You Need Both Sides of Your Brain

This article originally appeared on the Support4Change website, and is reposted here.

Because both sides of our brains are used for different purposes, it is  important to recognize how to use them separately and together.

left-brain-right-brainOne summer day in the historic Chautauqua grounds in Upstate New York, I sat in the audience listening to a lecture on the brain. The speaker identified the corpus callosum as the longitudinal fissure connecting the left and right cerebral hemispheres. She said that the female has a 20% larger corpus callosum than males, allowing them to see relationships between ideas better than men. The women in the crowd laughed and applauded. We’ve always known our minds worked differently than men’s.

For a number of years, the difference in the size of this white streak in the brain has been used to explain the single-task orientation of men, making it harder for the left and right sides of their brains to work together. It also was used to explain women’s intuition and greater ability to multitask. Today, however, there is scientific dispute not only about the implications of anatomical differences, but whether such differences actually exists.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that the left and right hemispheres of your brain (whether you are male or female) process information in different ways.

Your Left Hemisphere Your Right Hemisphere
Linear Holistic
Sequential Random
Sequential Random
Concrete Symbolic
Logical Intuitive
Verbal Non-verbal
Reality-based Fantasy-Oriented

There is much discussion these days about keeping your mind sharp and active as you age. Working crossword puzzles and exercising the logical, rational capabilities of the left hemisphere is certainly part of any anti-aging mind-building program. Yet stimulating mental abilities used to keep the left brain active are no less, or more, important for preventing and countering the effects of aging than is the utilization of the creative, intuitive power of the right brain.

Perhaps one way to look at this is that we all tend to process information using our dominant side. However, as the list above shows, the world is not all linear, sequential, concrete, etc., nor is it all holistic, random, symbolic, etc. It is some of both. Therefore, if you can approach both the minor and the significant challenges of life by calling upon both sides of your brain — using the corpus callosum and whatever other structures in the brain are responsible for organizing thoughts, your left and right sides will be able to more effectively work as a whole.

In any case, since many of our images are stored in the right side of the brain, techniques that help you access those images open up the right side of the brain to the light of day, blowing away the fog that often covers them. The thousands of images there were stored during the thousands of experiences we’ve had during our lifetime. It is these images, together with ideas that arise from the left brain, that become the building blocks of our personalities, perspectives and coping styles. Even images buried so deeply that we are not aware of their existence contain within them the glue of habit and the lubrication of change.

However, accessing images is valuable for more than decision-making. Because images are the language through which the mind and body communicate, learning to access those images can help you reduce stress, increase pain tolerance, and connect with your body’s healing ability. That is why patients today are often taught to use imagery as an adjunct to medical treatment, helping reduce pain and enhance the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

If the corpus callosum is a bridge between left and right hemispheres, how can we encourage images to cross that bridge and support us in the best way possible? How can we create symbols from the images in our right hemisphere and the beliefs stored in the left hemisphere? Read the other articles in this section to learn more.

© Copyright 2008, Revised 2012, Arlene F Harder, MA, MFT

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