Cynthia Burnham, copyright August 2008
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Neuroscience has shown that the two halves of the brain not only have different functions, but also different personalities, perspectives and contributions to the overall "mind."
They are less like two parts of the same thing than like two completely different horses, harnessed side-by-side to pull a cart together. They communicate between each other, with the "driver" of the mind; however, their jobs are overlapping rather than interchangeable.
While differences between people and brains exist, generally (and with a certain amount of simplification), here's how they work.
The left hemisphere of the brain is primarily process- and outcome-oriented. It deals with time, consequence, words, borders and edges, numerical problems, definitions.
It "thinks," and talks to itself, mostly in language.
The right hemisphere of the brain Is primarily context- and present-moment oriented. It deals with processing the sensory input of the moment, does not perceive boundaries, interprets body language, is intuitive,
It "thinks," and talks to itself, mostly in pictures and sensory images.
If your alive and healthy, the horses keep walking.
Even Buddhist monks who have meditated most of their lives, and have spent years training themselves to quiet the mind say the most mental silence they've ever achieved was 30 seconds.
If you're looping in words, go to pictures and images
If you're looping in pictures, go to words or numbers
Switching from one focus to another causes the brain to disengage for a moment, and then allows it reconnect in a different way - sort of like another vehicle - a car - passing through neutral between gears.
If you find yourself in bad "self talk" where you're lecturing yourself - in words - about what you should have said, what you should have done, why you screwed up, how stupid you are, how you'll never find the perfect job, relationship, etc:
Close your eyes, and call up a VISUAL IMAGE OF STOPPING.
The actual image doesn't matter - what matters is shifting to thinking in visual/immediate sensory imagery, versus words. Think in pictures, hear the sounds....
If you keep seeing or imagining a loop of pictures, or re-experiencing a sensation:
Shift focus to the verbal or numerical - USE MENTAL WORDS TO TALK YOURSELF OUT.
Again, the actual words don't matter - just that you are shifting to thinking in words and numbers versus images. Now's the time to give yourself a (positive) lecture!
(As a side note - the brain, like a cart being pulled by two horses, is pretty much incapable of operating "only" from one side or the other - but the focus CAN change, to be predominantly from a different perspective.)
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, by Oliver Sacks (or lots of other books by him!)
Quiet Leadership, by David Rock
Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect to Others, by Marco Iacoboni
Neuroscience and Leadership, by David Rock & Jefferey Schwartz, Harvard Business Review
Copyright Cynthia Burnham 2007 All rights reserved.