It doesn’t make sense.
My head hurts from thinking about it.
I’ve logically analysed every potential solution; there is no solution!
These statements are usually accompanied by a puzzled look of confusion, doubt or outright despair. My clients have generally grappled with their predicament, challenge or opportunity; often for months, years and sometimes even decades. Sharp, intellectually astute and leaders within their field, our clients have usually scrutinised every possible angle…within their heads.
The fascination with our mental abilities has gained prominence as our intuitive awareness of our embodied self has gradually diminished. The “knowledge economy” within which we reside places the utmost value on data, and our business culture places ever greater importance on our cognitive facets.
Our enchantment with the digital era is illustrated by the way we view our biological bodies. Neural pathways are likened to computer networks and our brain equated to software which directs activity. Our physical existence is equated to a biocomputer in our brain and our body parts compartmentalised into separate pieces at the beck and call of our brain. This reductionist approach shrinks our minds, bodies and ultimately our potential world.
“Consciousness always includes the whole living being, never the brain alone”
Clemens Arvay, Biologist.
Over recent years, scientific research has demonstrated neural networks exist beyond our brains with dense clusters in our heart and gut. Our enteric nervous system, or gut, is composed of 500 million neurons; or 2% of the number found within our brain. While that does not sound like much, in order to place this further into context, this is five times more than the 100 million neurons in our human spinal cord, while our feline friends’ cerebral cortex has just 300 million neurons.
My belly contains more brain cells than a cat’s brain?!
These figures grabbed my attention during the multiple Brain Integration Techniques (mBIT) coach training programme I completed in 2015. This discovery gave me a newfound appreciation for my abdomen, although it did make me view Milo, the next door tabby cat who I thought was quite clever and sneaky, in a slightly different light.
Scientific breakthroughs often move beyond their original disciplines and infiltrate other areas of work and life. By drawing on this research from the neuroscience community and combining it with behavioural modelling, cognitive linguistics and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) theory an entirely different coaching paradigm emerges. Part of my role working as an mBIT coach is to extend an invitation to my clients to explore beyond their head. This moves beyond transactional step by step “project management” coaching and opens up new neurological relationships with our three brains: our head, our heart (cardiac) and our gut (enteric).
This powerful integrated coaching methodology was originally pioneered by Grant Sooslu and Marvin Okra who realised that three (with potentially more to be revealed as our scientific awareness increases) complex neural networks exist with distinct core Prime Functions.
Head Brain Prime Functions
Cognitive Perception– cognition, perception, pattern recognition, etc.
Thinking – reasoning, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, meta-cognition etc.
Making Meaning – semantic processing, languaging, narrative, metaphor, etc.
Heart Brain Prime Functions
Emoting – emotional processing e.g. anger, grief, hatred, joy, happiness etc.
Values – processing what’s important to you and your priorities and its relationship to the emotional strength of your aspirations, dreams, desires, etc.
Relational Affect – your felt connection with others e.g. feelings of love/hate/indifference, compassion/uncaring, like/dislike, etc.
Gut Brain Prime Functions
Core Identity – a deep and visceral sense of core self, and determining at the deepest levels what is ‘self’ versus ‘not-self’
Self-Preservation– protection of self, safety, boundaries, hungers and aversions
Mobilisation – motility, impulse for action, “gutsy” courage and the will to act
Simply reading through these different Prime Functions what catches your attention? Does it chime with ways you’ve previously talked about feelings from the Heart or Gut?
How do you associate with each one individually?
Which brain rules your body?
Our dominant brain unconsciously hijacks our ability to process information across all three brains which limits the scope of our collective deeper intuition. Time and time again within my clients, I’ve observed the head brain take control to exert a form of embodied dictatorship where the heart and gut brains are repressed. I catch fleeting glimpses of emotions which hover below the surface and the authentic self silently screams to be heard and acknowledged.
The physician, anatomist and physiologist Hans Jurgen Scheurle, who studies the interaction between the brain, body and environment, describes the role of the brain:
“is more in the awakening the potential and abilities of the entire living being”
If you’re ready to awaken your multiple brains, harness your wider intellectual capacities and whole-heartedly embrace your collective wisdom; or you are a coach looking to embed a different approach within your practice and support your clients as they navigate our VUCA world, there’s a wealth of information signposted in the resources below.
You Are More Than Your Brain
Arvay, C. G. (2018). The Healing Code of Nature. Sounds True, Boulder, Colorado.
Watzke, H. (2010). TED Talk: The Brain in Your Gut
mBraining Global website: http://www.mbraining.com
mBraining UK website: https://www.multiplebraining.co.uk
Heart Math: https://www.heartmath.com