According to Dr. Who, “a man with two hearts carries twice the pain.” But this story proves that if a man’s 2nd heart is in his stomach, he can’t feel pain at all.
The modern way of thinking is: if you’re unhappy, you need to fix your head. But new research suggests that unhappiness is strongly linked to a disconnection with the body- or, more specifically, the heart.
Does Your Body/Mind Connection Start With Your Heart?
Aristotle believed the heart was the seat of intelligence, and the brain was merely a mechanism to cool its hot-bloodedness. The Ancient Egyptians valued the heart over the brain, leaving it inside the chest during embalming but removing the “cranial stuffing” entirely. In the 19th century, William James suggested that our awareness begins with the heart. Transplant patients often report developing new passions, from favorite foods to newfound musical obsessions. When neuroscientist Agustin Ibanez met “Carlos,” the man with two hearts, he had a hunch that these theories about the body/mind connection would prove true.
If You Had Two Hearts, Which One Would You Follow?
Carlos had a mechanical pump to reduce the stress on his failing heart, but every second or so he felt a small thump above his belly button. The pump was essentially replacing his heartbeat, and the feeling in his stomach was awful enough that it actually changed the way his mind worked. When Carlos viewed pictures of people experiencing a pain, he didn’t feel empathy. He developed problems making intuitive decisions and reading other people’s motives. How can a man who feels with two hearts know which one to follow? Carlos was walking proof of William James’, and Ibanez’s theory that the body rules emotional cognition.
Can You Count Your Own Heartbeats?
Ibanez conducted a study to test the idea. He asked his subjects to count their own heartbeats without touching their chest or taking their pulse. This is called interoception, and when you try it, you’ll see that it’s not easy; only about 1/4 of people can get 80% accuracy. After having their bodily awareness tested, the participants took cognitive tests, and the results were spot-on with body/mind theory.
Looking Within – How In Tune Are You?
The people in Ibanez’s study who had greater bodily awareness were better at recognizing emotions in others’ faces and at describing their own feelings, had more intense reactions to emotive pictures, and were quicker to learn to avoid threats – just as he’d predicted. Other studies have shown that people in tune from within are more likely to follow their hunches, and lead richer and more emotional lives.
The Empty Soul
Ibanez also found that people with depersonalization disorders had less body awareness, empathy, and sense of self, and many reported feeling like they live in an empty shell. People who suffer from depression often report feeling flat and empty when doing things that should make them happy, and clinical psychologists have found they also have trouble feeling their own heartbeat. One study even showed that women who were better at counting their heartbeats had a better body image and were less likely to see themselves as an object, believing attractiveness was less important than their inner-self.
Imagine your heart is pounding, but instead of feeling it in your chest, you feel it in your foot. Would it change the way you feel emotion as well? All signs point to yes. Following your heart could literally be the key to happiness.