Why Do We Feel Confused or Out of Sync? How Can You Overcome That State of Incoherence?
Incoherence — Lacking Agency Over One’s Life
Do you sometimes catch yourself thinking one way, feeling another, and then behaving in a random or inconsistent manner? This non-alignment of thoughts, feelings and actions is a key feature of incoherent living.
As long as we remain in an incoherent state of living, we unconsciously for sake many qualities of a healthy, happy, and successful life. We often feel tormented by base emotions of fear, sadness, and anger. We do not utilize the highest potential of our intellect. Far too often we feel devoid of energy, will and enthusiasm. We take too long to rejuvenate or heal. We doubt our abilities, skills, and capacity to succeed. We perceive our environment as being innately hostile. We react by being either overly defensive or too aggressive. Eventually, all this leads to fatigue, exhaustion, clouded judgment, burnout, frustration, depression, and other forms of deterioration in our overall state of being. We realize that we lack agency over our lives, and that we do not live to the fullest.
Incoherence — A State of Discordance, Fragmentation and Energy Dissipation
In a state of coherence, all psychophysiological activities are optimal and show a harmonious rhythm. Our body, our thoughts and our emotions are harmoniously synchronized. Compared to this efficient and free-flowing state, incoherence is characterized by erratic and discordant patterns of activity, which strain life processes .
When we live in a state of incoherence, we are not in control of our energy flow. Our energy dissipates easily, and we also take a longer time to recuperate. We do not organize our lives optimally, and we demonstrate diminished ability to plan well and then follow through. As a result, we are less efficient, less productive, and less successful in whatever we do.
Jiddu Krishnamurti often spoke of how “fragmented and broken up” a human being is, and how all the fragmentary energies (conflicted mind, incongruous emotions, and inner contradictions) present in us are wasting our total energy . It is necessary to move from fragmentation to integration, from inner conflict to a sense of oneness, to stop dissipating our energy and keep its “unitary movement.” In his own style, this great Indian thinker very well described what coherence is and reminded us of the perils of living in a state of incoherence.
When we overcome fragmentation, all our “parts” start fitting together, and we become whole. By reclaiming the pieces of our fragmented self and integrating them together, we create a “whole,” which is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Why Coherence Seems Difficult to Achieve
When we occasionally enter a state of flow, in which elevated emotions, clear thoughts and high levels of energy are all aligned to give us the right push, we experience the amazing power of coherence. Yet if we cannot access this state at will, nor remain in it for prolonged periods of time, we start to feel that coherent living might be out of reach to us. There are two main reasons why we might feel that way.
• When coherence occurs spontaneously, it is contingent and impermanent.
Research has shown that certain life circumstances and events (such as great happiness, euphoria, sudden insightfulness) can push us into spontaneous states of coherence. However, in addition to being accidental, these sporadic occurrences typically have a limited duration, and we cannot exercise any control over them. It is for this reason that we ought to learn methods and techniques through which we can intentionally induce and cultivate sustained states of holistic coherence.
• We are biologically wired for negative thoughts and base emotions.
Another reason coherence appears difficult to achieve and maintain is that we, as humans, are evolutionary wired to have negative thoughts and emotions. Our ancestors lived in constant state of danger and unpredictability—from predators to harsh environmental conditions, there were numerous threats that demanded vigilance and preparedness to fight or flight. To such a state of alertness, fear and danger anticipation, there is a corresponding physiological response. Our brains switch to default beta brainwaves. Our glands start releasing higher amounts of stress hormones.That state is not one of coherence.
Key Drivers of Incoherence
The rapid advancements in science, technology and communications over the last few decades have accelerated the pace of life. There is an ever-growing pressure to be faster, better, more efficient, highly adaptive, and responsive to change in all areas of life. This high-adrenaline modus operandi is no longer limited to particular careers or to executive and top-level positions only. The pressure has cascaded to almost every level in any organization and community. Fierce competitiveness, high volatility, rapid change and focus on material gratification (money, status, success) all lead to fear, stress, anxiety, distrust, dissatisfaction, chronic exhaustion, and an overall sense of eroded wellbeing. This is the epitome of living in a state of incoherence.
Yet none of this is completely new. In fact, human environment hardly ever lacked triggers of stress. Our human ancestors lived in constant danger from predators, physical injuries, and extreme climate conditions. Recorded human history, too, is brimming with conflicts, battles, wars, mass migrations, revolutions, and systemic changes. Whichever the time or the place, people always had reasons to feel insecure, afraid, anxious, and thus removed from a state of coherence.
As a result of these repeated stimuli form the environment, the human brain evolved in a manner of maximizing the chances for survival. Negative thinking and danger anticipation became the default mode of operation—a characteristic of the “caveman brain” .
The Incoherence Loop
It is this “caveman brain” that saves us from many dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations. Yet that same evolutionary mechanism of survival is also the culprit when it comes to our holistic health and wellbeing. What happens when negative thinking becomes a default mode of thinking?
When we feel afraid, angry, or stressed, the heart rhythm becomes irregular, inconsistent, jagged, and disorderly. This can be described as heart incoherence, a state of being out of balance. Regardless of whether the threat is real or perceived, we enter the fight-or-flight mode: our breathing is more rapid, the heart rate is elevated, we perspire more, and our pupils are dilated. Our heart signals the brain, and the brain determines the type of chemistry (hormones) to be released into our body . These incoherent heart signals, sent from the heart to the brain, trigger a “chemical dump” of nearly 1200 chemicals within just two minutes . Among them are the stress hormones—cortisol and adrenaline.
When these chemicals are released as a rapid response to danger, they are greatly beneficial and constitute the building blocks of our resilience.However, long-term exposure to these stress hormones leads to a high level of disruption in our body. High blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, diminished cell repair and death of neurons in the memory centers of the brain are some of the more extreme devastating impacts of chronic stress on our wellbeing .
When the brain is in an incoherent state, the different regions and neural groups are out of synchrony, leading to diminished efficiency. Any negative emotion instantaneously triggers the brain—we cannot think clearly or rationally, a sour cognitive centers are depleted of normal supply of oxygen. Blood withdraws from the prefrontal cortex into the muscles, which is a prerequisite for our primed physical response to danger—to either run away, or fight.
It becomes clear, then, how heart-brain incoherence creates and reinforces cognitive, emotional, and behavioral incoherence. It also becomes obvious how urgent it is for us to make a permanent shift from an incoherent to a coherent state of being. Various stillness methods—such as mindful meditation and certain breathwork techniques—can slowly, gradually and systematically help you experience a state of coherence, sustain it over a longer periods of time, and gain long-term, lasting benefits.
- Rollin McCraty et al., “The Coherent Heart: Heart–Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order”, INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2009 Vol.5, No. 2
- See Dawson Church, “Mind to Matter”.
- See Dr. Joe Dispenza, “Becoming Supernatural”.
- See Candace Pert, “Molecules of Emotion’.
- See Dawson Church: “Mind to Matter”