Monday, December 14, 2015
Morals and Gut Instincts: How Our Awareness of Gut Feelings and Intuition May Protect Us From Immoral Behaviors
A recent study (in Nov. 24, 2015) was conducted by doctoral student Sarah J. Ward, in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri, to determine if people who are prone to trust their instinctive hunches and gut feelings, may at times be less likely to commit immoral acts compared to those who tend to discount their intuition. Ward, along with co-author Curators' Professor Laura A. King of Psychological Sciences at UM, tested 100 people (75% were female) and the results indicated that those who listen to their gut instincts are more likely to be truthful and are less likely to cheat on an IQ test. It also showed that those who do not rely on their gut feelings are likely to cheat and feel guilt and shame afterwards. While the researchers must have understood the reasons for this condition intuitively, we did not find that Ward offered a clear explanation of why exactly our awareness of gut feelings protects us from immoral behaviors. Therefore, we would like to do a bit of speculation on why those who listen to their gut feelings tend to be more moral and we base our ideas on our own research on gut feelings and decision-making with hundreds of people in counseling.
First of all, remember that the gut holds the feeling gauge of emptiness and fullness and it reflects our two instinctual needs, acceptance (social need) and control (need for freedom). Therefore, if we are following our gut feelings, we are likely to do what is best for maintaining a balance of these two needs. Awareness of the gut feelings of emptiness and fullness concerning these two instinctual needs is self-regulatory. If we are aware of our gut feelings, then we might feel empty to cheat or to blame a coworker for our mistakes, for instance, because we would lose a feeling of connection and acceptance from that particular co-worker (even if it appeared to us that by lying we might save face and protect our reputation and relationship with others who thought previously that we were honest). Also, and perhaps even much more importantly, lying and cheating requires us to pretend to others that we are not lying and cheating, and this is a loss of the freedom to be ourselves in a natural way, which induces a feeling of loss of control of our own responses to life and results in a feeling of emptiness in the gut. Another way of saying this is that telling and living a lie impacts the instincts and generates stress. Most all of us have experienced this at one time or another and we know how stressful and uncomfortable it is to live a lie. Any time we must put on a “face” and hide our own responses to life, we lose our freedom and we must perform and filter our words and behaviors rather than respond naturally and authentically. For the person who is accustom to following their gut feelings, this stress is understood as not a positive way of being and it feels better to go ahead and admit failure than to experience the loss of the freedom to be authentic. We also have pointed out how following our gut instincts and satisfying our inner needs on a gut level will open the heart chakra and the feeling of compassion and caring for others. We have found over and over in our clinical findings (see our book What's Behind Your Belly Button?), that following one’s gut feelings is a path of self-regulation and also of caring for ourselves and for others as well.
This is a highly important piece of research that Ward has performed because people need to understand that the gut is a reliable center of reference as a guide in our lives and that our human nature is a caring one of others. This study shows that leaving out the awareness of the gut response in decision-making and relying solely on our thinking brain is not the best moral path many people have for so long thought it to be. It would be valuable to continue Ward's research and explore the affects of the use of the Somatic Reflection Process on gut feeling awareness to find how it improves moral behavior. The importance of this research says a lot to one's choice of parenting styles and goals, in that following Ward's research calls to parents to do well to nurture the child's awareness of their instincts and gut feelings as a guide to developing morality rather than imposing rules, external thinking, and even religious standards upon the child for a moral compass.
For a complete protocol of the Somatic Reflection Process and verbatim counseling sessions using it to explore gut feelings and unite body-mind, we refer you to our book What's Behind Your Belly Button?.
We have certainly found in our work with people exploring gut feelings, that there is a direct correlation between gut feeling awareness and “caring” for self and others. In fact, it is the 12th and final Key to Understand Your Gut Instincts and Overcome Emotional Stress in Increasing Intuitional Intelligence: How theAwareness of Instinctual Gut Feelings Fosters Human Learning, Intuition, andLongevity:
“12. Reflection on the gut voice helps us to be more mindful of our caring nature and thus be more caring of 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 that are our path to our most reliable and authentic self—our gut instinctual feelings in our body.” (Page 41)
You may be now asking yourself, “If consciousness of our gut feelings is proving to increase our ability to care for self and others and act more moral in relationship to others, then why are we not educating our gut intelligence?” Here is a beginning look at that important question, an excerpt taken from our most recent book Increasing Intutitional Intelligence, pages 46-49.
It became clear to us that prior to our counseling clinical work with gut feelings, the conscious use of this gut intelligence was never before cultivated in Human society. By this we mean that there has never been a culture in history based on uniting both the thinking and gut brain intelligence. We began this book by discussing the importance of instincts in the learning process and many other aspects of Human growth and development starting with conception. Yet, as we get into the subject of instincts, we find that we face the question; “Why aren’t we encouraging the use of the instincts beyond birth—especially in the learning process in the early years of life, when learning is at its peak?”
Our answer suggests that at some time quite recently in Human history (and to this day), it has been decided that in order to find dependable ‘good’ behavior in Human Nature, it is necessary to control Human Natures’ “evil” behavior by inventing external forces to keep it in check. So we find that we are surrounded by arbitrary civil laws and religious laws, which insist that natural law be distorted to conform to a set of ethical and moral standards. Kind of dumb is it not? How does anyone change natural laws? Does anyone who can think clearly as we look at the results of this concoction believe that this scheme is working? Fortunately, modern science has now come to the rescue furnishing convincing evidence that Human Nature has the intelligence to control its self.
To begin to deal with Human learning as a process of animal need for the Human individual is to change our cultural focus of attention from the plethora of external Human achievements to the inner world of Human necessity. We think this change involves our Human feelings and it will lead us in finding through some serious self-reflection elements of emptiness that we have ignored—overwhelmed by the externally focused senses. Many people today feel that something is wrong with our inner satisfaction with life but few have any notion of what to do about it or where to look for a solution.
To include the ancient animal intelligence—a powerful natural inner intelligence with which the Human animal is born—with the essential instincts is presently sure to be a disturbing subject for many people who have marginalized the importance of their instincts. Such a change is necessary, however, to free those “devilish” instincts, which have now been discovered by both clinical and neurological research to be essential to accurate Human learning needs, and which we as a species are presently denying. The results of these efforts of both experience and research now demand a new and more accurate functional image (way of viewing) of our homo sapient nature.
In order to produce a more healthy and accurate understanding of the animal mind and body intelligence, thinking and feeling together—the intuition—requires experience with these basic tools for healthy and accurate problem solving (learning) for the newborn, older children, and adults as they mature.
From the amalgam of modern science now available, intuition, and personal experience, we conclude that most cultures have never consciously integrated the two brains with their nervous systems. Therefore, we as educators are not effectively using this Second Brain—the animal brain. “We are not effectively applying and consciously using the brains we were born with!” And many cultures are still denying the obvious fact that Humans are members of the animal kingdom.
Until the latter part of the 20th Century, there was little interest from our modern world (so focused on logic and the head brain) in the digestive system as a center of functional intelligence—intelligence that could play a dominate role in the learning process and the well-being of Humans as members of the animal kingdom. The notion of the importance of the gut as a center of intelligence was left years ago prior to our modern cultures. Any attempt to revive the gut’s place of importance has been rejected until recently. What is suspected is that the gut—the ancient animal brain with its enteric nervous system (ENS)—and perhaps the whole body has somehow been mistakenly viewed as the disruptive force that interferes with the management of Human behavior.”
The above is an excerpt taken from Increasing Intutitional Intelligence pages 46-49.
To read more on educating the gut brain and increasing our Intuitional Intelligence, click on the following links to our books to go to Amazon:
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