Facing a dilemma? How to use the body to make wise decisions
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sarah Hamilton, PGDip (Psych), MBACP (Accred)
15th May, 20180 Comments
Facing an ‘impossible’ choice?
Most of us, from time to time, find ourselves faced with a decision where all courses of action look equally flawed, or the whole situation is so complex that we just can’t figure it out.
At times like we usually try to think things through carefully, weighing up the logic of each option. Often we end up going round in circles, never reaching a clear conclusion. But what if ‘logic’ is only giving us part of the picture?
The hidden intelligence of the body
For decades we’ve been taught that our intelligence lies in the brain. But recent scientific advances are now showing that human intelligence is a more complex, nuanced thing.
For example, neurons are commonly recognised as the cells that make up our brains, but we now know there are also many neurons elsewhere in the body. There’s a particularly huge number in the lining of the gut, as part of the enteric nervous system – so many, in fact, that they are often referred to by scientists as the ‘second brain’.
How ‘gut feeling’ influences the brain
The body makes sure the information from these extra neurons is not wasted. There are a vast number of channels in the central nervous system dedicated to sending messages from the body to the brain.
When our gut responds positively to something or someone, it is relaxed. It tells the brain that this person or situation is non-threatening and can be approached with ease.
When our gut responds negatively, however, sensations such as butterflies, or churning, or tightness in the stomach are common. These trigger the brain to feel anxious, and start looking around for a source of threat.
Making the most of what your body tells you
When we face a dilemma, it can help to combine the information from both the body AND the brain.
Say, for example, you have two possible courses of action. Imagine first taking one of these. Think in detail what the outcome would look like – what is the new situation you’d find yourself in? Now check out what that feels like in your body. Notice the sensations carefully.
Then do the same with the other possible course of action, imagining in detail the results of following it through, and where it would lead you. Again, check how it feels to be imagining yourself in that situation, and the bodily sensations it generates.
You may notice that your body is hugely more at ease with one scenario than the other. Suddenly a decision that logic alone couldn’t solve can become very clear.
Or you may notice that your body is unsettled with both options, but the physical sensations are different in each case – for example one way you feel ‘constrained’ but the other way you feel ‘panicky’. Adding this information into the mix can shed important new light on whatever you’re facing.
Becoming a wiser person
This process can feel a little strange at first. But the more you remember to tap into the intelligence of the body, the more you’ll be able to use it with fluidity and ease. And you can start drawing on a rich, deep and natural source of wisdom in your daily life.
Your future choices may not be simpler, but they will almost certainly be clearer. Should you need extra support, contact a counsellor who can help.
About the author
Sarah Hamilton is an experienced counsellor and psychotherapist, fully accredited with the BACP. Having previously worked in the charitable sector and the NHS, she now runs a private clinic in Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire (www.haycounselling.co.uk). She works with both adults and teens, and has particular interests in trauma and mindfulness.
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