It's time to kill the myth with the same axe that spliced people in two. Maybe you are one of the people who feel split or maybe you don’t recognize the pain yet.
It seems like this makes you think, doesn’t it but I am sure you had a gut reaction to that too. Should you listen to your gut or try to reason it trough?
Some people might feel conflicted. What about you?
Descartes took in his time a big axe and cut what we are in two. Many people still feel the pain. Now it’s time to put his myth to rest and heal ourselves.
There is no rationality without emotions and no emotions without rationality. We can't decide on something rationally when we can’t make up our mind what is more important to us or more pressing. We would always be weighing our options and never be able to take a decision.
An emotional response on what matters to us gives it weight and makes us able to weigh one option against another.
The research in this is done by Antonio Damasio.
Imagine for a moment that you see your own mother and she is coming towards you. You on the other hand look worried and a bit frightened. She looks frightened back at you. What’s wrong? You don’t remember your own mother anymore? She looks just the same as always.
You know because you have memories of her and the warm emotions that are attached to it. But somethings wrong. There are no emotions attached to attached to the fresh memories of seeing your mother. No emotions at all. No warm feelings. Nothing. Nothing at all.
That is not your mother. She is an imposter trying to mimic your mother. You know because you can’t feel any warm emotions looking at her. No emotions to the new memories.
Seems like science fiction? Not at all. It’s happening to people at this very moment. People who feel that their loved ones are imposters. It’s called the Capgras syndrome.
V.S Ramashandran did wonderful research in that.
It makes you feel and rethink that old mind-body split, doesn’t it?
Some people might want to rethink just ‘heading’ to work and leaving their body behind. That might explain all the zombies at your work when they head to work and leave their body behind. Hope you haven’t been bitten yet.
They might have told you that you have to use your head and be less emotional at one time. What they are saying is “Chop of your head and leave your body behind.”
Here is where you want to have the: “OFF WITH HER HEAD!”, from Alice in Wonderland in your head every time you hear that. You might wonder how many bodies are in the closet.
Luckily we have learned a lot about emotional intelligence since Descartes error. Still, this imaginary gap is still present in many people's thinking. The wound is still not healed completely.
You might have noticed that I was using quite a lot of metaphors. We aren’t able to talk without metaphors so we might as well really take notice of how we are using them and use them more effectively.
When people are referred to as insects or a dire situation as a sinking ship, both tell you something about how that person is thinking and feeling about something. We don’t act on what is happening in the world directly but we act upon how we perceive it.
When we say somebody has a “warm” personality it means that our body gets warmer every time we think about that person or are with that person. This creates in our brain a connection between two neuronetworks, one that presents warmth and the other one that represents that person and they both activate over and over at the same time.
As they say in neuroscience: Neurons that fire together wire together.
This means that at a point the two neuronetworks touch each other and the two are connected in one system. This connection is a metaphor.
We learn a lot of metaphors since we were small: more is up and less is down, dark as the night, light as day, ext…two things that happen at the same time over and over again. When a glass get filled you see the liquid rising in the glass and when you drink it, and you have less, it goes down. Prices go up when things get more expensive and go down when they get less expensive.
We build one set of metaphors upon another or rather we use the neuronetwork to “compute” both.
When you think of somebody that did something disgusting you pout your lips, pull up your nose and squint your eyes. As the term “dis-gust” shows it is a gustatory reaction. A reaction that we had for food that goes bad and that can make you sick. Ever felt like a person made you “feel sick”?
We even built our laws in this way: Corporations can be persons and we act as if they are people. We trust or mistrust them based on their actions.
These are a few examples. Much of the work in this area is done by George Lakoff and the field is called: Embodied cognition.
Let’s get practical for a moment. When you are at work you might have noticed that some put their head between their shoulders and make themselves small when the boss is around. Animals protect themselves from predators by protecting their head and making themselves smaller so there are less vulnerable areas open. Sometimes we feel vulnerable, don’t we?
Some people put their hands in their thighs and take up more space or put their hands in their neck in a meeting so their elbows are out and they take up more space. Animals take up more space to communicate that this is their territory and they have authority there.
Of course, in real life, this has to been seen in context and only patterns of body language and not anecdotal data. There is much more to consider in body language but the point I want to make is that we are animals too and that many basic rations have an evolutionary origin.
Another great insight we get from understanding this is that not only do we, for instance, try to get smaller when we are less confident but that when we make ourself smaller we tend to feel less and less confident also. It is biological. It works both ways.
The great thing about that is that you can change how you think, feel and perform by changing your body.
You always have a body wherever you go and so you can when you begin to be mindful of your own body notice when you are putting your body in a position that doesn’t help you and how you can shift your body to see what works better.
This video is a step by step of how you can become more confident by changing your body:
This is just a small example of how you can change your life. If you want somebody to coach you trough some of your challenges in life. I would be glad to work together with you to get you the life you want to have. Have a wonderful embodied and mindful day.