Do You Have A Second Brain?

Recently, on, a woman reviewed my "animal" mystery: Hot Blooded Murder. In it, she called my amateur sleuth, Bryn Wiley, "mentally deranged" because Bryn frequently consults with what she calls her "Second Brain" or, in everyday parlance, her gut instinct.

When I'd made up my mind several years ago to try and write a mystery—just to see if I could pull it off—I wanted a female sleuth who was different from other sleuths. Most are intrepid. Take Kinsey Milhone, Sue Grafton's sleuth. Kinsey treads where others fear to go. My protagonist, Bryn, fears to go and yet, despite her overwhelming fear, she treads. And she relies heavily upon her gut instinct. Kinsey, not so much. (Nevertheless, Kinsey always manages to catch the villain.)

Growing up, I often had gut instincts, feelings that warned me that a pending situation was dangerous. But my family, my friends, my teachers, everyone, all poo-poo'ed my gut instincts, warning that to heed an emotional alert was silly—you can't trust a mere gut feeling. After all, the only decisions that were reliable were ones made from cold, hard, reasoning: from the First Brain. The big one up in our heads. (But not the biggest Homo brain. But I guess you know Neanderthals had bigger brains than we Homo Sapien's do.*) Time passed, and over and over, I noticed that the warnings and even the  positive guidance I got from my gut always worked out to be true. Often, I'd over-ride my initial gut feeling, like I'd had it pounded into me. Yet, the decisions made by my cold hard reasoning frequently led to catastrophe. (Like two disastrous marriages.) Sometimes, however, timidly, and not saying a word to anyone (fear of ridicule) I'd barge ahead and follow my gut instinct. When I did, things worked out well. When I didn't...So more and more daringly, I followed my gut. When a disaster did hit, I'd check and sure enough my gut had warned me, but I'd denied it.

Then one day Oprah interviewed a man who'd written a book about this very thing. It was Gavin de Becker and his book was The Gift of Fear. I perked right up and paid close attention. (Later I bought the book.) He confirmed that the ONLY reliable information we humans get when danger threatens is that split-second knowing that emanates from our gut. We need never over-ride it with clumsy, slow, deductive reasoning. (By the time we wait for that, the evil deed is already in progress: you're held down and you're being raped.) But this is not easy to do because you're going against a powerful societal belief that only logic is dependable. You see it often in detective shows. One detective in the cop shop has a "hunch." He wants to follow this hunch. But all the other policemen sneer at him. They'll use deductive reasoning. Serial killings mount. Many logical leads are pursued. Yet our detective covertly follows his hunch, and voila—he catches the killer. So thanks to Mr. de Becker. He set me free from decades of misinformation. From now on, I'd trust the warnings from my gut, even though this went against the pervading cultural belief.

But what about my sleuth, Bryn Wiley? Well Bryn is smarter than me: she trusted her gut all along. And the guidance she gets is so intelligent she began to call her gut instinct her "Second Brain." The brain the reviewer criticized so vehemently: I think she's still brainwashed by the societal belief. But the negative criticism from this reviewer bothered me. Momentarily, I distrusted my feelings. Then I came across an article that said humans have actual brain cells in their abdomens. So I Googled: Do we have intelligent cells in our guts? And to my amazement, there were many posts about....tah dah...our "Second Brains!" Science now was calling gut instinct Second Brain. Apparently, zillions of nerve cells "are part of a vast interconnected network found in the muscle walls of the gut." (Thanks to Google for the quote.) I was thrilled! I'd called our gut instincts "Second Brain" not knowing that science was backing me up!

Are we always warned of danger by our Second Brains? Apparently, yes. I questioned this. I had trouble believing it, right up until the writing of this blog. My first husband I'd known as a little freckled kid since Grade 9.  Then he dropped out of my life and reappeared years later as a tall, dark and not-quite-handsome man. He came on strong. I was flattered. He took me out to nightclubs, fine restaurants, we danced and dined for a whole year. Then he proposed. I knew I wasn't madly in love. More, in like. But it seemed like the most logical step for me to take at that point in my life. So, following logic, I said yes. Then my sister Jane took me aside she and said, with a piercing gaze, "Do not marry this man, Jackie. He is very bad news. You'll regret it if you do." Well, I thought she was nuts and I married him. The minute I said, "I do," he changed. At our wedding he danced with me once (because he had to, you know, the First Dance.) I was a wallflower at my own wedding. It got much worse. Immediately, I was cut off from my family and my friends, not even permitted to phone them. I wasn't allowed to use the car. I was a prisoner. Ever since then I've wracked my First Brain trying to see if I had indeed been warned by my Second Brain. Only as I wrote this blog did I suddenly recall an incident. Back then, I had a ESP relationship with my dog, Lisa. One afternoon this man apparently, went to my home in the country, looking for me. This was when we were still dating. No one was home, except for Lisa. She knew him. She'd seen him many times. But when he opend the door, she went wild, barking, lunging, growling at him. He tried to enter the house, but every tooth was out, she was poised to genuinely attack. My dog did not trust him. She sensed a danger I was missing. And I missed again, because I did not credit her instinct. If I'd paid attention, I'd never have married that man and genuine catastrophe would have been averted. So. Do you have a Second Brain? What do you think? (Nope, check with your Second Brain, not your First.)

I am currently in a situation where I can't seem to contact my Second Brain, and I really want information from it. I'm in a new relationship with a man I'm wildly attracted to. The feeling appears to be mutual. What I'm now seeing though, is that desire, lust, attraction, romantic love, obliterates both brains. I want an opinion from my gut. I don't want to make another mistake. All I can figure to do is to enjoy the relationship and just wait. Do nothing. Wait and trust that Second Brain will eventually break though this blinding passion and give me guidance. Again, I'll do nothing except revel in the romance until I hear from Second Brain. Maybe this is another topic for a blog: I may share what Second Brain tells me.

*Homo is Latin for human, as you may know. At one point in time there were as many as five different Homo's on the planet—but that's another blog.


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