How To Solve Dilemmas: Using The Body To Take Wise Decisions
Are You Facing An ‘Impossible’ Choice?
Most of us, on occasion, find ourselves faced with a dilemma where all courses of action appear equally bad, or we just can’t figure out how to handle things.
At times like this we generally try to think through the problem carefully, weighing up the logic of each option. Yet we often find ourselves going round in circles. Choosing the right direction seems impossible – we feel utterly stuck.
But what if part of the problem is that ‘logic’ isn’t giving us the full picture? How can we see more clearly?
The Hidden Intelligence Of The Body
If you think your intelligence lies in your brain, you’re certainly not alone – it’s what we’ve been taught for hundreds of years. But recent scientific advances show that human intelligence is a far more complex, nuanced thing.
Take neurons, for example. Commonly recognised as the cells that make up our brains, we now know there are also many neurons elsewhere in the body. There are many in the heart. And there’s an especially large number spread out across the lining of the gut – so many, in fact, that if they were all clustered together they’d be approximately the size of a cat’s brain.
How The Gut Influences The Brain
The information from this ‘second brain’ in the gut is not wasted. The vagus nerve (one of the superhighways of the central nervous system) is dedicated to exchanging information between the brain and the heart, lungs and gut. And for every nerve fibre sending messages from the brain to the body, there are around nine nerve fibres sending messages from the body to the brain. This enables the body to process additional data about a situation and pass it on swiftly to the brain, so we can assess our environment much more completely and accurately.
For example, when we meet someone and our gut responds positively, it relaxes. This passes messages to the brain that this person or situation is non-threatening and can be approached with confidence – we ‘just know’ it’s safe to open up. When our gut responds negatively, it may tense up. That triggers the brain to feel uneasy, and we may find ourselves talking more guardedly, or even considering how to protect ourselves physically.
Accessing The Body’s Wisdom
Because the body is such an infinitely complex system, it produces gloriously detailed information. Most of the time we process this automatically, absorbing it naturally into our understanding of the world. If we notice it at all, we may refer to our ‘gut feel’ about something. But to solve a dilemma, it can help to take a look at the intelligence of the body in a closer, more deliberate way.
Let’s say you have two possible courses of action. Find a quiet space, close your eyes, and imagine carefully taking one of these options. 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. Perhaps you find a fluttering, or a tightness, or a weight somewhere. Maybe there are little pin-pricks, or heat, or spaciousness. Maybe there is numbness, or an urge-to-move. Take your time, and note all the sensations carefully (you may find it helpful to write them down).
Then do the same with the other potential option, 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 new situation, and the bodily sensations it generates. Spend a few minutes really ‘feeling in’ to your internal world.
Using What Your Body Tells You
Once you’ve done this exercise, you can use the information to re-assess your dilemma. Perhaps you realise that your body is clearly more at ease with one scenario. From a situation where logic said that both options were “Equal”, it can become very obvious that one path will feel far more comfortable than the other.
Or you may notice that your body is unsettled with both options, but the physical sensations are quite different in each case – for example with one you feel ‘constrained’ but with the other you feel ‘panicky’. Where logic simply labelled both options as “Bad”, the body shows how they are different, and that can help inform and free up your choices.
Becoming A Wiser Person
This process is not about putting logic aside – it’s simply about accessing extra information. By tapping into the intelligence of the body, you are drawing on a rich and natural source of wisdom in your daily life. And the more you practise, the more fluid and easy it will feel.
Your future choices may not be any simpler, but they will almost certainly be clearer.