Due to advances in contemporary Neurology, we know that emotional wellness depends upon the body and brain remaining in constant communication. The only issue is whether or not we are listening. "The brain implies the stomach and the stomach implies the brain; they are mutually intertwined in this democratic web of reciprocity." (In An Unspoken Voice by Peter Levine)
The challenge becomes: How do we keep this "democratic web of reciprocity" moving, keeping the brain and the stomach talking? And what happens when their conversation is interrupted? Let's look at two common ways to stop the brain and stomach from talking.
Too Much Brain
People inclined to get a bit top heavy with too much brain fill our academic institutions. Hence, young people have an abundance of modeling of too much brain. Too much brain easily gets translated to "I must be smart". When in actuality, it more likely means we are defending against deep feelings by dissociation. Internal sensations and emotions are translated into abstract concepts taking up residency in the prefrontal cortex. We unconsciously separate from our emotions and internal sensations. I ascribe an airiness to the activity of the cerebral cortex. Our energetic field moves upward. We become anesthetized by air, no longer in touch with our bodily experiences. There are several consequences to this affinity with air.
• Loss of grounding. When we lose ground we feel less stable, less rooted and less balanced. We may be confused about where we are and where we belong.
• Loss of presence. When floating from abstract concept to abstract concept, we lose a sense of presence. We are energetically soaring rather than landing somewhere. Others will struggle to find what really matters to us and we will miss what others cherish. This form of dissociation also serves to keep us invisible, therefore immune from being hurt.
• Loss of objectivity. When we dissociate or separate from strong emotion, our emotions become unconscious and autonomous. They impact and influence our thinking without us being able to notice the role they play. Refining our capacity for discernment can be seriously compromised.
• More reactionary. Separating from emotion and bodily sensations tends to make them more autonomous, causing us to react rather than respond with deep consideration.
• Less able to respond appropriately to danger. Anesthetized by air separates us from instinct, which offers us vital information about danger and how to create safety.
Too Much Body
A common but not quite as popular disruption of the brain-body transmission is too much body, or too much preoccupation with the five senses. It is not as popular because it does not masquerade as intelligence as the dissociation of too much brain does. This occurs as we separate the activity of the five senses from our emotions, or separate our senses from abstract thinking and internal sensations found in muscle tissue and joints. This kind of separation of our senses from other internal processes can also be described as dissociation. Life is stripped of its mystery and our internal landscape goes ignored. Our five senses are not integrated with emotion, abstract thinking and internal sensations. Our experience is reduced to what we see, touch, hear, smell and taste. The 19th century Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard coined this process "Tranquilized by trivia". It may be that the alleged payoff of being so tranquilized is that what really matters to us remains hidden, even from ourselves and therefore cannot be abused by others. There are several significant losses due to reducing our life experience to our sensual experience.
• Meaningful building blocks of rapport are sacrificed. It becomes extremely difficult to build a deepening and evolving rapport with others. Significant questions are ignored: Who am I in this relationship? What is being asked of me, and what do I want from the other? How do I work with conflicting needs and diverse beliefs? What are my emotional needs? How am I doing asking for what I want?
• Increased anxiety. Life will relentlessly remind us that it is much larger than what our five senses can handle. As life's challenges bang on the door of the psyche, feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped sets in. Life's intensity continues, characterized by: loss, change, loneliness, illness, death and a myriad of defeats.
• A lost capacity to generate meaning. The ability to generate meaning is lost, as life becomes a soap opera of minutiae. The ability to explore large considerations goes missing, such as: What do I truly cherish? What is life asking of me? What are my values? What is my purpose? How do I continue to create the life of my choosing?
Opening Brain-Body Communication
"Allowing yourself to observe your inner process activates brain pathways that connect the rational and emotional parts of the brain." (Bessel A. van de Kolk.) Observing your inner process, means tracking internal sensations. Examples include: butterflies in the stomach, clenched jaw, fluttering in the chest, tightness in the legs, pressure on the upper back, jittery feet and numb hands and fingers.
Either tranquilized by trivia or anesthetized by air mostly are ways to cope with the slings and arrows life will inevitably present. When we employ them we are mostly attempting to generate safety, by coping with feeling helpless and alone. However, safety and being fully alive depend upon a capacity to regulate the nervous system. This can only be accomplished by keeping body and brain in constant conversation. This dialogue is encouraged as the brain observes internal sensations. Such a relationship arouses instinct, an unbridled imagination and an undomesticated intuition. All of which contribute to a unique individual living an inspired life.