Throughout much of recorded history, in the writings and oral traditions of many diverse cultures, people strongly believed in an intelligent heart. As a child, I often was told to go your heart for the answer and listen to your heart. When I did, I often found insight or clarity on a problem I was facing. In Sunday school, teachers talked about the “still, small voice in the heart” and it made sense to me. They never said the “still, small voice in the head,” which often for me was a voice of self-doubt.
As I grew older, I adopted views about intelligence that I learned in school: that the ability to learn, understand, reason, and apply knowledge was a function of the brain in the head. It never occurred to me that the intuitive sense or clarity I gained by listening to my heart had anything to do with my physical heart. So when I read about research into “heart intelligence” I was fascinated.
During the 1960s and ’70s physiologists John and Beatrice Lacey conducted research that showed the heart actually communicates with the brain in ways that greatly affect how we perceive and react to the world around us. Today, more than a half century after the Laceys began their research, we know a great deal more about the intelligent heart:
- The heart sends us emotional and intuitive signals to help govern our lives.
- The heart directs and aligns many systems in the body so that they can function in harmony with one another.
- The heart has its own independent complex nervous system known as “the brain in the heart.”
- The heart’s independent brain and nervous system relay information to the brain in the cranium, creating a two-way communication system between heart and brain.
- The heart makes many of its own decisions.
- The heart starts beating in the unborn fetus before the brain has been formed, a process that scientists call autorhythmic.
Human beings form an emotional brain long before a rational one, and a beating heart before either.
Researchers at various institutions began showing in the 1980s and ’90s that success in life depends more on an individual’s ability to effectively manage emotions than on the intellectual ability of the brain in the head. These findings naturally resulted in people wanting to know how to infuse emotions with intelligence.
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