"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.
Gut Instinct: A New 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).
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.