I just finished watching an hour-long presentation by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. In it, she previewed the contents of her new book, Whole Brain Living. Not only did she expose the myth that we only use 10% of our brains, but she added that we have four distinct parts of the brain that control how we experience our world. Because of her research, I can tell you scientifically what part of my brain is in charge of my behavior at this moment. It’s the emotional part of my right hemisphere!
You might correct me by saying, “Isn’t the right hemisphere all emotional and the left all analytical?” That’s why I’m so excited. According to Dr. Jill, we have “thinking” and “emotional” parts in both hemispheres of the brain. Research shows that each hemisphere has an amygdala and a hippocampus, controlling different aspects of our emotional experience. Both sides of the brain have a cortex, but the quality of the thinking is different for each.
In general terms, the right side of the brain lives in the “here and now.” It exists in the present moment. The left brain is a “temporal machine,” meaning this is where we experience the past and the future. Since each hemisphere has both a thinking part and a feeling part, Dr. Jill developed the idea that we have four different characters in our brains. If we know these characters, we can choose which one is in charge of us at any given moment. After describing each of these characters, she encouraged us to name them!
Character One is the thinking part on the left side of the brain. Character One has language and identity. Our ability to say “I” lives here. It also organizes, categorizes, sequences, and controls. We get things done because of this part. For me, this is “Superwoman.”
Character Two is the emotional part of the left hemisphere. The time frame is always the past, and our childhood pain lives here. When we find ourselves having a temper tantrum like a two-year-old, it’s because we’ve tapped into that character. Most of us can recognize this in ourselves. I can, and I call her “Little Jean.”
In the right hemisphere, there is also an emotional part. As this is the “here and now” side of the brain, Character Three is in charge when we feel the emotions of the present moment. Character Three is all about being Right Here and Right Now! Creative, fun-loving, enthusiastic are all attributes of this character. We’re under the spell of Character Three when we are completely captivated by the aliveness of the present moment. I’m still working on a name for this character. It might be “Amelia Bedelia!”
The last character is the thinking function of the right side. It, too, lives in the present moment. Character Four feels the expansiveness of the Universe as itself. Here, we know no boundaries between ourselves and our experience of a Cosmic Consciousness. We can “be” in the moment, and our identity shifts from personal to Infinite. Along with the change comes a sense of deep gratitude. We know that despite appearances, all is well in our world. To me, this character is “I Am.”
Knowing that we have this cast of characters can help us understand ourselves. Dr. Jill, however, has a higher aim. Her goal is to help humanity by revealing the choices we have every moment. If I can see that “Little Jean” has been triggered and wants to run the show to the detriment of myself and others, I can choose a different response. There are times when “Superwoman” is welcome to be in control, but maybe she can step back when the stakes are low. Not only would my relationships improve, but imagine the peace I could feel!
I’ve already ordered a copy of Dr. Jill’s book Whole Brain Living. Swept away by “Amelia Bedelia,” there’s a class syllabus forming in my head. Bring your four characters, and join me!