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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Is Love, Happiness, and Compassion Truly More Related to Your Heart or to Your Gut?

Valentine’s Day is often thought of as a “Heart Day”. But is it really only the human heart that is the intelligence behind our feelings of love, happiness and compassion? —or is it the gut? Or perhaps both? With all the latest research showing how our wellness and even our choices leading to a successful marriage is so related to our consciousness and care of the enteric nervous system—our gut brain—shouldn’t we have a “Gut Day” too? Doesn’t sound so romantic, does it? But perhaps that is just because we are use to the color red that is associated with the heart and that the blood circulating through the heart symbolizes love rather than perhaps the colors (gut colors may be earth tones like yellows and browns) and images of the gut. However, as we discussed in our last blog post, recent psychological research shows that it is important to consult your gut before making a marriage plan decision, and that your gut feeling is perhaps far more important than what you think in terms of predicting the success of a love and marriage. Your gut is somewhat of an expert on love relations. (See our last post  and also be sure and scroll down on that same page for a list of links to all our other posts on exploring gut feelings.)

Throughout history, it seems that the heart has been given all the credit for human love and compassion, with the gut unrelated to this feeling. But if you look at it a little closer within yourself with some somatic reflection on your own gut feelings, you will come to see that your gut holds your feeling memory, and is the origin of your love for self and also for others. It is in the gut that you must start to be conscious of your self and accept (love) your self before you can accept (love) anyone else. And it is in the gut center that people often have told us that they first felt a feeling of connection to others.

The gut response cannot be influenced to change just because your head says so (or because some one external to you says so). The gut response holds the meaning of the impact of all experience upon you and this memory is always there in your gut awaiting you to become conscious of it, access it, and explore it through somatic reflection (feeling into the gut not just thinking back in time). From the gut feeling of emptiness or fullness (not the same as the feeling of hunger but often mistaken for it), we can tell if our two most basic needs as human beings are being met or not— the need for acceptance and the need for freedom (being in control of our own responses to life). Our gut feels full of positive energy if we feel accepted for who we are naturally, in control of our own responses to life and cared for by others. We all need to feel loved for who we truly are. If we do not have these two needs met, we know it in our guts, even if our heads are saying otherwise. It is through the reflection on this gut feeling of empty-full, that we can trace back the impact of our life throughout time and reassess our thinking to unite our body and mind for wellness. Once we have achieved this unity through gut awareness, we feel a deep acceptance (love) for our own being as a part of and connected to the greater humanity. And at this point of gut awareness, and only then, can our hearts open up to feel compassion and love for others.

We hope you enjoy the following passage on this subject from pages 137-139 of our book “What’s Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and Gut Instinct” and will read our book to further explore how to use the Somatic Reflection Process Protocol that we developed to access your gut feelings to unite body-mind and to feel a deep acceptance of your self and of others that leads to happiness and compassion. We also wish you a happy Valentine’s Day and may your gut and heart be full of caring and compassion for self and all of life:

“The process of reflection upon the somatic area of the hara and the solar plexus that we developed was designed to put people in touch with their instinctual responses. We found that the more experience people had reflecting on feelings, the more they became aware of a feeling of emptiness or fullness in this area of the body. These feelings of emptiness and fullness were experienced as a gauge of how well their instinctual needs were being met at any moment in their life. As we listened to the reports of our clients, we found that there were two universal instinctual needs that related to the feelings of emptiness and fullness—the need to be close to people with a feeling of acceptance; and the need to be free to express one’s internal responses. The feeling of emptiness indicated that one or both of these needs were not being met, while the feeling of fullness indicated that the person was moving toward a balance of these needs being obtained. People expressed that the fulfillment of the need for both acceptance and freedom was an on-going process throughout their lives, from day to day, and from moment to moment.
While the need for acceptance and feeling connected to other human beings is more clearly understood, the need for freedom requires some clarification. The feeling of freedom was often expressed as feeling in control of one’s own responses to life, rather than controlling one’s responses to life and feeling out of control. Feeling in control was expressed as an internal, authentic, spontaneous, and natural experience of one’s responses. Feeling out of control was expressed as complying with one’s perceived external demands of the environment, both social and physical. This compliance was linked with a persistent control of one’s responses. Paradoxically, this persistent control of one’s responses was linked with feeling out of control. Consistently, people expressed that they experienced great effort in complying with what they imagined were the demands of others. In contrast to the experience of controlling oneself and feeling out of control, there was an effortlessness expressed in the experience of feeling in control and following one’s natural responses.
In reflecting with people, we found that when the logical function of the ego became directly aware of the instinctive somatic feelings, the person felt a shift toward feeling full in the gut region of the body. Head, heart, and body became centered. This is similar to Dr. John Conger’s idea of the beginning of individuation and the emerging from unconsciousness to consciousness through awareness of the solar plexus center to the heart center. He points out in The Body as Shadow that we remain stuck in our emotions if we remain blocked in our solar plexus center. The Somatic Reflection Process, a reflection on the feelings of emptiness and fullness in the gut area, was developed to accomplish the healing experience of unlocking the energy felt in this center. We postulated that for people to mend the body and mind split of consciousness, they must become aware of the feeling level of the gut area where the awareness of pure instinctual feeling without thinking is felt. It is then possible for the body and mind to make a link that mends the original split.
Reflecting on the instinctive somatic feelings of emptiness and fullness—on the impact of life and its meaning to the person—gave people access to the record of their inner awareness. People were often amazed to find that a reflection on the awareness of somatic feelings, rather than thinking back through the details of life events, gave them access to recover memories of both sensory information and the awareness of their inner instinctual needs. We found that when the logical function of the ego became directly aware of the instinctive somatic feelings of emptiness and fullness in the hara to the solar plexus, the person often experienced a reevaluation of the importance of their inner needs and a feeling shift occurred within them from an empty to a full feeling. The awareness of their instinctual needs often helped people to see the reasons for their behavior as children trying to fulfill these needs and to overcome the emptiness of not having them met. They often found in somatic reflection that the assessments they made as children about their behaviors were ones that they were told by authorities in their lives and were made with a child’s limited information about the social and physical world. In the wisdom and light of adulthood, the new assessments of the reasons for their behavior were usually quite different from the ones they learned about themselves at the time of the early experience.
Dr. John Conger further suggests that an individual’s center of consciousness can only be changed and refocused through body awareness, and that individuation is only possible through the awareness of the body. He posits that it is the unblocking of energy and the rising of awareness out of the manipura, or the solar plexus, into the anahata, or heart center, that begins the individuation process. He proposes that emerging from the manipura to the anahata is a psychic movement of energy from unconsciousness to consciousness of the self where thoughts and feelings are joined. It is not until we move the energy from the manipuri to the anahata that we can say our individuation process has really begun.
The third chakra of the body is located in the solar plexus starting just below the navel. It is considered the place where the essence of life and energy circulates in the body. According to Dr. Conger, as long as our energy is blocked in the solar plexus, we are forever stuck in our emotions, with our feelings and thinking split off from each other. He further posits that with this split of body and mind, we can never find the vitality of our own center, nor can we fully experience the love and compassion for others of the heart center. This explains the importance of centering on the feelings in our solar plexus to unblock its energy flow.
With a profound new awareness of the essence of their inner being and human nature that was experienced in the Somatic Reflection Process, people expressed a feeling of compassion for themselves and others. This was followed by a release of tension in the body and a return of vital energy. With a greater feeling of self-acceptance, people indicated that they felt free again to be themselves and to make decisions about their lives. It was at this point that we found people began to experience a lack of confusion and a union of their thinking and feeling functions, consistently reported that they felt calm and centered with body and mind as one, and experienced a greater feeling of caring for themselves and others. People then expressed a feeling of a flow of creative energy and intuitive thought concerning what they wanted to do with their lives, and they were able to make career decisions and other personal choices that lead them toward healthy growth and development.”

"What's Behind Your Belly Button?" by Martha Char Love and Robert W. Sterling available though Amazon on both the Amazon USA and Amazon UK.

"What's Behind Your Belly Button?" is available though Amazon on Amazon USA and Amazon UK

as well as Amazon,de and and Amazon.CA and other international Amazon sites

and it is on The Book Depository with free international shipping.

If you are on the homepage of this blog, click word "comment" directly below to see all comments and make one yourself! If you are on the webpage for this post, then simply post in the box provided below.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How to Explore Gut Feelings to Help In Making a Marriage Decision and Develop Self-Awareness for a Successful Love Relationship

      Many people have become interested in understanding gut feelings in relation to predicting success in marriage with the results printed in the journal "Science" now circling the internet about the recent research at Florida State University on what they are calling "gut feelings" of newlyweds and marriage success. While the study was small, sample was only 135 heterosexual couples, it was significant in that it found that newlyweds know on a subconscious level (implicit memory) whether their marriage will be happy. Head researcher, Dr. James K McNulty, comments on why people think initially that their marriage will be a happy one:
    "And in the beginning, many people are able to convince themselves of that at a conscious level. But these automatic, gut-level responses are less influenced by what people want to think. You can't make yourself have a positive response through a lot of wishful thinking." And he goes on to say, "I think the findings suggest that people may want to attend a little bit to their gut," he added. "If they can sense that their gut is telling them that there is a problem, then they might benefit from exploring that, maybe even with a professional marriage counselor."
     McNulty's study demonstrates something we have found in counseling people who are in the throws of making life decisions in both personal relationships and career, which is that our gut feeling does not change just because we want it to or our head says it should. We are however, talking about true gut somatic feelings, not just implicit associations. But there is certainly a correlation between the two. The findings in McNulty's study make sense particularly if you understand that your gut feelings of emptiness and fullness register how well your two instinctive needs of feeling accepted and also in control of your own responses (freedom) are being met from moment to moment. As guidance counselors over a 40 year period, we reflected on gut feelings with hundreds of people and found them to express that if these two needs, acceptance and control, are in balance in relation to the impact on us of time spent with someone, people feel full in their gut feelings, cared for and loved for who they truly are. 

     We all know the emptiness and aloneness we feel in our guts when we do not feel free to be ourselves with someone and/or when there is a lack of attention (acceptance) in relation to the other person. We can rationalize in our heads that our needs are met by a relationship, but our gut feelings are a true indication of how well our inner needs are being met and how close we truly feel to the other person. Our gut is its own intelligence and is connected to the needs of our inner world or organism rather than to pleasing social demands or making money or any other goal that relates to our outer world and simply our thinking process without the input of our feeling memory. That is why we often say that "If our eyes can not cry then our gut will". So, if your gut says that a relationship is not quite right for you, it is important to listen to your feelings and take the time to understand what it is indicating about you. This certainly does not necessarily mean that if you have an empty feeling about a relationship that the relationship does not have the potential to work out, but it does indicate a need for self-reflection on gut feelings and communication with the other person—if it is to be a successful relationship. 
    We have found that the healthiest decisions people make when it comes to love relationships, are made from a place of self-awareness and the ability to communicate one's own needs. Our gut feelings are connected to a wealth of informations about our feeling memories and inner needs. If we have had difficult relationships earlier in our lives (either difficult romantic or family-personal relationships), then there is all the more reason to reflect upon our gut feelings to clear unresolved past issues and to avoid carrying them into a new relationship. You may be surprised how much your gut is holding, waiting for you to attend to your needs and use this inner knowledge to make healthy decisions.
     To learn more about listening to your gut feelings we invite you to read through the many posts on this blog on exploring gut feelings and 
instincts and also be sure and read our book "What's Behind Your Belly Button?" in which we give the full technique (with examples) for somatic reflection on gut feelings to increase your self-awareness and well-being. A little time reflecting on your gut feelings and inner self now can save you much suffering in the future. So be sure and read this before you walk down that aisle! If you are already in a relationship and have an uneasy gut feeling about your relationship, then accessing your gut feeling intelligence may help you resolve issues from your past that are being triggered in and blocking your perception from being strictly related to the person with whom you are presently in a relationship. Exploring gut intelligence may well strengthen your present relationship through better communication and will undoubtedly lead you to more healthy personal decision-making that allows you to take your inner needs into account with a united body-mind, gut-head intelligence.
     Since we have been posting this blog site now since 2009, there may be some important posts that you have missed that relate to relationship and accessing your gut feelings. Many of these posts have sample writing from our book "What's Behind Your Belly Button?". There are many more posts on this blog than the ones listed below, so if you are interested in reading every one of them, please feel free to use the left side bar archive or just keep clicking “older post” at the bottom of each page on the right side.

Blog Posts on Exploring Gut Feelings and Instincts and Relationships:
1. Exploring Gut Instincts and the Need To Be "Social" as Applied to the Education of Our Children OCTOBER 23, 2013

2.   Reflecting on Gut Feeling to Deal with Sadness and Loss in Love Relationship
FEBRUARY 14, 2013

3.  Exploring Gut Feeling and Unresolved Issues with People
JANUARY 14, 2013

4. How Do We Know When Our Gut Feelings Are Reliable? Can you Trust a Gut Feeling?
DECEMBER 13, 2012

5.  Are Gut Feelings Really in the Gut? Understanding Your Gut Feelings and What They Are Telling You
AUGUST 16, 2012
More of our posts you might enjoy reading:
6. Gut Feeling and Retrieving Memories of Bonding for Those Recovering from Childhood Abused
SEPTEMBER 20, 2013

7. Following Gut Instincts to the Awareness of Our True Human Nature
APRIL 16, 2013

8.  What are the Instinctual Needs That are Often Confused for the Need of Food in Gut Feelings of Emptiness and Fullness?
MARCH 27, 2013

9.  Was Religion Invented By the Thinking Mind to Try to Make Sense of Gut Feeling and Gut Instinct? An Exploration of the Theory of "God Is In the Gut"!
FEBRUARY 9, 2013

10. Reflecting on and Sharing Gut feelings of Emptiness and Aloneness to Deal with Fear During a Hurricane (or other Life Threatening Event)
OCTOBER 29, 2012

11. Explore Why Doctors Can Save Lives by Listening to their Gut Feelings During a Diagnosis: On Gut Feelings in General Practice
OCTOBER 5, 2012

12.  Why Is Reflecting Upon Our Gut Feelings So Important to Our Immune System and Well Being— Distinguishing the "You" and "Not Truly You" for Excellent Mental and Physical Health!

13.  Increase your Intuition By Learning the Difference Between Emotional Feelings and Gut Feelings
JULY 16, 2012

14.  What Are Gut Feelings and Instincts; How To Become Aware of Them To Overcome Stress
JUNE 27, 2012

15.  A Specific Guide to Use to Listen to Your Gut Instincts—The Somatic Reflection Process
FEBRUARY 15, 2012

16. Acknowledging the Enteric Nervous System in the Gut To Provide a New Image and New Myth of Humanity
OCTOBER 15, 2009 (our first post)

"What's Behind Your Belly Button?" by Martha Char Love and Robert W. Sterling available though Amazon on both the Amazon USA and Amazon UK.

"What's Behind Your Belly Button?" is available though Amazon on Amazon USA and Amazon UK

as well as Amazon,de and and Amazon.CA and other international Amazon sites

and it is on The Book Depository with free international shipping.

If you are on the homepage of this blog, click word "comment" directly below to see all comments and make one yourself! If you are on the webpage for this post, then simply post in the box provided below.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Exploring Gut Instincts and the Need To Be "Social" as Applied to the Education of Our Children

Recently, I won my first book on Goodreads "First Reads".  It turned out to be a fantastic read and I gave a 5 star review to the recently published best seller in psychology and neuroscience by Matthew Lieberman titled "Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect." Interestingly, Lieberman inverts Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" by viewing the need for being socially connected as even more primary than the more biological needs like eating and drinking. His reasoning is that the infant must rely on a caregiver to help him/her satisfy those physical needs because the infant is helpless to feed him/herself. And Lieberman has the neuroscience to back up his thesis, showing in his MRI experiments that our default is to favor the area of the brain that relates to being social. He does a great job of presenting his thesis that human beings are social because they are wired in their brains to be so and that it has been a driving evolutionary motivation to become socially connected, perhaps explaining our propensity toward social networking. His view of humanity is thus as caring beings who need to connect, identify with and thus defend others in one's family or tribe, rather than being driven totally by selfish motives that do not take others into account. It is enlightening to read the neurological data he presents to back up his humanistic view and I do highly recommend his book, as it is not only well-researched but also Lieberman is one of the most personal and intriguing writers of modern psychology.

What interested me the most in reading "Social" was Lieberman's discussions throughout the book of how he and his colleagues thought through the scientific investigations that he presents. Because in that process, he tells us the questions they had prior to and after experiments, and he even begins to formulate a new dimension that might answer some questions he uncovered concerning our need to be social as it relates to "delayed gratifications". Because the ability to "delay gratification" has been found in learning theories in psychology to be directly related to higher educational performance, Lieberman sees assisting the child to be socially connected as essential to the learning environment and he proposes how this needs to be considered in the educational process. My colleague, Robert Sterling, and I quite agree! Lieberman's concluding chapters end with the idea that teaching the child in an atmosphere that is conducive to gratifying one's need to be socially connected will assist the learning process by giving the child enough of a feeling of social connection to both be highly motivated to learn for social gratification (learning to teach others, for example) and to have the ability to delay gratifications as his/her needs are met. This flies in the face of the modern tradition to keep children quiet and somewhat isolated from each other in classrooms while studying. We can see with the success of "learning to teach" as a method why the little one-room school-houses that my great aunts taught in, where older children taught younger children, worked so well.

We see his thesis and views on education as directly related to both our findings concerning having gut instinctual responses or the empty-full feeling in our guts, as well as to the two needs our gut response is gauging to keep in balance—the need of acceptance (attention, socially connected) and the need of control of one's own responses to life (freedom). Delaying gratification is not easy when we lack either one of these two important and essential needs. Future experiments of MRI's on people who are feeling at the same time both accepted (socially connected) and also feeling in control (free to be themselves) would surely indicate a heightened degree of activity in the areas of the brain related to the ability to delay gratifications, as well as to increased creativity and insight. We have found this balance of the two instinctual needs met to be described by hundreds of people during and after a counseling session using the Somatic Reflection Process to be heightened in creativity and intuition, as well as providing the calm to delay gratification for higher needs, to balance the need for freedom with that of the need for acceptance, and make more gratifying and healthy personal decisions.

We hope that as Lieberman and his colleagues at UCLA continue their research that they will further investigate the need to be social along with balancing it with the equal need to be in control of one's own responses or freedom/control of one's on responses. We suggest that the gut brain response of empty-full is connected to this balance of these two instinctual needs and that the awareness of these gut feelings is a key to making it possible to delay gratifications and thus higher learning. It seems compelling at this time in neuropsychology to conduct further studies using the Somatic Reflection Process and MRI scans to understand what part of the brain "lights up"as we become aware of our gut feelings (see our post on the gauge in the gut) that gives us access to our feeling memory, and as we make decisions that both fulfill our inner needs of feeling accepted (socially connected) and in control of our own responses (freedom) to achieve body-mind unity.

We think it is a bit easier to understand humans as basically wired to be "social" when we also understand that an equal need for which we are wired is the need to be "in control of one's own responses to life or free to respond", and that these two instinctual needs must be kept in balance for well-being. This is easily understood when we see that the relationships that fulfill us the most are the ones in which we are accepted for who we really are rather than accepted for a role we are playing or simply being who we think the other person wants us to be. Our gut feeling of emptiness and fullness is somewhat like a teeter-todder, and often we give up one need for the other. Ultimately, however, we innately need to keep both of these two needs fulfilled and in balance. Our behavior is generally motivated toward that end, although it may be unconscious and it may be based on inaccurate thinking or engaged in an impossible environment to do so, thus leaving us imbalanced in our needs. It is at this point of imbalance that delaying gratification is most difficult and we feel empty in our guts. Learning takes place optimally when we are feeling a balance of these two needs met.

We have written quite a bit in our chapter on education in our book "What's Behind Your Belly Button?" on the importance of implementing educational environments in which children may be nourished for both their instinctual needs of freedom and of acceptance. We would like to share a short excerpt with you from page 235-236 of "What's Behind Your Belly Button?" that we think also relates to Lieberman's proposal that educational environments need to encourage the need to be socially connected. This excerpt is followed in our book by a specific plan to follow a new image of humanity teaching to both the head and gut brains that will help to vitalize our educational system:

"It is important to recognize that our use of the Somatic Reflection Process has been to help discover disturbing past experiences for an individual, and by bringing the somatic feelings related to those disturbances to cognitive levels, the individual can modify the judgment that caused the original disturbances. We would classify the use of somatic awareness in this manner as a curative process; an inefficient and expensive process that will always leave many children behind. The encouragement of somatic awareness in the early education of children is designed to be a preventive process. Exposing children to an environment of freedom and acceptance at a very early age, the experience of self-control and self-acceptance, will establish a more permanent set of neurological pathways, and will help them stay connected to their somatic feelings, retain the natural instinctual qualities with which they were born, and utilize those somatic feelings at a cognitive level throughout a more healthy, happy life—The “Acorn will become an Oak tree”."
"This change from a curative to a preventive learning experience has never been tried in a public school environment, to our knowledge, and needs to be studied over an extended period with careful professional supervision and evaluation. We believe that without freedom the child will only show the image he or she thinks is needed to assume to be accepted. Without the acceptance the child will withhold the trust in others that allows him or her to reveal his or her inner purpose to self and others. Without either freedom or acceptance the child will withdraw in despair. With a balance of both freedom and acceptance, the child will be able to fulfill his or her natural purpose, and reach out to others and share. Of course no one, not even the child, can predict his or her final destiny, but in an environment of freedom and acceptance, the experience will help keep him or her on course to ultimately help reveal the stuff—the master plan, the energy and the will—with which he or she is struggling to reach his or her destiny." 

"What's Behind Your Belly Button?" is available though Amazon on Amazon USA and Amazon UK

and it is on: Amazon,de and and Amazon.CA and other international Amazon sites

and it is on The Book Depository with free international shipping.

Please Comment Below! If you are on the homepage of this blog, click word "comment" directly below to see all comments and make one yourself! If you are on the webpage for this post, then simply post in the box provided below.