Healing from the Brain or the Heart?
This is a transcript of podcast EP008. If you like, you may listen here. (I get small commissions for purchases made through the Amazon affiliate links on this post.)
In this episode of Self Powered Healing, I'm going to take you on a journey exploring the connection between the ego and the self, the brain and the heart, and Western medicine versus more traditional medicine practices. In Episode Two, I talked about resistance to healing. It was a subject I couldn't talk about - resistance - without Steven Pressfield’s book, “The War of Art“, because that book could have been subtitled resistance.
In “The War of Art,” Pressfield talked about Carl Jung’s theory of the Psyche consisting of the ego and the Self. The Ego is the part of ourselves we think of when we use that word “I.” It's our brain, our intelligence. It’s a part of us that runs our life on a day to day basis. The Self on the other hand, is the greater entity. It includes the Ego, but it also includes the personal and collective unconscious. It can be considered the sphere of the soul. Pressfield took Jung's theory a bit further, and defined the beliefs of the ego and the self. I'll get to those beliefs in just a minute.
At the same time that I was working on episode two, I was also reading Dr. Paul Pearsall's book, “The Heart’s Code.” I talked about his work in Episode Five - “The Heart’s Role in Healing.” Dr. Pearsall held a PhD in clinical and educational psychology and worked as a clinical neuropsychologist. He worked extensively with heart transplant recipients. Piersol talked in depth comparing the brain and the heart.
I began to see that the two comparisons Pressfield’s Ego and Self and Pearsall's brain versus heart had some similarities. And in fact, the ego could be equated to the brain and the self could be equated to the heart. When I made that connection, it was quite an epiphany for me. And I found it fascinating, especially when Dr. Pearsall outlined the differences in the healing approaches of the two.
The Ego Vs The Self
Let's look next at Pressfield’s ideas on the ego and the self. In “The War of Art,” he talks about the Ego and the Self at length. He talks about the Self being the greater entity, and including the Ego. But it's more than that. And it's also our dreams and our intuition. And he said that it was the sphere of the soul, whereas the Ego is the conscious intelligence, our everyday brain - the ego, it thinks and plans and runs a show of our everyday life. So we need it, but it needs the balance provided by the Self.
Here are the five beliefs that Pressfield outlined in his book.
- The Ego believes that death is real, and we are just our physical body.
- The Self, on the other hand, believes that death is an illusion, that the soul endures and evolves through infinite manifestations.
- The Ego sees time and space is being real.
- But the Self believes that time and space are really just illusions that operate only in the physical sphere.
- To the ego, every individual is different and separate from every other individual.
- For the self, all beings are one. If I hurt you, I also hurt myself.
- The predominant impulse of life, according to the Ego, is self preservation.
- While the Self considers the supreme emotion to be love.
- The Ego says there is no God.
- And the Self believes that God is all there is. And everything that is, is God in one form or another.
Now let's look at Pearsall's work. And before I tell you about his comparison to the brain versus the heart in relation to healing, I have to warn you, his observations are very generalized. I think there are healers who are close to being 100% brain. But there are plenty of healers that have a good mix of brain and heart. My heart surgeon was one that fit that category.
Healing - Brain Vs Heart
The intent of this section in “The Heart’s Code” was to apply what is known, so far, about the energy of the heart and cellular memories to cardio-energetic model of here. He posed a series of 10 questions and then answered them from the point of view of the heart and from the brain. The answers from the hearts point of view suggest a different focus than that of Western brain-centric biomedicine. Let's look at those questions and answers.
What is healing?
- To the brain healing is a biomechanical manipulation of the body systems to fix correct, restore the mechanical system to its normal function.
- For the HEART healing is making whole, reconnecting, recovering molecular memories that promote healing. It's also being alert to risks to well being due to being out of balance.
Why do we heal?
- For the brain, we heal to be able to keep going, do more, have more, live longer, get the most out of our individual life.
- For the heart, we heal to be whole with the systems around us.
Who needs healing?
- The brain believes that the sick and the broken and those that are not healthy and normal, according to bio science, are the ones that need healing. It's very much a reactive thought process.
- The heart, on the other hand, says that everyone and everything everywhere needs healing all the time. So it's more of a proactive preventive view of healing.
How do we heal?
- The credo of brain-oriented healing is, “Don't just sit there, do something.”
- While the credo of the heart is “Don't just do something, sit there.”
Take the example of the common cold:
If you have a cold, you might go to the store, buy some over the counter medications, take those and continue with your regular routine. And your cold is probably going to last about 14 days.
If you take the heart’s approach, though, you'll take some rest, Take it easy for a while, And your cold is going to last two weeks. The same amount of time. But by taking it easy and resting, you may become aware of the excessive stress in your life and its role in lowering your immunity in the first place.
Where do we heal?
- Pearsall's model for the brain side of it goes into this long description of what he calls temples where healing takes place. But he defines them as modern technically advanced, airtight buildings staffed with high paid healers.
- The heart, on the other hand, feels that we heal by finding an energy-friendly place where we can connect with nature and natural aspects of our life.
By whom are we healed?
- Well, of course the brain says we're healed by those high paid healers.
- And the heart says we're not healed by but with. We're healed with the healing presence of other hearts. In fact, Dr. Piersol says in his book, “Cardio-energetics suggests that we check the heart and not just the diplomas of our physician and pick one that our heart tells us has a good heart and gives off good healing energy.”
When do we know we are healed?
- The brain says we are healed when the numbers from the machines tell us that we're back within normal limits. And when we're able to return to the frenzied, hectic life that caused us to need healing in the first place.
- The heart says we know we are healed when we feel whole, when others say they feel more connected with us, and when we feel in our heart that we are re-enchanted, reconnected energetically with the world around us.
How does healing happen?
- To the brain healing happens once the broken mechanical part is repaired and we return to normal function.
- The heart says healing happens when we feel a loving energy flowing freely within us again.
What happens after we heal?
- For the brain we go back to our daily lives, possibly back to the same behaviors that caused our sickness and brokenness in the first place.
- And for the heart, there is no after healing because healing is as much a part of life as sicknesses. And as health is.
What makes a healer?
- For the brain, it's just someone who has studied and devoted much of their life to learning all there is to know about how the body systems works. The healer is objective, emotionally distant, mechanistic, skeptical and unbelieving, of anything that cannot be seen or touched.
- For the heart, all of us are healers. But some of us are more healing because we've been transformed by our own serious illness.
Brain or Heart?
So from reading "The Heart's Code," it becomes clear that Pearsall believes that Western medicine is very much a brain-driven, reactive healing model. And to an extent I believe it's true. Although there are many heart centered medical professionals, and many medical professionals are beginning to understand the concept of looking at mind, body and spirit instead of a body mechanics approach.
Compare that to the gentler, more proactive approach to healing of the heart. And if you look at older and more traditional healing models, they seem to be more heart driven and proactive as well.
We need that brain. We need the ego. That's what keeps us going day to day, to give us the things that we need to keep our family and ourselves healthy and safe. But it needs balancing from the heart.
We also need Western medicine. If you have an acute illness or injury, or you need that life saving surgery, you definitely need all the brains associated with Western medicine. But it also needs balance.
We need doctors with hearts, not just brains. And sometimes our healing comes not so much from the Western medicine, but from more heart centered activity that leads us to a more balanced life. Just like Pearsall suggested about taking time off to rest when you have a cold.
What if we took it one step further?
Dr. Pearsall's model suggests that it's about more than healing an individual, about healing you or me. I'm wondering if it might be a key to starting to heal our world. Because we all know that as a species, the human race, good use of healing. And it starts what the individual because you have to love yourself before you can ever really love anyone else.
That's a good place to start.