Words of Wellbeing

Hearing Yourself is Healing Yourself

The Simplicity of Listening to Your Body

By the time something has manifested as an ‘issue’ or ‘problem’ in your life it has already had an interesting life span. It has enjoyed life as a thought, an intuition, a gut feeling, a gentle nudge or a quiet whisper. How many times have you had an inkling about something that turned into a fully blown problem? When you just knew something was going to go pear-shaped. In fact, if you step back from any problem that you have right now, you might find that this problem has only become a problem because you didn’t listen. To yourself. The quiet whisper that originates with your Heart (your wiser, all knowing self) and is delivered by your body in the form of a ‘gut feeling’, emotion or symptom, is unfortunately something that you have been almost trained to dismiss, ignore or override.

In nearly 10 years of seeing clients I can safely say that ‘not being heard’ would make the ‘Top 5 Hit List’ of stress triggers and childhood wounds. When you think about a stressful memory from your childhood like the time you felt sick but you were forced to go to school or the time you weren’t allowed to go out and play, you may recall feelings of sadness, frustration or anger, but at the very root of your stress is something extraordinarily simple – you didn’t feel heard.

We seem to overlook ‘not being heard’ as a root cause of stress because it seems too simple. Yet not being heard is extremely stressful, sad and infuriating and most of us carry around painful baggage and a relentless undercurrent of inherent frustration at not being heard. But why is it so stressful? Because you want your voice, your feelings and your needs to be acknowledged, respected, valued, and in many cases, acted upon. Listening to someone (and their feelings or thoughts) is a basic form of human respect and when you don’t feel that others are listening to you, you make numerous self-deprecating assumptions or form any number of limiting beliefs: you’re not worth listening to, you don’t have anything important or valuable to say, you’re not important, your opinion doesn’t matter, your needs aren’t important, your feelings are insignificant or invalid…the list goes on. In a sense, not being heard could be seen as the foundation for many of the faulty or limiting beliefs you have about your self-worth, beliefs that have ultimately influenced how you have interpreted all of your life experiences

The problem with ‘not being heard’ however, is actually not that other people are failing to listen to you (and make you feel important and worthy), it is that you are not listening to yourself. While a parent or authority figure in your life may have ignored you in the past, the problem is not that they ignored you, the problem is that this how you learned to ignore yourself. If your voice, your intuitions or emotions were not listened to or respected, and were instead dismissed, ignored or overridden, then this is what you have been trained to do. This pattern or dynamic of relating to yourself has been ‘installed on the system’ so to speak and is playing out over and over again. To make matters worse, you are probably trying to change this program and resolve the stress of not being heard and its related self-worth issues by trying to make others listen to you, by demanding that they demonstrate respect and honour your opinions and emotions. And of course, they’re refusing to, which exacerbates your anger and frustration at not being heard.

The solution is simple: start listening to yourself. Hearing yourself is healing yourself. When you are prepared to listen to your gut feelings, when you are prepared to stop dismissing or overriding your uncomfortable emotions, when you are prepared to respect your voice, you’ll find that you can heal whatever problem is going on for you. You are taking an important step towards changing the program – you are consciously deciding that your opinion or feeling is worth being heard and you are worthy. It does not matter how ridiculous or irrational that feeling is, you are prepared to hear it and that simple act of listening is, in and of itself, an act of love, respect and understanding. Interestingly, when you perform this loving act of listening to yourself, you will find that it doesn't even matter if anyone else hears you!

But when you dismiss the simplicity of listening to yourself as a solution, you have probably entered into an overly ‘rational’ reasoning of a situation and ‘you are in your head.’ You may be addicted to ‘taking action’ or ‘fixing’ and in a hurry to ‘action’ and ‘fix’ you’re making all sorts of assumptions and jumping to conclusions about what you think you need or what you should need, rather than stopping to listen openly and honestly to your feelings and to the ‘quiet whisper’ about what you actually need.

How annoying is it when someone asks you a question and when you answer them it is ignored, rejected or declared ‘wrong’? How often do you want to scream “WHY ASK ME THEN?!!” Well that is exactly how your Inner Child or Body feels when you fail to listen to its needs, emotions or guidance. You might ask the body what it would like to eat and when it tells you it would like to eat pineapple you shut it down, telling it that it shouldn’t want pineapple because according to the book you’re reading, pineapple is for Blood Type A and you're a Blood Type O. The Mind has spoken, theory and rationality (gleaned from a book) is more important – forget the pineapple. And the Body, the child, is not listened to, its needs have been rejected and its opinions disrespected. And we wonder why we become disconnected from our bodies, and why they don't seem to ‘cooperate’ in our healing regimes and wellbeing goals!

How often do you listen to your innermost self for guidance? And how do you know when you are really listening to an intuition, a feeling or symptom? Here are some of the ways you can ensure that you are effectively listening to yourself:

Receptivity

Listening is a receptive state. Stephen Covey once said that most people do not listen with an intent to understand but with an intent to reply. Often you are not fully listening because you are thinking – in the form of judging, analysing, seeking solutions, recalling memories or thinking about how you are going to reply. Being receptive is a Yin energy of passivity and we often judge passivity as lacking power, so we avoid it, believing we need to direct or project (Yang energy) in order to be powerful. It's time to start practicing being powerful in your passivity. The ability to hold a space of non-judgment, of innocence, detachment and curiosity and to allow information to flow to you is a state of vulnerability, it is a state of totally trusting yourself and it is immensely powerful.

Openness

Accompanying receptivity is a state of openness – of listening without judgement, assumptions or preconceived notions. You simply cannot listen openly if you presume to already know the answer. I remember a Kinesiology teacher once saying “if you’re no longer surprised by the results of your muscle testing you may not be doing it properly.” True openness means listening without overlaying what you think you hear, what you think you should hear or what you want to hear. Approach listening with innocence – like you’re about to hear something you have never heard before and prepare to be surprised.

Connection

So how can you tell if you're in a receptive state and openly listening? By simply noticing how you feel. Do you feel connected, content and in synch with yourself? What is your body telling you? Remember the Body (child) is an aspect of your consciousness that speaks its own language – it is not a construct of the rational mind, so resist the urge to assume or even ‘make up’ what you think the Body is saying. Just listen. No thinking is required. When you have listened you will feel connected, grounded and in harmony. Simple. When you haven’t listened openly, your body will definitely let you know!

The best part about healing yourself through hearing yourself is that you will stop feeling irritated or upset when others don’t listen to you and you will stop demanding that they do so in order for you to feel important or worthy. Being free of the dependency on how others respond to you is liberating and empowering. You can check in with this by asking yourself: do I trust that what I say is important, even if no-one else but me hears it? When you have heard yourself, you have honoured yourself and a feeling of love, connection and contentment ensues. So, listen up! Your Body will thank you for it.

Is the Left Brain Always Right?

Left Right Brain.jpg

In 1780, Professor Meinard Simon Du Pui suggested that from a medical point of view, man was Homo Duplex – that is, he possesses a ‘double brain’.  Nearly a century later, in the late 1800s, London physician Arthur Ladbroke Wigan was viewing the autopsy of one of his patients and when the skull was cut open he found one of the patient’s cerebral hemispheres was missing. Wigan was surprised because he knew the man could read, write and function normally. Wigan therefore concluded that if one cerebral hemisphere was capable of supporting a fully functioning mind and personality, it followed that normal humans with two intact hemispheres must have two minds.

In the 1960s, Neurobiologist Dr. Roger Sperry performed a series of “split-brain experiments” that cleared the way for a better understanding of the duality of our minds. Normally, both cerebral hemispheres of the brain are joined by millions of nerve fibres called the corpus callosum. Sperry cut the fibres of the corpus callosum of people experiencing severe epileptic seizures. The studies revealed that when surgically separated, the two hemispheres function as two independent brains with unique personalities and specialise in different tasks. His work indefining the functional specialisation of the cerebral hemispheres earned him and his colleagues the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1981.

The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and is the creative side. It is involved with images, emotions, music, imagination, spatial awareness, intuition, spontaneity, movement, visual memory and holism (the big picture). The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and is the logic and reasoning side. It is involved with language (reading, writing, speaking), analysis, auditory memory, linear time, sequencing, and details.

Using functional imaging (fMRI), scientists are now capable of visualising which specific neurons are engaged in performing a designated function. They have found that because the hemispheres are so neuronally integrated via the corpus callosum, practically every cognitive behaviour we exhibit involves activity of both hemispheres – each hemisphere simplyprocesses information differently, all the while complementing each other. It is nearly impossible to distinguish what is going on in the right versus the left hemisphere because our two hemispheres are so adept at weaving together a seamless perception of the world. So rather than having two distinct brains, we really have two complementary halves of a whole brain. It makes sense that we were designed to simultaneously use the functionality of both hemispheres and that doing so would enhance the overall processing capacity and performance of our brain. For example, when confronted with a problem, the right brain’s creativity is essential to generating ideas and options and the left brain’s logic is crucial to analysing their feasibility and implementing the solution.

So why does it seem that Western society tends to favour the left-brain? Logic, reason, academic learning and‘rational thinking’ seem to be more highly valued. Roger Sperry himself said that modern society “discriminates against the right hemisphere.” But as we have just seen, our brains were designed to reach their optimum capacity when both hemispheres work seamlessly together. So, is it right to rely so heavily on the left brain? 

The story of Harvard-trained Brain Scientist Jill Bolte-Taylor offers an interesting view of what we might be missing out on by living our lives in left-brain dominance. She proposes that feelings of wellbeing, optimism, joy and deep inner peace are available to us if we learn to “step to the right” of our left brains. In 1996 Taylor was responsible for teaching students about the human brain at Harvard Medical School. One morning she experienced a rare form of stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Within four hours a major haemorrhage had completely deteriorated her left brain’s ability to process information – she could no longer walk, talk, read, write or recall any of her life.

Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight documents her journey in both suffering from the stroke and recovering from it. She recounts the step-by-step deterioration of her cognitive abilities in extraordinary detail, using the benefit of her knowledge as a neuroanatomist. Yet Taylor claims that she “learned as much about my brain and how it functions during that stroke, as I had in all my years of academia.”What she experienced as her left hemisphere functions deserted her is nothing less than fascinating, so what did she find?

Peace. She found that as her left brain faculties stopped processing information about the world, she felt strangely detached from normal reality and became grounded in the present. Taylor describes how the constant stream of internal chatter about the external world and herrelationship to it left her and in its place she became conscious and constantly present with her mind. Instead of looking for answers and information and constant chatter, she met with a growing sense of peace, or as she describes it “I felt enfolded by a blanket of tranquil euphoria”. She also eloquently describes this “void of higher cognition and details pertaining to normal life” as feeling as if her“consciousness soared into all-knowingness, a ‘being at one’ with the universe.”

It took Taylor roughly eight years to reconstruct her left brain abilities – she had to learn to read, write, talk and walk again. While she was doing this she was able to observe things that modern neuroscientists where missing in their primarily neurological perspective of the functionalhemispheric asymmetries. Taylor became interested in the psychological or personality differences contained within the two hemispheres and was able to note what happened when her left mind was no longer able to dominate her personality as it had done prior to her stroke. 

In the absence of her left hemisphere’s analytical judgement and attachment to time-based thinking, she found that the right mind:

- Celebrates its freedom in the universe and is not bogged down by the past or fearful of thefuture.

- Is open to new possibilities, willing to try new things and thinks out of the box.

- Is all about the richness of the present moment.

- Is filled with gratitude, it is content, compassionate, nurturing, and eternally optimistic. There is no judgement of good/bad or right/wrong, so everything exists in a continuum of relativity.

- Takes things as they are, acknowledges what is present and pays no attention to territories or artificial boundaries like race or religion.

- Allows the freedom to explore the world with childlike curiosity.

- Is adventurous, celebrative of abundance and socially adept.

- Is sensitive to non-verbal communication, empathic, and accurately decodes emotion.

- Is open to the eternal flow, existing at one with the universe.

- Is the seat of the ‘divine mind’,  it is the knower, the wise man/woman, and the observer.

It’s quite a list! Taylor’s experience of losing her left mind has led her to believe that the feeling of deep inner peace is simply neurological circuitry – which is located in the right brain. This circuitry is constantly running and always available for us to hook into. In other words, peace is something that can only happen in the present moment and only the right mind is capable of experiencing the present moment. Sounds like the right brain could be quite useful – I don’t know anyone who isn’t in need of some peace!

Sources:

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Jill Bolte-Taylor, Ph.D

The Split Brain Experiments, Nobelprize.org

Left Brain, Right Brain, ABC Science http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/06/24/2856996.ht

It is liberating to know that I have the ability to choose a peaceful and loving mind (my right mind), whatever my physical or mental circumstances, by deciding to step to the right and bring my thoughts back to the present moment. This stroke of insight has given me the priceless gift of knowing that deep inner peace is a thought/feeling away.
— Jill Bolte-Taylor