Have you ever filled in a quiz which promised to tell you if you are logical or creative?
Well...that's the old story, which does not tell the whole story...
LOGICAL ? OR CREATIVE?
The left hemisphere:
Is responsible for most aspects of language, and is the internal narrator (the voice in your head).
Manages some aspects of logical and rational thought.
Is analytical, narrow, sharp and pays attention to detail.
Has a proclivity to seek mechanical perfection, tangible categories and coding.
Left on its own, it is contained in an enclosed system, an echo chamber, a ‘hall of mirrors’.
Is static and decontextualized.
Demands clarity and precision.
Does not see the whole, only fragmented parts.
The right hemisphere:
Is curious, looks out for what might be different from our expectations, is future oriented and welcomes change and the concept of evolving.
Reads body language and emotional facial expressions.
Is the centre for emotions (but not responsible for anger, which is in the left hemisphere’s domain).
Is intuitive, self-aware, empathetic, flexible, takes risks and finds solutions.
Displays insight, imagination, visualisation and experimentation.
Understands nuance, ‘gets’ the joke,
Is interested in individual concepts, not categories and is attuned to living things rather than mechanical objects.
Sees the whole interconnected picture.
The new and scientifically backed story is one of two different types of attention:
So, of course, the use of both hemispheres are necessary. Problems arise when one hemisphere becomes more dominant, when there is an imbalance or non-integration of duel consciousness.
People who have suffered from a stroke or an injury of the right or left hemisphere offer a scientific evaluation of the effects:
Right Hemisphere Damage
Patients have an absence of vitality with lifeless eyes and mechanical behaviour. They feel disassociated, cut off from feelings and experience a change in the feeling of self - a foreignness of the self, a sense of being a puppet or a spectator. Their sense of 'I' has separated and they feel locked outside of their bodies.
Left Hemisphere Damage
Patients are usually unable to give an account of their experience of left hemisphere damage, due to an inability of access or connection to their language centre. However a rare glimpse into the isolated world of the right hemisphere was provided by neuroanatomist Jill Bolt Taylor after a major hemorrhage erupted in her left hemisphere. She tells us that the boundary of reality receded and she 'ventured unfettered into the peaceful bliss of my divine right mind'.
With the loss of her language centre, she also lost the internal narrator which told her what she liked and didn't like, and she was also released from the ego's judgement when a limited view of her identity disappeared. Only the present moment existed as time became irrelevant. The 'doing consciousness' shifted to the 'being consciousness'. The burden of stress, anger and hostility left her and she felt a strong sense of empathy for others and was able to tune into their facial expressions and body language and experienced people as bringing negative or positive energy. She had a feeling of freedom, peace, compassion and joy, and gained a childlike curiosity . A sense of expansion took the place of feeling of isolation and smallness and she felt the expanded energy would not fit back into her body. She felt a life-force of energy containing the power of the universe and lost all fear.
She says that the intuitive wisdom of the right hemisphere can only be realised when the consciousness of the left hemisphere is decreased.
1 Iain McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary, pp. 235-237.
2 Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight.
The work of Iain McGilchrist has revived the conversation and his exhaustive research promises to rewrite the story of dual hemispheric differences. McGilchrist begins by telling us that the most ‘fundamental difference between the hemispheres lies in the type of attention they give to the world.
The following videos outline McGilchrist's fascinating research: