Let’s have a look at the traditional roles of men and women. They were helpful to us for a time, but today we realize that these ideas no longer suit us because we have evolved. This doesn’t mean that we have to throw everything out and make men and women the same, but as a woman I can ask myself which aspects of being a woman suit me and which ones don’t. Of course, a man can do the same with regard to the male role. Which feminine, which masculine attributes apply to me? The frame of reference for this is not my being female or male, but my soul level.
Perhaps we are at a point in human history where we realize that our constructs no longer fit and we want to evolve as humanity. We are all part of society and we shape society through our individual actions.
On the Dialectic of Heart and Mind
Through our social conditioning we carry different perceptions within us. Ideas about how something should be, how something should function, how something should look. For example: “Men should not cry” or “Women should not be loud”. These perceptions often prevent us from recognizing what is, or more precisely, what we feel right now – without immediately judging, evaluating or classifying it in any way (through the social concepts). It is often difficult for us to recognize what is. It is something we have usually not learned. We don’t have access to it because we haven’t learned to develop sensitivity to it. From early childhood, we have been introduced to social structures and raised in such a way that they are like a second skin to us. Moreover, they are a necessary tool to participate and progress in society. But how do I learn to understand what it is?
By beginning to feel. Being in a community is important for a healthy spiritual life. So there are “socially caused” problems that I can solve by recognizing them. By recognizing that a problem is caused by society and does not correspond to reality, I can understand the feeling associated with it and therefore solve it more easily. However, when I begin to engage in this process, I encounter various difficulties. What am I really feeling? First, it is important to recognize what I am feeling. I can recognize that I am sad or happy. I can sense that I feel hurt by someone. Now I can ask myself where this hurt comes from, if there is a reason why I feel hurt by this person. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. If there is a reason, for example, that this person has wronged me, then one can speak of a real hurt. But there is also the possibility that this person did not contribute to my hurt, and I, or my ego, may be more hurt because the other person did something that made me aware of my own issues. Both of these levels are very important. I think there is a real hurt, but there is also a perceived hurt, which I would best describe as a mortification of the ego. This mortification of the ego can come from either a weakness on the psychological level or from social conditioning. For example, women today who stay at home to care for their children often feel ostracized. This leads to feelings of inferiority. Men who do not conform to the popular “image of masculinity,” and who may be more sensitive than “men should be,” perceive this as a problem. So some “feelings of inferiority” are also caused by society. It is very important to recognize this, because these issues are mainly psychological, and they are mainly dealt with at the psychological level. However, psychologists are not always well informed about social “pathologies”. Anomie is the technical term used in sociology to describe a society whose structures do not sufficiently integrate an individual and can thus drive him or her to suicide. For example, at the end of the 19th century, Émile Durkheim (1983) showed that suicide rates among Catholics were lower than among Protestants because Catholicism was far more socially integrated than Protestantism. We are social beings, so integration is important. It can also be the other way around: I have an idea. If I want to check if it is true and fits me, I can feel inside myself. False thoughts can also trigger false “feelings” and lead us away from our true feelings. For example, I can allow a thought that scares me, for example, that I won’t find a job. If I allow this thought, a “feeling of fear” may arise, but it is not real because there is no real event at the root of the thought.
These examples show that feeling and thinking need each other. Through feeling I come to the present state, and through thinking I can clarify what this feeling is telling me, whether it is a psychological problem on my part or a social problem. Feeling is important because it shows me where I really am. I can think I feel good, but if I don’t feel good, I’m lying to myself. The feeling shows us where we really stand, and only by accepting that feeling can we resolve it and move forward. Following this pattern, you can go through any ema.
The writing of this text was similarly driven by this interaction. I had an impulse to write something down. It felt right. So I started. I wrote something and then I got feedback. I looked inside myself to see how I could combine my sociological knowledge with my individual knowledge in a way that readers could understand. Then I evaluated what felt coherent to me and what didn’t. At the same time, I had to use my mind to find the right words, which I then checked against my feelings. Finally, I judged whether the text as a whole felt coherent.
The Heart’s Higher Insight
During a difficult life experience, a friend once told me a wise saying: “The heart already knows, but the head can’t accept it.” This statement again points to a deeper level of heart power. Beyond social conditioning and limitations, I believe there is a space that the heart occupies at the level of the soul. There is a power at work here that seems to me to carry a higher power of wisdom and insight. The more I live according to my own feelings, thoughts and values, the more pronounced it becomes. It seems to me that there is a level of feeling here that is different from the emotional level.
So after I started to recognize which social aspects fit me and which are false thoughts and false feelings that I have acquired through my primary socialization in my parents’ home or through secondary socialization in society such as school, etc., I increasingly reached this soul level, a separate “brain” with a far more complex processing capacity than the brain itself. This means that the heart also receives and processes information from the environment, but far more than the mind. Neuroscience has referred to the system in the heart as the “brain. Probably because it is closest to the concept of “brain” in their material world. To me it seems more like a complex system, an important decision that’s not based on my feelings, and that was a big lesson for me. The feeling gave me a clear impression of a situation, but my inquiring mind wanted empirical proof this time. I wanted to know what it was like to not be myself. It cost me a lot of time and I will not do it again voluntarily. At the same time, I wanted this experience because it gave me an insight that I could only vaguely explain to myself. It was a struggle between heart and mind. Today I consciously listen to my heart. I use my mind for the operational part when necessary. I have listened to my feelings all my life and have essentially followed a self-determined path, but this has been intensified by the processes I have gone through. Not all social attributes simply disappeared. I have internalized the ones that fit me, although of course this process is never complete. I am now much more aware of my feelings and can recognize their cues for action more quickly.
Neuroscience has now discovered that the heart is far less material than it seems. When I meet with other people, I quickly realize what needs to be done right now, how much I can approach someone, what I can say and what I can’t say. It all depends on the feeling. The feeling is always anchored in the moment. I also recognize situations in which I meet people and have a clear intuition. I can feel if the person is really trustworthy or not. You have to trust that feeling.
For the first time in my life, it did not confuse me. But it taught me even more. That bad decision cost me some time and scars. In general, the preponderance of evidence prevails in society. Everything has to be tested scientifically and empirically. Everything must be proven. When I consider that my own empirical experience caused me so much suffering, but my heart showed me a much faster way, I have to say that we as a society will have a hard time getting out of the current “crisis” if we keep waiting for a study to prove that a certain action produces this or that result. In the end, my heart led me out of this whole dilemma.
After going through these processes, I remembered that the more I feel, the more I can identify with others for who they are as human beings.
Even as a child I had these insights. I felt when someone had hurt me, even when there was no explanation. I saw people’s problems without them explaining them to me. I felt what needed to be done. So I went through life purposefully, avoiding problems by “calculating” my feelings. Of course, this took a lot of work and was not as easy as it sounds now, because clarifying this feeling more and more was a matter of practice and training. The more I delve into my own feelings, the more I can identify with others for who they are as human beings. In the deepest part of our being, in our heart, most people have the same experiences, or so it seems to me. Everyone experiences feelings of happiness, joy, sorrow, sadness, love, etc. How they are expressed, however, varies from person to person, depending on one’s spirituality and personality, as well as one’s cultural and social background. The difference, however, is whether my habitus defines me or my soul and heart.
A personal crisis often causes us to experience an important part of ourselves that we could not or did not want to experience before. If we look at the current social situation, we can see that important aspects of existence have not been experienced and are now waiting to be recognized. In my opinion it is the heart and with it the feeling that is waiting to be lived and integrated in this day and age. We can all contribute to this. The guidance of our heart will take us to a new level.
This article is translated from the German Original by Lynn Taylor, German Version: “Die höhere Einsicht des Herzens”.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1982): The subtle differences. Critique of social judgment. Frankfurt am Main.
Durkheim, Émile (1983): The suicide. Frankfurt am Main.
Elias, Norbert (1976): On the process of civilization. 2 vols. Frankfurt am Main.
Gerhards, Jürgen (1988): Sociology of emotions. Weinheim and Munich.