"Emotions predate reason. Our emotional wiring, that is, our limbic system, is in place from birth but our thinking wiring isn't in place until we are around 12, and even then, we're only beginning to learn how to use it." Tian Dayton
We have known since the turn of the century that the emotional part of our brain sends more inputs to the thinking part of our brain than the other way round (Damasio 1999). We know developmentally, and in the flow of evolution, that we were sensing, feeling beings long, long before conscious thought ever arose. Why is it then that we so often still insist that our reason can overcome all?
We can seldom think our way out of painful physical feelings, despite what we might like to believe. What we need are holistic, integrated ways of helping our bodymind systems when we are off kilter. When our emotions are out of control our thinking is too. We need to bring them into balance or our life and relationships feel out of balance too.
The self-relations approach to psychotherapy recognises this need. It advocates attending to the grounding of our bodily being as well as to sponsorship of our mental health symptoms cognitively so that we can be creative and systemic in our solutions and in our way of relating to ourselves and to others.
In this approach, Stephen Gilligan notices that when we are in harmony body and mind, we become relational. We can connect beyond ourselves, in community, in music, in nature, in love. We become something far vaster than our individual parts. We become an energy field that extends beyond our skin.
Gilligan suggests we each have a centre, and through that centre the river of life flows, bringing both happiness and suffering. As we develop, our somatic, physical being is enhanced by our cognitive, thinking self, and when these harmonise our relational self comes into being. There are then many, many roads possible for us, and our task is to find our own individual ‘path with heart.’
My experience of it is that we fall in and out of resonance with the different aspects of our being, our feeling and our thinking, continuously. To be disconnected from either is painful and constricting, and we need active physical grounding and psychological advocacy for our pain if we are to resonate and shine our lights into the world. This is a life’s work, day by day, moment by moment.
If you feel stuck in thinking, or overwhelmed by feeling, or just disconnected from both, then psychotherapy may be helpful for you. If this is the case, get in touch.