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About the author:
While working as colleagues together at Santa Fe Community College, Gainesville, Florida, in the 1970s, we accepted the tasks of teaching and operating a Career Guidance and Assessment Program (Career GAP) that served both the community college students and as a storefront for the general population. Martha had experienced the impact of growing up in the South in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, and came equipped with a degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology with a license in School Psychology. Bob was raised in Northern Ohio, carrying the direct impact of WWII in Europe, with an Electrical Engineering degree, a Masters in Religious Education, and Industrial experience in Electronics. The convergence of our two personalities and experiences of our own personal traumas enabled us to critically look at and question what was happening in counseling methodology, particularly when dealing with a wide variety of social problems. It is from this initial work that this book is based. Since that time and for the past 35 years, both of us have continued to work and study independently in the field of education and psychology, always exploring the awareness of the instinctual gut response and how this awareness might paint a new image of human nature.
What inspired you to write your book?
In 2005, my colleague from the 70s and co-author of this book, Robert Sterling, and I began sharing our independent studies and new clinical research work together once again (thanks to the internet and email). With Dr. Michael Gershon’s recent neurological breakthrough identifying the gut brain, we were inspired to write this book as an account of our life’s work exploring the psychology of gut intelligence, and what that means about human nature and the future of our species.
Here is a short sample from the book:
The following is an excerpt of the beginning of Chapter 3 of “What’s Behind Your Belly Button?”, which is followed in the book by verbatim counseling sessions using the Somatic Reflection Process to bring new insight to present day unresolved issues:
“The best way to understand how the impact of experiences in the present triggers us to respond from our feelings that are related to unresolved issues in the past, is to go through the process yourself around an issue you are struggling with in the present time. We often ask our clients in counseling to describe in their feelings the impact of the issue they are struggling with. And if it isn’t clear to them what we were talking about, we ask them to find in their own mind and feelings something about their life that if they could resolve would help make life much better. We ask them not to tell us the details but try to describe the feeling in their body. Then we begin the process of taking the feelings they are having and reflecting on their feelings back to an earlier time in their past when they had that feeling before, as young as possible. It is through this Somatic Reflection Process (SRP) that original issues become conscious, sometimes for the first time since they happened, and people can work through them to change their self-image, and find understanding to resolve the present issues.”
The Universal Principles of Feelings
“Today is felt to be the most complicated day in our lives and rarely in trying to deal with the issues of today, are we aware of the impact of the past on those issues. As we try to sort through the details of what is going on around us, we are often unable to see a clear positive path into the future. It seems no matter what we do to take action on the issues the same empty feeling persists or reoccurs and the actions seem only to further complicate the issue, leaving the emptiness to be dealt with later on.
“It seems to be quite natural for us to try to figure out what is bothering us—to understand what is going on. Usually, as long as we keep the reflection to ourselves, we continually see the details and fail to find the meaning of the issue. Even though we reach out to a friend and ask for attention around the details of the issue, we may gain little or no insight into what is bothering us. Often the attention we get is sympathy for having to deal with the details of the issue. We become quite confused about ourselves and we get hostile at the one to whom we have asked for help and have gotten sympathy. Such an experience with another person focusing on details, serves only to leave us feeling more empty and alone.
“As we comb through the piles of details of the past, we know in our feelings that the details weren’t the meaning of the experience. Somehow through the external judgments we used in the assessment of the experience, we become too confused to understand this clearly. As a child, we often move into action with our instinctive feelings, often with no logical motive. Others who observe our actions are privy only to the details and often make judgments about us from what they can perceive, without an understanding of our feelings.
“If we enter experience from our instinctive feelings, we must assess the meaning of the experience from the original feeling needs involved. We must exclude other external logical judgments if we wish to understand clearly what our behavior means. Only by such a reflective process—reflection with the inner gut feelings—is the confusion eliminated.
“When we can push the details of the experience out of our awareness, we can turn into the awareness of ourselves and reflect on our inner feelings. It is when we can do this that we are able to see the relationship of the confusion of the present to the issues and the feelings of the past. It is only through the process of reflection on our feelings, triggered in the confusion of the present, that we can begin to understand the sources of the feelings that are causing the confusion. By dealing with these past feelings, we may begin to arrive at some understanding with what we are dealing in the present moment.
“These feelings accumulated from our past, rather than the details of our lives, seem to be the accurate record of the impact of our life experience. Until we perceive these early childhood feelings as acceptable, the patterns that develop with time constantly interfere with our understanding of ourselves in the past. Not until these feelings are validated by another person as acceptable human feelings can we let go of the past and put our full energies into present experience.
“Fear, guilt, hostility—with an underlying emptiness feeling—triggered in by our present experiences are signals telling us that there is a need to reflect upon the past issues up through time in order to free ourselves from the past unresolved feelings about ourselves. The surface logical feelings of guilt and fear signal to us a conflict between what we think and what we feel about ourselves. A conflict or lack of communication is going on between our gut feelings and logical thinking brain. On the basis of our feeling awareness, the reflection up through time shows us the necessity for the actions we have taken.
“The instinctive feeling of emptiness is signaling our logical mind that there is unfinished work to be done. There is an inner and outer conflict to be resolved and a reckoning of our two brains, the beginning of which lies festering in our past experiences. Once we find the source of the original disturbance, in the often distant past, reflecting back through time identifying the occasions when the feelings of emptiness matched the feeling of the now—the same feeling and likely reoccurring at several different ages; we need to clarify the purpose we were trying to achieve by the action and what need we were trying to fill. Then we need to work our way back in time in reflection touching the same occasions of emptiness we found before, and clarifying each instance all the way up to the present. It is then that we have become aware of much about ourselves and our environments, which we have been unaware before, and now we can realize the necessity of dealing with experience from our inner center of intelligence as well as the outer sensory judgment of others.”
Another excerpt selection 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.”