Heartfelt, Gut Feeling or Gut Instinct … Is it science?
Did you know that the terms “heartfelt”, “gut feeling” or your “gut instinct” are grounded in science? Our bodies contain vast amounts of information – far more than most of us realize and the brain and body constantly feed information back and forth from the heart, intestines, bones, and muscles.
Personally, I like to think of us as a brain on two feet. If you have ever seen television commercials with the image of the M&M chocolate candies with limbs and sneakers, that’s sort of what I mean.
Let’s talk about how are our brain and bodies function to create feelings ‘coming up’ or ‘coming down’.
There are “top-down,” and “bottom-up” mental processes related to how the brain functions. To simplify this a bit, “top-down” processes use your background knowledge, experiences, prior learning, and expectations to influence what you perceive. It involves thinking about any given memory, life event, or situation and then experiencing the sensations or feelings that go along with it.
“Bottom-up” processes involve sensory perceptions or bodily sensations followed
by conscious awareness and thinking; in other words, you start with no pre-conceived notion of what you are encountering. This means taking in sensory information like sounds, sights, or physical sensations once this information is in your conscious awareness.
Knowing what specific emotions you experience seems to be more of a bottom-up process as neuroscience discoveries suggest bodily sensations travel faster than our thoughts form. What is so fascinating is that we tend to identify what we feel emotionally based on the sensations we feel in our physical body first. Think for a second about how we generally talk about feelings. We never talk about “feelings coming down”; we always describe feelings as “coming up.” It seems a little surprising that something we experience in our body helps us know what we feel emotionally.
When you try to disconnect or distract from the physical sensations in your body, it becomes much more difficult to know what you are feeling on an emotional level. Generally speaking, then, you will tend to know your feelings through these bodily sensations first, before you can describe them with words (e.g., sad, angry, frustrated). As neuroscience continues to explore the brain-body connection, the interplay between the two becomes increasingly apparent.
In my book, 90 Seconds To A Life You Love, I go more in-depth into what we experience in our body helping us know what we feel emotionally. It’s a great part of Chapter 2!
This weeks questions:
Can you recall a memory or life event where you experienced a ‘top-down’ emotion? What was it you felt?
Who hasn’t had an embarrassing moment in front of a group? Do you recall the physical sensation your had when this event occurred? What was it?
I continue this discussion deeper in the second chapter of my book. It’s a must read.
I’d love for you to respond on my facebook group!
Join my group on Facebook LOVE MY LIFE and let me know. I’ll post the question and jump on myself to chat and answer questions you may have, on Wednesday at 3:00 pm Pacific.