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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Head, The Heart, The Gut

This post has turned out to need a lot more thinking and writing than I initially thought it would. That is often the case but this has been a bear. What I think happened was that I never really tried to vocalize some of these ideas before but they exsist in the abstract for me, and for the purposes of being clear I can't go around being coy and just touching on a few topics. Forgive me if this is not clear to you and please let me know where you might have questions, additions and/or omissions.

We as human beings have been given the unique gift of the brain. With it, scientists claim that, we are able to  master languages, and problem solve, I personally don't think either of those things are uniquely human but for the sake of argument I'll just leave it at that. The brain is a gift, and for recorded history it has been useful in solving problems although I would argue that the problems it has solved have not necessarily been problems. Maybe the brain is more useful in creating problems than solving them, but let's not get too far afield.

The brain is just one part of the whole system that makes humans unique, and some of us use that part wonderfully. Those that were born to use their brain, use it almost to the exclusion of all other abilities, for instance look at Stephan Hawking, even with ALS he is still effective in inspiring and changing the world with thought. HIt should be said that he is lucky to be living in a time that really honors that sort of activity, but he is on his path and he lives, and was born, to use his brain. That cannot be said of all of us, me for instance, I do not use my brain half as effectively as he does. My heart and gut speak to me louder and than my brain does. My brain wants to be loud but it's really just a mess most of the time. When I speak to people, if I were to think first I would not lonly upset others I would confuse them as well, not because I would say the wrong thing but I would not say everything and it would be a mess that I would have to explain every thime I opened my mouth.

Instead of trying to communicate some thought, I step aside and allow myself to speak, or allow myself to be the deliverer of the message I hold. I have learned through my portrait facilitating that we are all connected, this is not new to any of us, and by stripping away the cognitive and allowing that connection to control the interaction leads to furthering relationships as well as personal growth. When I have an urge to communicate, for me, trusting in that intention to communicate is the first step to successfully reaching others. That intention reaches the consciousness of all things and so it is not always necessary to have to explain why we did  or did not say what was or was not said, we are saying what we were called to say. Under these circumstances it is important to listen very carefully , not just to those we are communication with but to that which is guiding our communication.

Listening happens all the time, we listen to others and we listen to ourselves. When I listen, I open myself up to receive, rather than trying to anticipate what will come. By allowing myself to hear and speak I have to shut out my brain, because my brain is much more comfortable knowing something than it is not knowing. It can not be overemphasized that I am speaking strictly of and for myself here. Some people relish the brain and thought puzzles are intriguing, but for myself contradiction is necessary for balance, there is no absolute and my brain really likes to have absolutes, that in itself is a contradiction and one I carry with some trepidation.

It is much easier for me to connect with others when I allow myself to not over think. My brain can not adequately process what it doesn't understand, it relies solely on past experiences or of learned knowledge, it regurgitates and revisits what it already knows. When my brain is given new information it can look at it and find new information but I am lead through that process by my gut and heart. The brain produces hormones just by thinking, our bodies responds to that immediately often throwing us off kilter and into a reactive state. But that is only the brain. It sounds like the life of a teenager sometimes aware and fully in tact and at any moment they can fly off the handle with an emotional reaction to something, anything. The teenage years is when the head brain, the one we most often call "brain" matures and asserts dominants. But that brain does not work in a vacuum and, all in all, it does have a lot of use alone, obviously.

There are two other neurological centers we use, neither of them "think"  in the way the head brain does, which is lucky for us, the last thing we need is 2 more brains looking to solve problems that don't exist or react to threats that don't exist.. These brains to which I am referring are the heart and gut. They are developed before the head brain and are much more in balance with the rhythms of the universe. Unfortunately these brains have been given little or no value in our current 1st world society and so developing them is not easy. May parents in the United States actually don't aid their children in developing these aspects of their personalities at all. Who could blame them? The competitive nature of scholastic achievement in the first US today has taken precedent over metal, spiritual and physical health.

It is not easy to shift away from rewarding children for being "smart" (meaning being cognitively adept) because we have no way of rewarding other types of growth. It is common to chastise children when they take risks and push their physical abilities to the point where they may get injured. Unfortunately that is exactly what they are supposed to do. In the United States we protect our children because we see them as little mechanistic brains but they are spirits that need to follow their instincts. Children are exploring the world and if they are afraid of it they will not make it. When a 7 year old wins a spelling bee and gets rewarded for their cognitive ability they are learning a very dangerous lesson that is more suited for a 14 year old.

I found this outline on the Preserve Childhood website:

GUT BRAIN PRIME FUNCTIONS (development years 0-7)
  • Core Identity: A deep and visceral sense of core self, and determining at the deepest levels what is self versus not-self
  • Self-Preservation: Protection of self, safety, boundaries, hungers, and aversions
  • Mobilization: Motility, impulse for action, gutsy courage, and the will to act
HEART BRAIN PRIME FUNCTIONS (development years 7-14)
  • Emoting: Emotional processing (e.g., anger, grief, hatred, joy, happiness, etc.)
  • Values: Processing what’s important to you and your priorities (and its relationship to the emotional strength of your aspirations, dreams, desires, etc.)
  • Relational Affect: Your felt connection with others (e.g., feelings of love/hate/indifference, compassion/uncaring, like/dislike, etc.)
HEAD BRAIN PRIME FUNCTIONS (development years 14-21)
  • Cognitive Perception: Cognition, perception, pattern recognition, etc.
  • Thinking: Reasoning, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, meta-cognition, etc.
  • Making Meaning: Semantic processing, language, narrative, metaphor, etc.
I Try not to think about these as different "Brains" as much as different parts of us. I was working with a great friend of mine Allen Baker and he suggested, to explore these different parts to allow myself to think of something from my gut alone, then the heart and finally with my head. This separated all the gunk of a situation.

My gut spoke to me of fear and safety and addressed where I belonged both spiritually as well as physically in relation to the subject I was focusing on.

My heart brought me together with with others allowing me to be more emotionally invested, or aware, of the bigger picture and not only one side of that bigger picture.

My head took a much more cold view of things, which I can appreciate but separating it from the gut and heart made it much more difficult to care about others and the outcome. My brain is pragmatic and we all need to be that way on occasion but it is not the only way forward and it is not what we ought to be rewarding. But how can you reward empathy, when it is learned it can be faked. What can't be faked is the feeling one gets when they really care and share in this life experience and have goals that include the world around us.

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