The Body's Intelligence
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Are we denying ourselves the full range of intelligence we were born with?
In today’s society the word intelligence tends to be associated with abilities in reasoning, logic and the accumulation of knowledge. If I were to ask you to point to where your intelligence is stored, I’m guessing you’d be pointing at your head. The view of who we are tends to be a brain centered one; intelligence as a product of thought. Our bodies, on the other hand, are often viewed as the transport medium – the things that carry our heads around! But what if our bodies were more than this? What intelligence might they innately carry? What exists in the space between thought? And how can we learn to access it?
Dr. Candace Pert, neuroscientist and author of Molecules of Emotion, attributes the body- mind divide to events in the 17th century: ‘It was then that Rene Descartes, the philosopher and founding father of modern medicine, was forced to make a turf deal with the Pope in order to get the human bodies he needed for dissection. Descartes agreed he wouldn’t have anything to do with the soul, the mind, or the emotions – those aspects of human experience under the virtually exclusive jurisdiction of the church at the time- if he could claim the physical realm as his own’. And so, Western science grew from a foundation which split the human experience in two.
However, science itself has been revealing that mind and body are not separate entities at all. In her book, Molecules of Emotion, Dr. Pert pulls together a life time of pioneering scientific research to paint a revolutionary picture: at a basic molecular level the informational substances found in the brain are also found and produced by cells in virtually every body system. The brain is just one part of a body wide intelligence network. It is these informational substances that Dr. Pert believed to be the molecular basis of emotion. Emotions being the link between body and mind. In Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind she states that ‘the subconscious mind is nothing more than the body itself faithfully reporting the chemical processes that enter our consciousness only when we recognise them as emotions.’ Emotions. Intelligent information from the body.
It’s interesting and important to note that throughout evolution these ‘molecules of emotion’ have been highly conserved from single cell organisms up to the hugely complex human being. The very fact that they’re so highly conserved surely points to their central role in our survival… what might the cost be of continuing to ignore, suppress and reject our emotions?
The body’s innate intelligence has been a topic of research for organisations such as the HeartMath Institute who have conducted over 26 years of scientific research into heart- brain communication. They found the heart to consist of an extensive neural network devised of the same cellular complexes found in the brain, enabling the heart to act independently from the ‘head’ brain to learn, remember, make decisions, feel and sense. It would seem that we have more than one brain!
So how can we learn to access the body's information? By learning it’s language – that of emotion. The HeartMath Institute state ‘our research indicates that the key to the successful integration of the mind and emotions lies in increasing one’s emotional self-awareness.’ ‘From our current understanding of the elaborate feedback networks between the brain, heart and mental and emotional systems, it becomes clear that the age old struggle between intellect and emotion will not be resolved by the mind gaining dominance over the emotions but rather by increasing the harmonious balance between the mental and emotional systems – a synthesis that provides greater access to our full range of intelligence’.
By this point you might be wondering what on earth horses have to do with any of this! Linda Kohanov, author and pioneer in equine facilitated learning, describes the horse as a model of emotional agility. ‘By collaborating with the nonverbal wisdom of feeling, they conserve energy for true emergencies’. In her book, The Power of the Herd, Kohanov distils the process of emotional agility down into 4 keys steps: 1. Feel the emotion in its purest form, 2. Get the message behind the emotion, 3. Change something in response to the message and 4. Go back to grazing (i.e. get back to living your life, letting go of the story). Whilst horses exercise this innately, in a society steeped in emotional suppression, most of us fail to begin step 1.
Dr. Pert emphasises that ignoring our emotions is ‘old-think’. A remnant of the paradigm rooted in the mind-body split of the 17th century that focuses solely on physical health. ‘By getting in touch with our emotions we gain access to the healing wisdom that is everyone’s natural biological right. We must acknowledge and claim all our feelings so they can be processed through the system and released. The more we deny them, the greater the ultimate toxicity’.
Whilst the horse can be studied as model of emotional agility, they are also able to help us begin the process of claiming our emotions by embodying an anchor in the present moment - the only place step 1 can begin.
Childre, D., Atkinson, M., McCraty, R. & Tomasino, D. Science of the Heart: Exploring the Role of the Heart. HeartMath Research Centre, Institute of HeartMath, 2001.
Pert, Candace B. Molecules of Emotion. Scriber, 1997.
Pert, Candace B. Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind. Sounds True, 2004.
Kohanov, Linda. The Power of the Herd. New World Library, 2015.
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