August 18, 2019

Saving Ourselves From Ourselves (Part Four): Following Your Heart

“We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.
Lower your shields and surrender your ships.
We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.
Your culture will adapt to serve us.
Resistance is futile.”

rhodesThe “Legal Borg” is responsible for the cognitive brain damage and psychological distress we learned about in the Killing Them Softly series. The Borg also damages another organ we rarely associate with cognition: the human heart.

Stephen Harrod Buhner, author, international lecturer, master herbalist, nutritionist, and all-around out-of-the-box thinker, describes the heart’s role in cognition as follows:

While modern science generally insists that the heart is only a muscular pump, it is also true that there are more than forty thousand sensory neurons in the heart, the same kind of neurons that are found in the brain.

Each individual section of the brain contains thousands to millions of neurons, several billion when all added together. Significantly, certain crucial subcortical centers of the brain contain the same number of neurons as the heart. The heart possesses its own nervous system and, in essence, actually is a specialized brain that processes specific types of information. The heart is tightly interwoven into the neuro-physiology of the brain, interconnected with the amygdala, thalamus, and cortex. These three brain centers are primarily concerned with (1) emotional memories and processing; (2) sensory experience; and (3) problem-solving, reasoning, and learning.

What this means is that our experience of the world is routed first through our heart, which “thinks” about the experience and then sends the data to the brain for further processing. When the heart receives information back from the brain about how to respond, the brain analyzes it and decides whether the actions the brain wants to take are going to be effective. There is a neural dialogue between heart and brain, and in essence the two decide together what to do. While the brain can and does do a great many things with the information it receives, the heart can override it, directing and controlling behavior if it decides to do so.

Over the past twenty years, researchers in an emerging specialty, neurocardiology, have discovered that the heart really is a specialized brain in its own right. It can feel, sense, learn, and remember.

As the heart senses the world outside us, it generates emotions in response to the type of information or the meaning embedded within the information that we are receiving.

Many of the emotional experiences that flow through the heart are stored as memories within the heart, much as memories are stored in the brain. The heart literally learns from the emotional experiences it has and begins to act in certain ways on the basis of what it learns. It begins producing hormones and creating different beating patterns depending on what experiences flow through it and what it decides about those experiences.

Buhner observes that the modern world has lost touch with the heart’s way of learning and decision-making, and concludes by saying, “There is a reason that heart disease is the number one killer of people in the Western world.”

The Borg is wrong: resistance is not futile. We saw last time that some lawyers have escaped assimilation by entering a new law culture outside of the Borg’s influence. We don’t all have to follow their path — there are others — but all paths away from assimilation take courage, allowing our hearts to “override” our brains, “directing and controlling [our] behavior.”

I wish you courage this New Year.

Thanks for reading, and see you next year!

Kevin Rhodes has been a lawyer for nearly 30 years, in firms large and small, and in solo practice. Years ago he left his law practice to start a creative venture, and his reflections on exiting the law practice appeared in an article in the August 2014 issue of The Colorado Lawyer. His free ebook, Life Beyond Reason: A Memoir of Mania, chronicles his misadventures in leaving the law, and the lessons he learned about personal growth and transformation, which are the foundation of much of what he writes about here.

A collection of Kevin’s blog posts, Enlightenment, Apocalypse, and Other States of Mind, is now available as an ebook. Click the book title to sample and download it from the distributor’s webpage. It’s also available on from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Amazon, and Scribd. The collection includes Forewords from Debra Austin, author of the Killing Them Softly law journal article which has been featured here, and from Ron Sandgrund, author of The Colorado Lawyer article mentioned above.

You can email Kevin at

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  1. CARL EIBERGER says:

    what is citation to Killing them Softly article? as a corollary stress of all kinds particularly emotional has a very bad effect onbn thevheart I have both a bad aortic valve and atfib need very risky open heart operation this not for pub just need cite thx 60 yr practicing atty 85 next week thx

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