Subscribers Download Article:  The Unexpected Interdependence of Heart and Mind

The nature of the relationship between our hearts and minds, our passion and our reason, has occupied us for centuries. In the 17th century, the theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet captured the essence of the heart’s wisdom and mystery when he stated, “The heart has reasons which reason does not know”. In the following century, the British philosopher David Hume claimed, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”, and a hundred years later we find Van Gogh entreating his brother to not forget “… that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives, and we obey them without knowing it”. These quotes privilege emotion and passion as our driving force and suggest that our heart, the place of our truest feelings, cannot really be known or understood by our mind—or, were it possible, that it may not even be desirable. Perhaps influenced by Freud’s topographical model where the rampant base appetites and instinctual drives of the id had to be kept in check by the idealistic, guiding, and often harsh superego, and a perhaps somewhat harassed negotiator, the ego, the tide turned from privileging emotion to privileging reason—using our so-called “superior” intellect and our morality to keep our unruly (even dangerous) emotions, passions, and urges under control, in order to become civilised, to be a good and sensible person. Perhaps, however, we all intuitively know and feel that these two most precious organs—the heart and the mind—have some kind of relationship, and perhaps too we sense a battle for dominance, listening to our head or our heart, yet at some other times or contexts, having identified shared goals, our head and heart work in harmony to achieve them. Contemporary physiological and neuroscientific research suggests that the relationship between our rationality and our emotionality—our hearts and our minds—is interdependent, adaptive, and exquisitely complex. Now, intriguingly, it has been established that measures of our heart rate variability are extraordinarily well correlated with our capacity for emotional self-regulation and social engagement, and this fascinating observation is the subject of this article…

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