Left Alone

I am a great believer in intuitive synchronicity – that if I pose a question or ask for help from “out there” (my subconscious, the collective unconscious or God, however we understand that), an answer will come. Sometimes a word flickers at the edge of consciousness, like an oracle, which I then have to disentangle.

Just stating, “there is a solution,” often brings a resolution, rabbit-like from a hat. Mostly I prefer to watch for indicators, let things unwind. Recently, books have been popping up (many as free e-books) or I have seen a TV documentary that has fed my interest. Certainly, I have felt something unrolling in front of me.

My manual therapist suggested pole walking to coordinate right and left sides of my brain. Then a few days later I picked up an e-book on avoiding negative thinking. It focused on living from the subconscious, rather than the conscious mind. Or from the right rather than the left brain. Next a library book I had requested some time back, popped up.

In Leap of Perception, Penney Peirce points out the tyranny of the left brain. We perceive or create our world through a series of filters, starting with the good old lizard brain, which as I wrote in an earlier post is operating through caution. Think of my cat Thea, who approaches every new thing slinking and suspicious. Only after she has made sure it is not threatening does she relax, roll over and offer her tummy for tickling.

To our lizard, it is safer to run than hang around to become lunch. So our lizard vets our environment, responding to anything suspicious with fear and sending the info upstairs to the left brain which runs an efficient civil service, sorting it into pigeon holes and drawing up rules and regulations to prevent the danger recurring.

The left brain is very happy with order, likes to feel in control and keeps an iron hand on any negative emotion that might overwhelm it. It likes facts, research, proof and regulation.

I have known for years that the two sides don't agree. A quick test is to make a list of your qualities using your dominant hand, then quickly switch and list with your other hand. You get both brains' opinion of you – and they seldom agree.

Penney suggests sitting quietly, then imagining your two hemispheres: are they different in texture or size, for example? My right brain was soft and drifty like smoke; my left smaller, tight and dark. She then says to imagine you are removing a partition between them, then let the two sides flow and merge. It is a wonderful open relaxed feeling and reminds me of “Open Focus.”

Of course, the left brain clamps control on again, but it gives me a glimpse of the freedom of “free love” or perhaps better put “free life.” The question begs to be asked, as I look through albums: when did the baby who studied a daisy so contentedly change to the solemn, worried looking child? When did the light go out?Turn through any album and you see it: the illuminated small child, followed by the self-conscious sub-teen.

I think that when our lights turn out, we move from a right brain intuitive dance with life to a left-orchestrated, safer, regimented, wary self. We have learned the steps to appease society, often to buy safety. A ransom demanded by the left brain and often paid by stuffing our dreams out of sight.

The left brain also dislikes unruly emotions, tries to bottle them and conquer fear with will power. That made such sense to me: the child who came home from school each day heavy with guilt over some triviality; the child who responded to stress with overwork; the adult whose body responded to trauma with locked muscles (like 2 frozen shoulders). Yes, my left brain had been diligent in its protection.

And I knew the cause: fear of institutionalization like my brother. I had not understood why he was gone, just that in some way he hadn't been good enough. Is that compounding my back pain? Is that why my muscles flair and lock so easily?

Penney's exercise was so relaxing, so freeing as my right brain flowed like gauze around my rigid left. I could feel a relaxation, a calm. “It's OK I soothed my left brain. You have done your job well.” Metaphorically, I held its hand and together we looked at today – it was so clear that the threat was gone. I was safe, but no one had told the valiant left brain, still fighting a war long over.

All the while, for three days, I had a migraine running down my face. As I read and concluded, the headache grew stronger, my neck and arm painful too. Then as I released the left brain from its overkill, the headache faded, my head no longer felt as though a battleground for civil war.

So, not just me, how many of us are strong-armed by a defensive left brain? How many have bowed and conformed to its rigid demands in the belief that we will be insulated from some fear we may never have actually articulated. And what have we missed?

The world looks lighter, wider, the possibilities enormous. But my back still hurts like hell!


More info:

Leap of Perception: the Transforming Power of Your Attention by Penney Peirce.

The Master and his Emissary: the Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist.

The Origin of Consciousness in that Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.

Overcome Fear and Self-Sabotage – Take Control of Your Lizard Brain by Haoting Chow. (Kindle book). Blog entry – link

My Stroke of Insight: a Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor. A wonderful view of life as Jill saw it when her left brain shut down temporarily after a stroke. Blog entry – link.

Jill Bolte Taylor TED talk

Open Focus including an exercise for pain – link








About UntraveledRoads

Fascinated by life, looking for answers to chronic pain and finding unexpected gifts. Interested in people, ideas, healing and humour. I am very happily married with three children and a kitten. As English born immigrants to Canada, we have family spread overseas, a daughter in South Africa and one in England. We also run a charity in South Africa to educate black, rural South African Women. Our first girl from a rural township has just graduated as an accountant from Johannesburg University and got a good job in a bank.
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