“The heart has its reason of which reason knows nothing”. You have probably already heard this famous quote by Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, physicist & inventor who walked the earth, way back in the 17th Century.
Throughout history philosophers & scientists alike have speculated on the tremendous wisdom of our hearts. Yet, it is only fairly recently that we have begun to take those thoughts seriously. Thankfully, we are starting to understand that in a world where the rational mind has been a superstar for centuries, it might be within reason to give both our heart and gut some credit as well. Learning to trust them is not only sane; it leads to emotional coherence and improved wellbeing.
WHAT IS EMOTIONAL COHERENCE?
In a nutshell, it is the ability to say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no, even if it means going against the status quo.
Here is a little light-hearted anecdote to illustrate the concept:
You know that friend who split up with her boyfriend eons ago and still spends hours complaining about how miserable her life is to anybody who is willing to listen? Yes, that friend! You've listened to her for hours on end and offered to help, but she doesn't seem to want any help. She really just wants someone to complain to. Understandably, at this stage, you are tired of the situation but (rational thought) SHE IS YOUR FRIEND or YOUR MUM or YOUR SISTER or fill in the blank.
It's Friday evening, you have just got home and are exhausted from a long week. You are looking forward to that relaxing bath and to some quality time with your other half. Then the phone rings. It's HER, she is in tears and asks if you can come over. Now, let's look at a couple of possible scenarios here.
The rational mind scenario: your heart sinks (bye, bye, lovely Friday evening). Your rational mind immediately takes over (it's your friend, how can you be so selfish to even think that way)and guilt sets in. You say: “Sure, I'll be there in an hour tops“. Your heart sinks further as you hang up.
Here is how things are likely to pan out: you, my friend, bypassed your feelings and sacrificed a much needed relaxing evening in, against your true will. As a result, you go half-heartedly and listen absently to the same story all over again. You come home tired and irritable, and to put it mildly you DO NOT have a romantic evening with your other half. Your friend is none the wiser and is still wallowing in self-pity as you put your PJs on. Oh if only you had listened to your heart!
The heartfelt scenario: Your heart sinks and this time you pay attention to your feelings and needs. You listen to her attentively (ignoring the tantrum your rational mind is throwing) and kindly say: “I’m really sorry you are feeling this way, I feel you but I have had a tough day myself and really need to wind down. How about we catch up tomorrow and go and see that really fun movie we talked about?" You hang up and go run that lovely bubble bath you have been waiting for all day.
Here is how things are likely to pan out: if your friend is a good friend and cares about you too, she will understand and it might even put things into perspective for her. The next day, you are feeling refreshed and are able to be fully present. The movie uplifts her and you both have a nice afternoon. If she mentions her ex, you tell her that you don't want to talk about him anymore, as it is not doing anybody any good at this point.
You see, your heart will often ask you to put your wellbeing first and that's fine because, at the end of the day, it also allows you to be more present with the people you love.
To a lot of us, this is an alien way of behaving because it is not the way we were taught. However, contrary to common belief, self-sacrifice is not the way forward. In fact, love and sacrifice are opposites, if you ask me. Sacrifice comes from the mind, not from the heart. Sacrifice is rooted in fear (fear of not being accepted, fear of not been loved etc.) and is, therefore, a form of control.
To act lovingly is to acknowledge your own needs and understand if, when and how you can help. It is also accepting when things are out of your control and giving people the space to learn how to swim by themselves. Have you ever thought that by feeding into your friend's self pity behaviour, you are not allowing her to grow and come out of it? Trust me, I was THAT miserable friend. I have a fair idea of what I am talking about.
The heart is bold, “illogical” and incredibly wise. Although trusting it can be scary at times, it undoubtedly leads to more sensible choices and giant leaps.
WHAT SCIENCE IS SAYING ABOUT HEART AND GUT INTELLIGENCE:
Your heart and brain communicate continuously and, contrary to common belief, the heart sends more signals to the brain than the brains sends to the heart . The human heart is actually composed of a heart-brain with about 40,000 neurones that can sense, feel, learn and remember.Not only does it influence the brain but also most of the major body's organs, and ultimately determines our quality of life.
Your gut is also in constant communication with your brain and with its 100 million neurones, some scientists call it “the second brain”. It is said to partly determine our mental state and that “a big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut”. Don’t the expressions having butterflies in your stomach or an intense gut feeling make total sense here?
Now interestingly enough both these organs communicate with our limbic brain (the oldest part of our brain), not with the neocortex (the newest part of our brain, also responsible for rational and analytical thought). The limbic brain is responsible for all of our feelings. It is also responsible for all human behaviour and all our decision-making, but has no capacity for language. That is why putting our feelings into words is so hard. That is also why when you make a decision with your gut or heart (i.e with your limbic brain), it just feels right but you cannot explain it logically.
The limbic brain is powerful, powerful enough to drive behaviours that sometimes contradict our rational understanding of a situation says Simon Senek in his excellent book: Start with Why. And according to the Neuroscientist Richard Restak: “when you force people to make decisions with only the rational part of their brain, they almost invariably end up “overthinking”. On the contrary, decisions made with the limbic brain, gut decisions, tend to be faster, higher quality decisions. That is what happens when you listen to your gut instinct. And we all have had occasions where we failed to do that and realised in high insight that our heart/gut did, in fact, speak first, even though our mind spoke louder. Sometimes you just have to listen to that quiet, still voice; the one that is in tune with what feels right, not what looks or seems right. In fact, Simon Senek argues that what makes great leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs stand out is their capacity to follow and lead from their hearts.
Of course, our logical brain serves its purpose as well. It is not about completely cancelling it out. The logical brain helps us to put our heartfelt decisions into practice with concrete, measured steps. However, we are starting to realise that in order to lead a coherent, purposeful life we must learn to tune into our feelings and the wisdom of our bodies too. It is like learning how to balance art and science, understanding that one does not exclude the other, but rather, as in everything in nature, they complement each other.
PRACTICE TUNING INTO YOUR HEART
We all innately know how to tune into our hearts. However, in a world that has prioritised rational thinking for generations, many of us have simply forgotten how to listen. I guess it is a bit like learning to ride a bicycle all over again: patience and trusting that you already know are key. Here are a few tips I like to apply to my own life:
2. Your heart doesn't think, it feels. That feeling of knowing is a feeling not a though. With that in mind, practice paying attention to how certain experiences make you feel first. The feeling comes before the thought because your limbic brain reacts quicker than your rational mind.
3. Practice emotional coherence. I cannot emphasise it enough: learn to say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. That means, breathing, listening to your heart and to the way you feel first. It also implies taking full responsibility for your side of the coin. Some people might dislike you for it because it will not fit their own agenda. However, both your heart and the people who truly care about you will eventually be happier as a result.
4. When you fail to listen to your heart and take a “wrong turn” be compassionate with yourself. Remember that there are no wrong turns, just experiences and opportunities to learn!
And there, you have it. I hope your heart enjoyed the read. I would love to hear about your own experiences. What do you do to connect with your own heart? What is the best heart driven decision you've ever made and how did it change your circumstances?
Meanwhile, may something inspiring happen to you today.
With all my love,
As a BioNeuroEmotion (BNE) practitioner, I help consciously aware people identify the emotional root cause of any re-occurring pattern, issue or physical ailment they might have, so they can shift their perception and show up as their best selves.
Should this resonate, you can find out more here.
And, please do not hesitate to reach out. I love connecting with people!
Sinek, S. (2016). Start with why. [United States]: Joosr Ltd, pp.55-59.
Sinek, S. (2016). Start with why. [United States]: Joosr Ltd, pp.55-59.
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Hi, I´m Dannie
A fellow soul seeker, blogger & certified BioNeuroEmotion® (BNE) practitioner who is passionate about growing, self actualising & learning in order to lead a more coherent/conscious life and help others do the same.