Have you ever felt torn when trying to make a romantic decision, as though there is a battle going on between your head and your heart? “Should I stay or should I go?” “Is it him/her or is it me?” “Is it my imagination or was that intentionally mean?” And have you ever made a decision and then found yourself right back where you started and wondering how you got there? A good example of that is when you make a firm decision to end a relationship, but then you speak on the phone or meet serendipitously, and suddenly you are back into the relationship full throttle. And have you ever felt you were experiencing cognitive dissonance about your relationship? As though your intuition is telling you that something is “off” but you can’t really be sure and maybe it’s your imagination or maybe you’re making too much of it, so you stay stuck in a neutral position? This is how you know that what your head and your heart want are at odds.

According to Rollin McCraty, Raymond Trevor Bradley, and Dana Tomasino of HeartMath Institute: “Research in neurocardiology shows that the heart is a sensory organ and a sophisticated center for receiving and processing information. The nervous system within the heart (or “heart brain”) enables it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independent of the brain’s cerebral cortex.” That is pretty damn cool! The heart can learn, remember, and make decisions completely independent of the brain! But how do you know which of them is “speaking” to you – your head or your heart? How do you know which decision is from the heart and which is from the brain? Let me share a personal experience.

I was in a relationship for quite a few years that was consistently off and on;  instability was about the only stable aspect of that relationship – that, and the fact that he was a good listener and we could talk for hours and hours and remain interested in each other. This is not something I’ve experienced often and it was a hard thing to give up. On the other hand, he was also highly critical and judgmental and found it impossible not to tell me all of the ways in which he felt I was ‘wrong.” He would also give me the silent treatment, act indifferently, and sometimes suddenly decide to end the relationship. Eventually I realized that something was seriously wrong with this guy, but I was addicted to those times when he was wonderful and communicative, and I found it impossible to walk away and stay away. One part of me wanted to figure out how to make the relationship work and another part of me wanted to end it for good and move on – but I just couldn’t make a final decision and stick with it!

Then one day, after the umpteenth sudden breakup, I read a meme that said, “Whenever the head and the heart fight, it’s always the liver that suffers.” I’m pretty sure it’s a joke meme implying that when your head and heart ‘fight’ it makes you wanna drink, but science has found that stress does, in fact, negatively affect the liver – and indecision causes stress. Well, something about this meme caused a light bulb to go off in my head; I suddenly realized that my indecision and inability to stick to one decision was because my head and my heart were not on the same page. It was also quite clear to me that my head was addicted to our awesome conversations, so my head kept rationalizing his bad behavior and telling me that maybe I was the one who needed to change – while my heart knew this relationship was bad for me and wanted out!

Wow! I was blown away at my newfound clarity and I felt a deep connection and love for my heart and for myself. I realized that I had to use this latest breakup to finally do what I’d been unwilling to do in the past – shut down his access to me. So I blocked his number on my phone – something I had never done before. And immediately, I felt as though a weight had been lifted off my chest and my heart simply expanded. Unbelievable! I knew that this was the right decision and I also knew I would never go back. How could I and remain true to my heart? I also finally understood what it feels like to “lead from the heart”; It feels freeing and right

So how can you know which is which when your heart and your head are in conflict? First, the heart won’t rationalize – that’s the job of the brain. If you find yourself rationalizing someone’s behavior or making excuses for it, that’s your brain talking. Your heart knows what is best for you and will not waste time rationalizing or weighing the “pros and cons”.

Another brain tactic is fear. If your decision has a fear base such as, “If I leave, I might not ever fall in love again” or “If I don’t find someone else, I may end up all alone” or my own thought, “If I leave, I might never find someone that I can really talk to!” These are fear based thoughts and this is not where your heart will lead you. Your heart is all about LOVE and most of all, your heart loves YOU. It knows what is best for you and will guide you there. Stop second guessing yourself and TRUST it. And the next time someone says, “Listen to your heart” – take it literally! <3

How do you know when it’s your heart or your head that is speaking? If you’ve got some tips please to share, please comment so we can all learn from your experience!