What's Behind Your Belly Button?
by Martha C Love Robert W. Sterling
||Nov 4, 2011
Gut Instinct: A New Image of Human Nature
"What's Behind Your Belly Button?" offers a protocol for the Somatic Reflection Process, which releases life energy of the gut instinct, reduces stress and dis-ease, and gives a new hopeful image of human nature.
The complete title for this book is "What's Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and Gut Instinct. It is not only a book that people can use as a self-help guide but it is also meant for professionals and students in Psychology and Neurology who are interested in new research on the gut instinctual response, the intuition, and a new hopeful image of the human species that takes in account the new medical breakthroughs concerning the relationship between the head and gut brains, or the "second brain" (the enteric nervous system).
Although numerous books and articles have recently talked about the gut instincts as valuable in giving us useful hunches in the decision-making process, "What's Behind Your Belly Button?" goes much further and explains how gut feelings not only have a psychological intelligence of their own, but are also understandably rational in their functioning. The authors explore how gut feelings are like a gas gauge in our guts indicating through an emotional feeling of emptiness or fullness how well the two instinctive human needs for acceptance (attention from others) and of control of one's own responses (freedom) in our lives are being met and how our behavior attempts to keep these two instinctive needs in balance at all times. They explore how these two instinctive needs motivate nearly all our behaviors all through our lives and that the feeling memory of how well these needs are met from moment-to-moment may be accessed through somatic awareness of our gut feelings of empty and full by using the Somatic Reflection Process the authors have developed.
From Chapter Nine:
"THE VOICE OF THE GUT
In the four decades that we have worked with hundreds of people to understand the gut and its relationship to instinctual need, we have found some amazing, but we think really simple, truths about the gut responses, the gut voice, and about the nature of human beings and our instinctual needs. The gut response is simple, but it also can be complicated to understand within ourselves and by the time we get to be adults, we can barely recognize our gut responses. To understand them, we have to use what we can feel of them and reflect backwards in time centering on their feeling and recover our awareness of these responses. The external world, including any Freudian based psychology, will tell us to not waste our time doing so and that these feelings are unreliable, unimportant and if followed will lead us down a disastrous road. We understand that many people are frightened to make this internal exploration, so we only put this work out for people who feel called to do so. We have, however, never found anyone that was sorry for having explored his or her gut feelings. We do advise that before making your mind up about what you really think about your gut responses that you actually explore your feeling gut center carefully with the Somatic Reflection Process. It does take some work and without a true effort we can be lead astray by our thinking process and find more inaccurate evidence to blame our problems on our gut feelings. So this is no quick fix, but every minute we work at this will bring us closer to valuable self-awareness that will enhance our life quality.
In essence, if we were going to boil this down for someone who wanted a quick idea of what the new Gut Psychology is, we would say that the gut is the instinctual response center and we feel either empty or full or somewhere in the middle (imagine a gas gauge) in our gut at all times. We feel full when our instinctual needs are met and empty when they are not. We are talking not just about food intake (although the feeling of emptiness and fullness in relation to food intake and psychological instinctual needs are interestingly similar and we do get them confused and thus may over eat to try to fill the emptiness we feel psychologically). We are talking about psychological instinctual needs—psychological not in the use of logic but in our needs as human beings. We have two instinctual needs that the gut gauges—the need to feel accepted and the need to be in control of our own responses to life. These two needs must be constantly in balance. Too much of one without the other leaves us empty. When we have both of these, we feel very full and thus energized; and when we have neither, we feel empty and often experience some symptoms of stress in the body like feeling lethargic, anxious, overwhelmed, disconnected and alone. This gut response does not depend on the thinking brain as the gut is an independent brain of its own (see Dr. Michael Gershon’s research [presented in earlier chapters]), but of course it can be greatly affected by the thinking brain, and vice-versa. We work both consciously and unconsciously to keep these two instinctual needs in balance at all times. Our understanding is simple and if we start using this as a premise for our thinking about our experiences with our feelings in everyday life, it begins to make a lot of things clear to us about our needs and motives and our human nature.
At best, we need to have a balanced and conscious dialog between our gut responses and head response so we can use our thinking brain to make the appropriate responses in the external world and try to fill these two important instinctual needs in appropriate and successful ways. However, when we are unconscious of our gut responses, our thinking brain will often use a system of thought it has picked up (perhaps from an authority like a parent, teacher or even a religion) and applies it as a judgment about the feeling in our gut. This is what happens when we have an emotion like guilt or depression. We feel empty because our needs are not met and our thinking brain attaches a thought to the emptiness and lack of our fulfillment like “It is all my fault for being too stupid or too small or too incompetent, etc.” or “I am not capable of doing anything to make this work or be better”, thus we have guilt and or depression feelings. These emotional feelings are not pure feelings of emptiness or fullness anymore, as they now have the thinking component mixed in them. And these thinking-feelings or emotions are mostly felt in other parts of our bodies above our hara, between our head brain and gut brain. If you look into your emotional feelings, you can always find a thinking element to them. And if you trace the feeling aspect only, it goes directly and purely to the gut. For as we have said, the gut is the source of all feeling.
Generally, the only way we can unravel this tightly woven thread of inaccurate thinking judgment and resulting emotional stress, is to reflect back to the source of when the thinking head first applied this very same judgment and find the actual source or as close to it as possible. And the key to finding this first experience is through reflection on the gut feeling of emptiness and fullness, not through thinking back on the details of our lives. Once we find this original experience in which we started the “tape” that plays over and over in our heads that we are all at fault, powerless, too needy, unlovable, etc., then we can lift the sentence we have placed on ourselves and our feelings and begin to see ourselves clearer and make healthy decisions—begin to use our thinking head to follow our instinctual needs and fulfill our true human nature.
Of course, we realize that this is frightening for people because people have long ago been convinced that our human nature is selfishly uncaring and they, therefore, think that is why we need laws and religion to keep us in control (not that we are against laws to help us have a guide). Freud founded Psychoanalytical Psychology with statements of this lack of dependability of human nature and it is difficult to pry the human race away from this dark and inaccurate judgment of whom we think we are deep inside. As we reflect on somatic gut feelings and listen to the gut voice, we see that it is the very judgment against the consciousness of our human nature or our gut instinctual responses that is ultimately responsible for the evils that it preaches against. So while it may seem frightening at first to reflect on our gut responses, people like the caring person they find themselves to have always been when they reach the consciousness of the gut response. And becoming aware of one’s true inner nature, instinctive gut feelings, is not generally thought by those who experience it to be in conflict with the essence of one’s spiritual knowledge, but more of a Gnostic direct experience of the Sacred experienced in the gut or all of nature that is greater than us and is connected to us through the gut instincts. Some call this experiencing Presence.
Reflection on the gut voice helps us to be more mindful of our caring nature and thus be more caring for others. And with the new awareness of our gut responses and needs that we acquire through reflection on our instinctual gut responses, we are able to live a more caring and healthy life with the thinking head finally conscious and listening more clearly to the responses of our most reliable and authentic self—our gut instinctual feelings in our body. What is called in yoga chakras systems as the Nabhi chakra located at the hara or gut center will fill and overflow with energy to the Anahatha or heart center and it will open with compassion loving others and improving the feeling of well being and the strength of the physical immune system.
Fascinating Protocol for Uniting the Gut and the Mind
Authors Love and Sterling point out in their dedication of this book to the youth of the 50s and 60s, that they were the first to realize the power love and peace offers in uniting the various differences within humanity. This was not explainable then -- just a "gut feeling".
Since those times the authors have, through extensive research and counseling sessions, along with neurological studies, been able to identify the gut as a second brain; one more in tune with somatic reactions to stress and emotional feelings. Once people learn how to combine the two brains, it becomes possible to use that natural combination to experience healing, stress reduction and dis-ease.
The authors, working on the premise that "nature creates the situations called problems and man discovers the solutions," present a protocol for "facilitating the Somatic Reflection Process". An external guide called a facilitator guides the patient through a process of acceptance of feelings, past and present, allowing the person to share emotional inner needs which are often the cause of physical distress. People through language, such as, "I feel like I got punched in the gut," or " I got a gut instinct about this," have always sensed that the gut was the seat of emotion leading to illness and duress. Many actors routinely throw up before a performance; others become nervous over something and experience diarrhea or cannot eat.
Using the Somatic Process can help people bring the internal, often deep-seated emotions of loneliness, an empty gut feeling, and myriads of distressing emotions to the surface; to examine these feelings and their origin which are mostly buried in the subconscious mind during childhood. Working through these unresolved memories can result in "full gut - empty mind," freeing the patient from real and misconceived ideas causing physical and mental pain, which dissipates once the instinctual needs are both met and accepted. This process is exceptionally advantageous in dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
The authors maintain that today's lifestyles tend to ignore inner feelings, operating on outside systems of thought. This is an extraordinary book, one that can be referred to each time a person feels that "empty gut" sensation. The solutions are laid out in simple steps throughout this phenomenal book.
Micki Peluso: writer, journalist, and author of . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang
This is an excellent book for anyone who is interested in understanding their gut feelings and instincts to improve their life. I recommend it particularly for parents who want to learn how to educate and nurture the feelings of the child and not just the academic brain. "What's Behind Your Belly Button?" goes beyond any book I have read so far in explaining gut feelings and their psychological makeup. When I read this book, I was able to finally understand why it is so easy to overeat by confusing the emptiness feeling in the stomach as always being a need for food rather than the more psychological needs that the authors demonstrate them to relate to. After reading through some of the dialogs on gut feelings presented in this book, I understand myself better than I ever have before. Martha Love and Robert Sterling have presented a new image of who we are as human beings and what it means to have an intelligent center in the gut to learn to consciously use to communicate with the intelligence in our head to make healthy decisions, not just in what we eat but in everything that we do and don't do.
I particularly liked the chapter on education and the lengthy letter they included that they had sent to President Obama about the importance of the education of our gut feelings in the educational process to help people learn to make healthy decisions.
I think that this book is equally valuable for professionals in Psychology or the Medical fields, as well as for all the rest of us, as it is both deeply personal at times and yet very well researched. I think nearly everyone could benefit from reading "What's Behind your Belly Button?" It gives a hopeful new view of human kind and would make a good gift for anyone.
Amazon Reviewer Ann Russell
Two brains are better than one!
This work is a culturally fascinating exploration of self-development--and what determines how, and why, we develop our unique sense of Self. The authors share an in-depth look into the universal feelings we all share and recognize--fear, guilt and anger--and how with self reflection we can can use this knowledge for connection and growth, leading to a better life experience for all involved. Using clinical and research studies, along with current neurological findings in the fields of medicine and biology, the book shows how the full, 'inside person' develops based upon their own gut feelings, which they use to relate with their world. "What's Behind Your Belly Button" offers a new and clear view of what it means to have communication between the gut--emotions and feelings--and the brain. In this cutting-edge psychological perspective, Martha Love and Robert Sterling truly do prove that 'two brains are better than one'--because this way of self discovery leads to a life that is rich with success, healing, and a deep whole Self knowing. Their 'Somatic Reflection Process' is one of the most enlightening approaches towards understanding human nature that I have encountered--and I plan to use it in my own work with the discovering Self as an integral part in any healing process. Beautiful job!
Annette Aiea Day, MA
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