus wrote several books, including The Glories of Mary, The Way of Salvation, The True Spouse of Christ, and Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year.
In 1767, at the age of 71, suffering from rheumatism, St. Alphonsus became so crippled that he had to be confined to a wheelchair. His neck was so weak that he was unable to hold up his head. Because of the weight of his head, his chin constantly rubbed against his chest, causing his skin to become raw.
In addition to his physical suffering, St. Alphonsus was publicly humiliated and removed from his order after it was shown that he had signed a religious document that was contrary to the teachings of the Church. The signing of the document was a mistake in judgment and was due in part to the fact that St. Alphonsus’ condition had deteriorated to such an extent that he was almost completely blind.
He had trouble reading anything, and when he was asked to approve the document, St. Alphonsus struggled to read the first page. After he read several lines and found nothing that was objectionable, he verified the authenticity of the document by signing it. He trusted the person who asked him to sign the document. He subsequently paid a heavy price for that trust.
During the spring semester of my sophomore year in college (1977), I took an art appreciation class. I signed up for the class to satisfy one of the general education requirements for my major. The class had more than 100 students and was held in a large auditorium-style classroom. The teacher was a gentle, gray-haired man who was in his mid-50s. It was obvious from the way he taught the class that he had a passion for art and music.
Toward the end of the semester, the teacher announced that he was going to show the class a special slide presentation. Back then, if a person wanted to put together a slide presentation, the negatives from the film that was used to take the pictures that were going to be used for the presentation had to be taken to a local photography shop so the slides could be made from the images on the negatives. Each slide was surrounded by a cardboard frame. The slides were then organized and assembled in a carousel that was attached to a projector.
The person who was giving the slide presentation had to either sit near the projector and press a button to advance each slide, or use a unit that was attached to the projector with a long cord. As background music was played from a stereo system or other audio device, the person had to manually advance each slide.
The slide presentation that my art teacher prepared was presented to the class while the song “Vincent” was played over the classroom sound system. Although the official title of the song was “Vincent,” a more common name that was frequently used at that time to refer to the song was “Starry Starry Night.” The song, which was originally written and recorded in 1970 by Don McLean, is a tribute to the 19th-century Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh.
In the lyrics to the song, McLean laments about how no one appreciated or understood Van Gogh during his lifetime. For most of his adult life, Van Gogh was plagued with depression and mental problems. He committed suicide on July 29, 1890. If you’re not familiar with the song, it would be worth your while to look it up on YouTube and play one of the music videos that shows Van Gogh’s paintings while the music plays in the background.
The psychiatry journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Psychiatry) recently published the results of a study that revealed that people who are at high risk of depression and believe that religion or spirituality is important are less likely to suffer from depression. The results of the study showed that the cerebral cortex of each of the brains of the people who were less likely to suffer from depression was thicker. The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the brain.
The study was conducted with 103 adult participants, all of whom were children or grandchildren of a previous group of people who had participated in an earlier study of depression. The individuals who had a family history of depression were considered to be at high risk for depression, while the individuals with no history were used as a control group.
Over a period of five years, religious and spiritual importance were assessed, and images of the participants’ brains were captured by magnetic resonance imaging. The high-risk participants who indicated that they were not particularly religious or spiritual had much thinner cortices and struggled with depression. The participants who were religious or spiritual had thicker cortices and exhibited more resilience in dealing with and overcoming depression.
Although the report was not conclusive, the study suggested that religiosity or spirituality actually enhances a person’s brain in a way that helps the person deal with and overcome depression.
The study was performed by researchers from the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University. Myrna Weissman, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University and one of the individuals who worked on the study, commented, “The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls but also is controlled by our moods. Our beliefs and our moods are reflected in our brain, and with new imaging techniques we can begin to see this.”