Friday, June 10, 2011

Right brain, left brain? Adam Blatner weighs in

Guest post from Adam Blatner, a psychiatrist and well beloved for many of his books explaning and interpreting J.L.  Moreno's philosopy and the author of Foundations of Psychodrama: History, Theory, and Practice, Fourth Edition,  Acting-In: Practical Applications of Psychodramatic Methods, Third Edition and The Art of Play: Helping Adults Reclaim Imagination and Spontaneity.

Left brain, right brain, yang and yin.

Now here's my plan: Let's develop the left brain so that it can more appropriately SERVE rather than dominate the right brain. Let's not assume either is more important: Heart and lungs. The term "syzygy" refers to two aspects that can only be understood relative each to its opposite: up and down, dark and light, front and back, here and there, male and female, abstract and concrete, etc. In that sense, the two parts of the mind are not exactly but almost a syzygy in terms of their optimal function:  

The left brain builds a more enduring map, schema, frame of reference; it offers a grid within which the transience of experience may be grounded. The right brain offers much of the "juice," the heart, imagery, feeling, body awareness, etc. But the right brain alone cannot succeed in anchoring or truly integrating the experience.

Sometimes an experience, however intense, needs some talking, some finding of words, some ways of being integrated with several levels of more subtle catharsis:

Did what happen really happen?

Were those feelings? what were they?

Was that my story or was I just picking up feelings from others? (This is the problem in projective identification.)

How does it relate to my past, and how does it and my past relate to my present and anticipated or hoped-for-future?

Is this totally alien to others, or can I still feel a part of the group now that I've admitted these thoughts or feelings?

Does this fit into a wider scheme of my spiritual, religious, existential beliefs about what life is about?

All these questions involve anywhere from a slight to a good deal of "left-brain" re-hashing, talking with others about.

So I wanted to make a case for the right use of left brain.

Admittedly, in the 20th century, for most people, the left brain was over-used, or at least over-valued: If phenomena (often mediated or experienced by the right brain) couldn't be neatly defined it tended to be ignored, "marginalized."

Ironically, though the left brain was valued, as was information, knowing things, diplomas, etc., few people actually thought critically. What litte people did think, they tended to feel they were "really" thinking---and, compared to what they intuitively sensed as being thinking-less, they were. But as compared with those who think much more, the thinking (left brain) done by most foks is feeble, laced with illusions, not tightly coordinated. It's better-than-before-ness makes people think that they're thinking a lot.

While there are sub-cultures in which more right-brain functioning is discounted, there are other sub-cultures (such as in the creative arts therapies communities) where it is over-valued, and left brained thinking tends to be discounted. I think both types can be developed much more and also balanced.