Today’s post is a follow up to last weeks post: The H*E*A*R*T* Quiz. Did you take the quiz last week? If not, click here. If you did take the quiz, how did you score? Was your heart in balance with your head? Or was your body in a state of agitation from being bullied by the brain?
Dr. Pearsall discovered 5 key “brain fallacies”, as a result of his testing, which play a crucial role in how individuals view and live in the world. Take a moment to read about the brain, its false viewpoints, and the way your brain may be creating unnecessary stress and suffering for you.
From THE HEART’S CODE by Paul Pearsall, copyright 1998 by Paul Pearsall. Used by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc. For information about other Random House, Inc. books and authors, see the Internet Web Site athttp://www.randomhouse.com
Five Brain Fallacies. In my interviews with patients who took the H*E*A*R*T*, I detected five “brain fallacies” that elevated their score and reflected the selfish, controlling, reactive nature of a brain left free of the heart’s moderation. The higher the score on the H*E*A*R*T*, the more the brain/body lethal covenant is intact and the less the heart’s energy is available to cool a hot-headed brain busy beating up on its own body.
Brain Fallacy One: The Outside World is Working Against Us. The high H*E*A*R*T* scorers (above 21 points) held what psychologist Albert Bandura refers to as “a belief in pure environmental determinism.” *15 The brain sees the world as a problem to be dealt with, and the high scorers were misled by their brain into believing that all human behavior is a function of environmental stimuli and that we are victims of a very cruel often unfair world. The brain is always ready to do battle with that world and protect whatever turf it can for as long as it can.
The brain has a ready answer for what Albert Einstein considered to be the most important question of all: “Is the universe a friendly or unfriendly place?” The brain is certain the universe is unfriendly and must be wrestled with in order to survive. Because of this deterministic orientation, the brain keeps telling us that we must be constantly ready to do our best against the cosmic odds stacked against us. In the ultimate mental paradox, the brain often abuses and exploits its own heart to the point that kills itself by trying so hard to save its own life. In a form of cerebral-coronary suicide pact in which the heart is an innocent bystander, the brain becomes its own executioner.
Psychologist B.F. Skinner summarized this environmental determinism concept and absence of energetic connection and participation in the world when he wrote, “A person does not act upon the world, the world acts upon him.”*16 The implication drawn by the brain is that one can control one’s own life only by a complete, constant, and every-vigilant attempt to regulate the outside world as much as possible. The result is a constantly agitated heart overburdened by a demanding brain that is starved for nutrients that enable its defensive workaholism.
The way of the heart is much less environmentally deterministic than the brain and is based on a view of the universe as essentially a friendly place. The heart speaks in the language summarized by the author Elizabeth Rivers: “When something doesn’t go my way, I let go of the idea of how it should be, trusting that my mind (brain) doesn’t know the larger picture.”
Brain Fallacy Two: Victimization. The brain has a tendency toward chronic blaming. Since it consider itself to be “us” and to be the most brilliant of all of our organs, it quickly cries “foul” when things don’t seem to go its way. When the expected promotion at work, credit for an achievement, reward for a loving act, convenient parking place, or compliance by others with its expectations and need for control do not seem immediately and rapidly forthcoming, it perceives injustice. “Unfair, why you, why not me, and how could you” are its immediate responses.*17
The heart considers itself a part of a three-part Mind, made up of brain, body, and heart, and it is ready to join with the rational power of the brain and the extraordinary senses of the body to make its soothing contribution to our daily living. While the brain uses its rational brilliance to seek reasons, the heart’s wisdom teaches that the three-part Mind it is a part of can never get “its” way, only go with The Way.
Brain Fallacy Three: Hard Work Always Pays Off. Even though the brain sees the universe as a powerful and unfriendly place with which it must struggle to maintain some semblance of control in order to avoid being its victim, it is convinced it can get its piece of the pie by outworking other brains. It thinks that, with enough effort, clever maneuvering to take advantage of others, and sacrifice of those aspects of life the heart so longs for, it can keep itself alive. Many self-help books are written in the brain’s code. They contain instructions for being all you can be, avoiding the errors of dysfunctionality, doing all you can do, and winning–no matter that every victory requires another person’s loss.
A “self-help” book written in the heart’s code would be more of an “us help” book and would provide four essential health warnings: Don’t abuse your heart by allowing your brain to physically harm it by exposing it to constant stress and straining toward self-fulfillment. Don’t exploit your heart by allowing your brain to misappropriate its miraculous energy for selfish purposes. Don’t deprive your heart by allowing your brain’s innate selfishness to distance your from the hearts of others. Finally, don’t neglect your heart by allowing your brain to be so busily and reactively consumed with trying to stay alive that it forgets to allow time for your heart to proactively reflect on what purposes you chose for your living.
Many so-called self-help books offer individual strategies for escaping denial, freeing and expressing the self, and progressing into perpetual state of recovery. Heart-coded “us help” books would be more likely to teach that you should always try to be at least a little less than you can be, try to collaborate more than compete, and pay more attention to our loving cellular memories stored within you in the form of a mature inner elder than you do to finding and indulging the often socially immature and narcissistic brain, that whining “inner child.” Heart-coded books would be more likely to emphasize that, no matter how positive your attitude and how hard your brain makes you work, there are some things you can never achieve. Moreover, most achievements require you to have intimate and mutually dependent connections with others. Heart-coded books are more likely to ask readers to consider entirely new ways of understanding their own responsibility, limitations, and emotional impacts on others than to offer a new technique for more self-actualization. Books written from the perspective of the heart’s code would be more likely to be in the tradition Franz Kafka’s description of a book as “an axe for the frozen sea within us,” while brain-coded books may be more likely to teach us how to spiritually ice skate.”*18
The heart knows success cannot be pursued but us ensue as a result of a more gentle, blanche, caring, connected, and loving orientation to the world. The heart knows that there are many environmental factors that are intransigent and beyond anyone’s control. It knows that some life obstacles are put there because they cannot be overcome and because they can teach us to stop trying and start being.
Brain Fallacy Four: I Can Change People. The brain tends to consider itself a very powerful and clever controller of other brains and very “self effective.”*19 It thinks it can be smart enough to get other people to change, to move in the directions it desires. When they do not, or their cardiotempermant comes through even though they have altered some behaviors, the brain becomes angry, impatient, and even urges the body to aggressive acts. The heart is wise enough to know that its brain cannot change other brains, but it also knows that, if it will listen, its brain can learn to think about other people in a more tolerant, gentle, accepting manner. The heart knows “you can’t really change people, but you can change how you think about people.”
The heart tends to think more in a manner social psychologists call “reciprocal determinism.”*20 Psychologist Albert Bandura writes that people possess self-directive capabilities that enable them to exercise some control over their thoughts, feelings, and actions by the consciousness they produce for themselves. That consciousness can either be a brain-driven thinking about life or a brain/heart/body Mind’s chorus of gentle connection with life. It is difficult to change a brain, but when we tune in to our heart, we change our Mind by introducing more balanced “L” energy into the brain/body covenant.
Brain Fallacy Five: Frustration Means Aggression. For the impatient brain, frustration of its objectives quickly leads to anger. Psychologists call this the “frustration-aggression” hypothesis. Research now shows, however, that it is not so much that thoughts of frustration lead directly to aggressive acts but the at frustration provokes feelings of anger and hostility and challenges to self (read “brain”) control. These unpleasant feelings in turn lead to aggression aimed at whomever and whatever is nearby. Thus, the brine’s frustration turns to an anger that ignites belligerence. *21 The brain may have become frustrated at work and become angry later at home, causing disruption in the family system. This is due to the brain’s displaced frustration.
Have a Heart. Imagine that two jumbo 747 jet airplanes full of passengers crashed every day with no survivors. That’s the number of people who die of heart disease daily in the United States. We hear much about the major risk factors for developing heart disease, including high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure, yet about half of those who suffer their first heart attack have none of these common risk factors, more than eight out of ten people with three of these risk factors never suffer a heart attack, and most people who do have heart attacks do not have most of the risk factors. *22 There seems to be something else at work when it comes to heart disease, perhaps the fact that the brain constantly seems to be abusing it.
By using the results of the H*E*A*R*T*, you can begin to recognize the nature of the energy of your heart and help your brain learn to sense its distress and pain. Research shows that the number of years of education a person has is a more important factor in determining risk of heart disease than all other risk factors combined. *23 While educated people are more likely to read and understand written health warnings, they also ten to be more aware of what is going on around them and how social forces act to affect their life. The type of education I am calling for in this chapter is learning to read the subtle energetic warnings from your heart that it feels hurt when it is left out of brain/body dialogue or is stressed beyond its limits by its demanding brain. By learning to tap into your heart’s code, you may be able to prolong not only your own life but the lives of those you love. Perhaps the most important health warning of all is to “have a heart.”
15. A. Bandura, Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social-Cognitive Theory (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1986).
16. B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Bantam Books, 1971) p. 211.
17. H. Tennen and G. Affleck, “Blaming Other for Theratenting Events,” Psychological Bulletin Vol.108 (1990): pp. 209-232
18. F. Kafka, The Trial (New York: Shocken Books, 1974), pp. 213-215. This reference and a discussion of the comparison between the often less spiritually and intellectually demanding writings of “self-help” books and the more substantial challenging work are presented in a wonderfully insightful book by Wend Kaminer, I’m Dysfunctional – You’re Dysfunctional (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1992).
19. E. M. Ozer and A. Bandura, “Mechanisms Governing Empowerment Effects: A Self-Efficacy Analysis,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol.58 (1990): pp. 472-486
20. A. Bandura, Social Foundations of Thought and Action.
21. L. Berkowitz, “Frustration –Aggression Hypothesis: Examination and Reformation,” Psychological Bulletin Vol. 106 (1989): pp. 59-73
22. For a discussion of the omits of the usual risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, in prediction who will develop heart disases, see S. L. Syme, “Social Support and Risk Reduction,” Mobius Vol. 4 (1984): pp. 44-54.
23. R. Mulcachy, L. Daley, I. Graham, and N. Hickey, “Level of Education Coronary Risk Factors, and Cardiovascular Disease,” Irish Medical Journal Vol. 77 (1984): pp. 316-318.