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Left, Right and Whole Brain Thinking

The left hemisphere of the brain seems to be the verbal genius, the logician, the part that focuses on the individual phenomenon. The left brain is the researcher, the mathematician, the scientist who looks to cause and effect. The right brain gets the credit for the opposite traits: not irrational or illogical, but nonrational or nonlogical. The right brain is the domain of intuition and holistic thinking.

This is the side of the brain in which the dreamer and the artist dwell, where creativity rules. This is where I don't know why I thought of putting those two things together, but isn't it wonderful that I did?" comes from. Or "Don't know how I knew it, just had this weird feeling in my gut!" Music, art, dance, psychic impressions, symbols, metaphors, seeing the whole picture in an instant, grasping the fullness of the present moment, experiencing the sunset without the need to analyze its component colors or talk about it - this is the stuff of the right brain.

Split-brain research indicates that we may have been correct in thinking of the two different sides of our bodies as being distinct in some ways. The right side of the body, controlled by the left hemisphere, is generally stronger - and it is dominant in most of us. In French, "right" is droit, from which we get the word adroit, meaning , "skillful." In Latin, it is dexter - the source for dexterity and dexterous. The left side of the body, ruled by the right hemisphere, has perennially been associated with the darker, more mysterious aspects of the personality. The French word for "left" is gauche. In Latin it is sinister.

Split-brain research today is highlighting the role of the brain stem as a "lower-pathway" site for the sharing of hemispheric information. In other words, the corpus callosum is not the only information highway between the hemispheres. This understanding of the brain stem is also offering researchers additional insight into the evolution of human consciousness, as they try to explain the stages of the brain's development. In a more immediately practical application, educators are constantly looking at the ways in which individuals process information: some seem more inclined to right-brain skills, seeing the whole, working concretely; others have great difficulty without more linear, verbal approaches that rely almost exclusively on the written word. The implications for learning and education are tremendous - one style does not fit all!

Since wellness means wholeness, which means integration, it's helpful to pay more attention to both brains, utilizing a variety of approaches to education, to relationship building, and to working together. Tapping the latent powers of the neglected half of ourselves will provide us with exciting new approaches in all fields of endeavor, as well as in self-healing.

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