Last week, whilst discussing classic Christmas films (movies - for those in the U.S. or who aren’t as wrinkly as me) I realised that the Wizard of Oz could tell an alternate story.
This timeless masterpiece was released in 1939 in technicolour. The book having been published in 1900. I was really shocked to discover just how old it was.
You probably know the story, but for anyone that has been denied this cultural education, it's about an orphan girl and her dog who gets swept away to a magical land by a tornado. It follows their quest to get home. Along their journey, they meet a scarecrow who doesn't have a brain, a tin woodman who seeks a heart, and a cowardly lion. Originally, these characters resembled the people that worked on the farm where she lived.
They all set off to ask the Wizard of Oz, seen as the great and powerful, problem solver, for the things that they desire. The scarecrow talks a lot but doesn't always make sense, as he doesn’t have a brain. The tin man can do things, but he has no feelings. The lion fears everything and so wants courage.
This can represent any one of us at any time. We all have times where we feel cowardly. Times we talk too much and don't listen enough. And other times where we perhaps cut off from our emotions.
These three aspects are embodied separately in our three brains.
Did that surprise you? - It’s true! We have three brains. Not one. Our head brain, our heart brain, and our gut brain.
Each of the brains have sensory neurons, motor neurons, ganglia, and neurotransmitters.
They are all able to take in information, process it, store it, and access it when needed.
They differ in their capacity and function, however.
The head brain has 86 billion neurons and is obviously used in cognition and thinking. The function of the heart brain is to feel emotion and to aid emotional reasoning. It has 40 thousand neurons. And the gut brain houses our sense of intuition and allows us to make instinctive decisions and is home to 100 million neurons. The gut is also where 90% of serotonin is produced (one of the main neurochemicals responsible for wellbeing) and where 70% of the immune system resides. Which is why it has quickly earnt its name as the bodies Second Brain.
Recent research has been able to distinguish how much individuals rely on each brain when making decisions. Researchers developed a tool to measure this, The Multiple Brain Preference Questionnaire (MBPQ). And it's been amazing to see that all humans seem to have all three brains, but do not access them all the time.
So, it has been proven that we really can trust our gut, follow our heart, and use our head to make decisions.
Toward the end of the story of the Wizard of Oz. The three characters receive the quality that they were seeking, and Dorothy eventually makes it home safely. This is possible for us too.
If we are a little unskilled in one of the areas, head, heart, or gut. It's possible for us to learn those skills. To learn how to rationally think, to learn how to tune into our emotions and use them intelligently. And learn to listen to and follow our intuition when we choose.
We can all learn to use all three brains so that we feel more at home in our bodies.
If this is something you're interested in, it is something that I talk about a lot in the work that I do with my clients.
You can find out more by joining the Facebook group Beyond the Label.