A couple of years ago I underwent a series of events that can only be accurately equated to how Neo must have felt in The Matrix upon taking the red pill. Essentially, I had to come to grips with the fact that EVERYTHING I thought was my reality was in actuality a façade. Just how deep the proverbial rabbit hole went, I will never know. But what I did discover about love, hate and everything in between left me forever changed.
Because I knew how detrimental it would be
to my own sanity to keep all of the conflicting emotions I was
experiencing bottled up, I did what I felt was the only viable option: I
put pen to paper and wrote an autobiographical manuscript.
comfort and validation, I shared my tale with select close friends and a
couple of my professors whom I greatly admired. Though my intention for
doing so did NOT at all stem from a desire for praise, I couldn’t help
but feel confused and disappointed when one of said individuals
responded back with a list of criticisms that entirely focussed around
my “literary license”, rather than my act of catharsis. To put it
plainly, he missed the point.
As my head and heart were
equally a mess, the manuscript took on a “stream of consciousness” vibe
and admittedly, syntax was not at the forefront in terms of the force
driving me to delve into the details. Though this individual remains an
intellectual I respect, this whole circumstance got me contemplating
about different facets of intelligence (IQ, EQ, commonsense,
instinctual, survivalist etc.) and how a key to interpersonal success
along with psychological maturity is knowing when it’s appropriate to
apply each type.
What I’m trying to get at is this:
because humans consider themselves the species holding the privileged
place at the top of the food chain, we tend to almost exclusively
encourage thinking with one’s brain, rather than feeling with one’s
heart and/or listening to one’s primitive instincts. In
business and school, obviously this strategy makes sense and proves
effective. HOWEVER, when it comes to one’s personal life, platonic or
romantic, there couldn’t possibly be worse advice!
In fact, groundbreaking findings based on five decades of study recently reported in the consumer periodical, Psychology Today, indicated that
there’s really something to be said about that premonition-like sinking
feeling we often get in the pits of our stomachs before assimilating
bad news or engaging in activities we know we’ll ultimately regret. And no, it isn’t simply indigestion!
Gershon, professor and chair of pathology and cell biology at Columbia,
has found support for his theory that the stomach has a second “brain”
of its own, known technically as the enteric nervous system (ENS, for
short), capable of sending signals that affect “feelings of sadness or
stress [and] influence memory, learning, and decision making,”
independent of the controls in our cerebral cortex.
that creatures “low on the evolutionary totem pole”, such as worms, are
exclusively equipped with a single nervous system, similar in structure
to our ENS, for all thinking, communicative and sensory activities, it
isn’t that much of a stretch to buy into the notion that the complexity
of the human brain “actually started out in the gut” (Emeran Mayer,
director of the UCLA Center for Neurovisceral Sciences and Women’s
Health as well as of the UCLA Center for Neurobiology of Stress). Even
more fascinating is the discovery that experimenting with our naturally
occurring “gut flora” can aid in alleviating major mood
With all of this said however, there remains an important caveat: that is, knowing WHEN to use WHICH brain(s) and/or form(s) of intelligence;
something I’ve already alluded to. Despite his impressive dedication to
the subject, Gershon is firm in the conviction that electing to
“listen” to one brain over the other is not a cut/dry choice. While the
stomach “brain” may add “exclamation points” to assist you in your
decision making, it does not have the capability of “reasoning”
independently. In his own words, “Better to use that gut feeling to
review the situation with the first brain.”
everything full circle, let us return momentarily to my opening story.
What made the individual in question’s response to my uncensored
outpouring of emotions so offensive was its analytical, fact-based
medical-like diagnosis of “problems”. He was so much “in his head” that
he couldn’t see past his own “perception” of how autobiographical pieces
“ought” to be written. In other words, he failed to “feel” and allow
the story to get “into his heart”…and perhaps his gut! As a consequence,
he overlooked the most crucial element of all: real life – mine, in
It goes without saying that said topic is messy, complicated and often doesn’t make sense. Ah, but there in lies the rub: is it nonsensical from a cerebral brain, heart brain or gut brain perspective? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.