One beats while the other thinks. Two totally different functions, but surely there must be a connection between the brain and heart. Have you ever had your heart hurt so badly that you get a headache or your brain thinks so much that your heart starts to feel numb?
The Heart’s Brain
In 1991, neurocardiologist, Dr. J. Andrew Armour’s research showed that there is a sophisticated and functional nervous system that qualifies as a “little brain” within the heart. That means the heart can learn, remember, feel and sense, independent of the cranial brain.
Most of the time the communication between the heart and brain work great, but it is not always necessary for the two to share information. For instance, when someone receives a heart transplant, the nerve fibers running through the vagus nerve and spinal column do not reconnect for quite a while and sometimes, they never reconnect. However, since the heart has its own intrinsic nervous system, the heart transplant will still be successful. The brain and the heart can act independently, yet together. Obviously, the 40,000 neurons in the heart’s nervous system are quite smart collectively.
The other night, I was sitting at the computer when I heard a HUGE sound of thunder and looked out the window just in time to see a big flash of lightning followed by more thunder. My first thought was to turn off the computer and television. I was in the middle of watching The Notebook and typing a blog post, so I did not really want to stop just for a storm. It was a short lived storm and was soon completely gone with no ill effects to the computer or television.
The storm passed.
My brain understood it.
My heart was happy since it was very involved in the love between the two characters in The Notebook.
The brain and heart were talking to each other without any problem.
The Brain and Heart Walk In The Storm
Sometimes the brain and heart share an experience that totally messes up their communication. I only saw my parents have one argument and that was shortly before they were divorced. I was only eight years old and totally oblivious to any problems between my parents. The three of us were standing in the kitchen one early evening and I suddenly realized that Dad was very angry. He reached for the dishwashing liquid and started squirting it all over Mom. She did not scream or try to reciprocate against him, but just stood there as he dumped the soap on her.
I freaked out.
Seriously, I totally freaked out.
I saw Dad doing something mean to Mom and since I did not understand what was happening, I was very frightened. I was so scared that I started screaming.
Screaming at the top of my lungs.
I could not stop.
My parents had stopped fighting because they realized that I was freaking out. I remember they were both speaking to me because their lips were moving, but I did not hear anything. All I knew was that this loud screaming noise was coming out of me and I had no control of my voice or my shaking body.
As I recall, Mom had to slap my face (not hard) to get my attention and snap me out of the screaming fit. After the screaming stopped, I collapsed in my mother’s arms and sobbed. I had witnessed Dad’s terrible storm of emotions. My young mind did not understand it and since I loved them both, my heart ached.
Shortly thereafter, Dad moved, the house was put up for sale, Mom went to work and I became a latchkey child. Each afternoon, after I got off the bus, I took the silver key that hung around my neck on a pink piece of yarn and babysat myself until Mom got home. Dad had taken most of the furniture, so the house felt very empty. As a matter of fact, the master bedroom was completely empty which really made the whole experience very sad.
During the time when my brain was trying to understand the whole concept of divorce, my heart was aching. No matter how many times my mother would say that everything was going to be alright, the message just did not seem to get to my heart. I missed Mom being home all day and I missed Dad coming home each evening. I longed for the life that “used to be” and was scared of the unknown future that loomed ahead.
It took years for me to understand my parents stormy divorce and even longer for my heart to heal from the pain and loss. The important thing to remember is that I did heal. The storm may have lasted for many years, but eventually the clouds broke and the sun shined brightly again.
No Brain or Heart Is Exempt
Everyone has experiences that are not very pleasant as well as those that are extremely joyful. No heart or brain is exempt from learning to cope with the hard times. Life is filled with opportunities for us to experience every sensation known to the human body. No two people have the same set of experiences nor do they react exactly the same as another human being. Each person that walks on this planet is completely unique and that makes our co-existence even more interesting.
Often, people do not have the capacity or desire to understand things that they have not personally experienced. I have found that people have several reactions to other people’s trials and bad experiences. They either:
- ignore it
- make a joke out of it
- act like it is not such a big deal
- have compassion, but no understanding of the problem
- totally comprehend the pain of the situation because they have lived through a similar circumstance
My storms have taught me that it is always best to be compassionate even if I have no understanding of another person’s dilemma. It is the humane thing to do. It is the right thing to do. No heart or brain is exempt from the trials of life. Mom always said that everyone will eventually meet their Waterloo.
Mom was right.
for every problem there is a solution,
and the soul’s indefeasible duty
is to be of good cheer.
~William R. Alger~