I just finished reading Jill Bolte Taylor’s book Whole Brain Living and her concept of the four characters that we inherit because of our brains, and I am ecstatic!
We have Judy Zehr to thank for giving me the tip-off to read this book! Judy is someone I really trust, so when she tells me something is important to read, I listen. I’ve learned a lot from Judy and have much admiration for her. She knows a ton about the brain, how it impacts us and how to bring about more joy! And, I’m lucky to say, we collaborated to co-write our book which spells out the relationship between the brain and conflict.
I’m so excited because what Jill Bolte Taylor has done is offer a definitive model for how we all show up. We all have the same brains so we all have these sub-personalities! Knowing this can remind us that we are all connected, bring us closer together and enhance our own self-understanding.
There are also implications for how we engage with conflict.
You’ll have to read the Thriving Leadership interview to get more on that! 🙂
Meantime, what about those 4 selves!
As a passionate neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor has mapped out 4 quadrants of our brain which have 4 distinct personalities. All 4 personalities are important and need to be heard. If we don’t hear them, they will inhibit us for sure.
Let’s see if I can give you a summary of our 4 selves and why I am so happy that Judy pointed me in this direction!
Let’s start with the big picture – a simplified description of the personality characteristics of the left and right sides of the brain, then the front (thinking brain) and back (the emotional brain).
The left side of our brain, or left hemisphere, houses our individual identities or the “me-self”. This part of us sees ourselves as separate and give us that sense of separation. It is the logical part of us, the place of language, mathematics, time and space orientation. It is home to that little voice inside that is our “monkey mind” or inner chatter. This part of us thinks linearly, in the context of the past, present and future. We accumulate our life wisdom here.
What about the right side of the brain? Well, I remember diving into the book – Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Kind of says it all! The right side of the brain is the place where we connect with universal consciousness, creativity and empathy. It is home to the all, where our brains are able to process multiple streams of data that simultaneously, revealing a single complex moment of experience, seeing all as part of the cosmic flow, the big picture. It’s the peak experiences we have, as well as what’s been identified that happens just before we die and when on hallucinogens.
In everyday life, we tend to suppress the right side of our brain, as most of daily modern life pulls us to the left side traits and this other side is fairly unconscious to us. We tend to identify with the “me” not so much with the playful, loving or “cosmic all.” Often this part of ourselves shows up as intuition.
One way Jill says we can think of these two sides of our brain is to see the left brain as the home of the masculine, yang, and ego-centered traits based on our individuality and past experiences and the right brain as the home of our feminine, yin, and grace of the cosmic right here, right now flow.
That gives you some sense of the right and the left, what about the front and the back.
We can think of the front of the brain as our thinking brain, or pre-frontal cortex. It is the outer part of our brain, situated behind our forehead. It is the part of us that can plan and envision, solve problems and achieve goals. It is also the most recent part of our brain, evolutionarily.
The back of our brain (actually inside) is our emotional brain is our mammalian brain and houses our emotions. We experience emotions from here. These emotions are evenly divided between our two hemispheres. The cellular networks of our emotional system never mature, so our emotional selves are always ageless and young.
One thing that’s important to note about the front or thinking brains vs our emotional brains is:
We tend to say that we are thinking creatures who feel. But Jill Bolte Taylor is clear that we are feelings creature who think.
This tells us that we need to pay attention to our emotions, that our emotions are central to who we are and that they are powerful influences and shapers in our lives.
Now that you have the territory, and it’s reflected in Jill’s illustration of the brain, it’s time to meet your 4 selves!
Jill calls our 4 personalities Characters 1, 2, 3 and 4.
She suggests we name our characters to have a better sense of who they are. I’m quite familiar with Internal Family Systems (thank you Inga Markham!) – so the idea of having different personalities inside was already familiar to me. But to have these selves so clearly defined, based on brain science, is pretty eye-opening. It’s like getting an owner’s manual for who we are and being able to notice more how we show up outside of ourselves.
Character 1 – Left-Thinking – Our Inner Spock. This part of us is located in the front of our brains – the thinking part – and on the left side of our brain. It has the traits of the left side – logical, linear as well as the front part of our brain that can plan and problem-solve. Star Trek’s Spock is the obvious character here. No emotional content. This part of us is externally focused, viewing the external world, including relationships, as outside of us. It is a part of us that is quite judgmental and critical, making right/wrong and good/bad discernments. It is competent, controlling, protective and respects authority.
Character 2 – Left-Feeling – Our Shadow Self. This part of us is also located on the left side, so it’s about us as well, but we are located in our emotions on this side, not our thinking self. We tend to see this part of us as unattractive and want to suppress it (as others see it as unattractive too!). This personality is usually the most deeply pained part of our unconscious emotional, identity brain. At its worst, this part of our brain is emotionally reactive to the external world and does not accept responsibility for its behavior. It is also inclined to sacrifice its future, blinded by the pain from its past. It brings in information from our present life and links it to emotional experiences we’ve had in the past. We feel deeply here, but only in relation to the past or possible future and this part tends to be emotionally volatile and reactive. Its happiness is based on external conditions. It wants to protect us from anything that it senses may have hurt us in the past.
Character 3 – Right-Feeling – Hello Tigger! – This is the part of us located on the right side of our brain, so it’s creative and expansive, and in an emotional way. This part of us is open, experiential, risk-taking, fearless, friendly, kind, empathic, trusting, playful, joyful, goes with the flow, awe-inspired, curious, creative/innovative, collective, sharing. This is the part of us that can focus on the present moment. It can also be quite impulsive and get lost in the moment. There is a connection to the body as it loves to be active, fun, sensual, sensorial.
Character 4 – Right-Thinking – The Divine Self – This is the part of us located on the right side of the brain as well, up in the front – the thinking part of our brain. Here, we are nonverbal, think in pictures, think holistically, are compassionate, in the flow, flexible/resilient, focus on “we”, generous, possess clarity, intention, vulnerability. This part of our brain is our gateway to the divine – a way of bringing a much bigger consciousness than our own left brain selves.
The most important message is that all 4 of these selves need to be acknowledged that they exist. The different pulls in different directions need to be integrated into a whole. That is the true definition of healing – to be wholly integrated.
When we don’t allow each of these their perspective, we become unconscious from certain aspects of ourselves. As Carl Jung said: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Some of us deny that we have any need to have goals and make advances and achievements. We do. We crave meaning and growth and learning.
Many of us deny we have a hurt little child inside, or waste a lot of time blaming someone else for those feelings. We all have that wounded little person, who just wants to be held and understood and loved. We perpetuate the worst parts of ourselves on ourselves and others when we ignore this part and don’t seek its voice.
Some of us think it’s “childish” to be playful and fun. Yet, we need that like we need sunshine.
Lastly, some deny we are connected to anything deeper or wider than our own little selves. Yet we have that other being inside us as well, the divine self, the spiritual self, the self connected to so much more than we can ever really know from our individual identities.
How is it for you meeting your 4 selves!
What are you more aware of? What is your thinking brain telling you about all this? What are you feeling as a result of discovering more about yourself and about our common humanity?
I am curious! My playful self wants to hear from you! Click on the blog and let’s share our thoughts… together!
The class on Leading With Resilience that I just finished teaching for the Centre for Leadership at the Justice Institute of BC has been a very inspiring two days.
The format of the class included online reflective posts and journaling, so I was privileged with reading leader’s thoughts on the particular topics on hand.
One theme that emerged was the number of people who mentioned the importance of how we impact the lives of others. As I reflect on that theme, I realize giving people permission to give us feedback about how we impact them is important. Most people don’t want to tell us how we impact them. They are often afraid they will “hurt our feelings” or perhaps they just couldn’t be bothered or perhaps it doesn’t seem appropriate.
So, people need encouragement, and sometimes they need to be asked directly, to let us know what our impact is on them.
I am reminded of a conversation I had with a new friend who teaches in a personal development program called PSI Seminars. This person shared that in her program, people ask each other about how they are showing up and impacting each other. This takes courage to do at first, but inspired by what she said, I asked her right away if she’d be willing to share what impact or impression I had on her.
Of course, she was game!
She said, to her, I showed up like the Michelin man. She said I can present as a very big force yet there is a part of me inside that is afraid to shine, to grow to fit into the whole of the Michelin man.
What an intriguing piece of feedback!
In an odd way, that was both a compliment and frightening! It was a compliment, as what I took from her share of her perception of me, is that I’m bigger than I am allowing myself to be. That is wonderful and hopeful and points to another growth opportunity.
What was frightening was, am I showing up to other people that way too? Unless I start asking more people how I show up for them, I don’t have the data to know if this is a perception I need to inquiry into myself about.
Given the poem my friend Cathtryn Lecorre read this morning in her online kundalini class, I’d say many of us probably relate to the idea that we are not showing up as big or as bright as we could be. She read Marianne Williamson’s poem that begins with:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
What an empowering thought that perhaps if we ask others what impact or impression we may be leaving them with, that we might be able to increase our positive impact in the world!
George Monbiot is someone I have a lot of respect for. In the April issue of HEN, I spoke about his recently released book, Regenesis, on food systems, their collapse and his vision for a regenerated food system.
So it was with great interest that I read his recent Guardian article where he gives a summary, in a way, of his whole book.
According to Monbiot’s research, our global food has become less diverse, with only four crops accounting for almost 60% of all the calories grown by farmers. Those four crops are wheat, rice, maize and soy. Furthermore, their production is now highly concentrated in a handful of nations, including Russia and the Ukraine. This “Global Standard Diet” is grown by “Global Standard Farms” which are supplied by the same corporations with the same packages of seed, chemicals and machinery, and therefore vulnerable to the same environmental shocks.
After studying his subject thoroughly, Monbiot tells us that we urgently need to diversify away from global food production, both geographically and in terms of crops and farming techniques. We need to break the grip of massive corporations and to produce food and strengthen an entirely different means of food production.
That vision is what inspired me to be part of creating our original local Food security group in my ‘hood and it pleases me that we have a fairly strong network of people here who know about food growing. That doesn’t mean we will necessarily escape the consequences of this global system food collapse, but local food production is more important now than ever and we can see the starts of these more local systems everywhere.
“I believe we can create a truly humane, sustainable, and health food production system without killing any animals. I imagine a revolution in veganic agriculture in which small farmers grow a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes, all fertilized with vegetable sources.” … Gene Baur
I just finished teaching a class about resilience. It was for leaders and supervisors and designed by the Centre for Leadership at the Justice Institute of BC.
One of the gifts of teaching this class was the opportunity to see how I can control my own heart rate and what it feels like when I am doing it. One of the perks of the job was being about to use a type of biofeedback machine, called an EmWave2, from the HeartMath Institute.
Some of you might have had an experience of biofeedback training – where a computer shows you how your heart rate or breathing is doing. This particular machine measures the intervals between heartbeats. None of our hearts beat at exactly the same length of time or space between beats. They vary. That variation is called “Heart Rate Variability.” That’s what the EmWave 2 measures.
It looks like a reading on an EKG machine – blips on a screen. What you see at the top of this post is a screenshot of my HRV. It was taken this morning from my computer, when I deliberately changed my breathing and focused on pleasurable, loving thoughts.
I’ve never had the experience before of being able to see so immediately how changing my breathing and my thoughts could bring my heart into quick coherence. It was very empowering!
I’m feeling the effects of it now even as I type this and remember the state I was in.
How it works is you hook your finger or earlobe to a small sensor pad which plugs into a small machine that plugs into your computer. Then a computer program pops up that is reflected on my screenshot above. That shows your heart beats and little graphs showing your heart rate variability going from being in the “red” to “blue” to “green.”
I must confess, since getting this little machine a few days ago, I was staring to get competitive with myself – I wanted to get 100% green!
Until this morning, I had gotten as far as about 93% green. I would slow down my breathing, and then put one hand on my heart and the other on my belly and finally start to think happy thoughts. I would either think of things I loved (like people in my life) or imagine energy circulating in my body. I’ve received training in many energy modalities, including Reiki, Qi Gong and Kundalini yoga, so imagining energy circulating throughout and around my body was easy.
This morning, I sat down with the machine, before class started. I was talking with the assistant who helps me with the online class and we were testing the machine and the screen sharing to make sure everything was working. Imagine my surprise when I started the breathing and the good thoughts and then my heart rate moved immediately into that 100% zone.
I could hardly believe it – except – my body sensations told me so. My 100% score was reflected in how I was feeling. I could see how my heart rate variability was large and so very even – like waves. I recognized that feeling of when I am in “the zone” and a tiny bit dreamy. The state felt pleasurable and expansive.
The odd thing is I didn’t do anything that different other than I had put myself into that state before turning on the machine. Then, watching the machine and knowing I was putting myself in that state deliberately, put me in that state even more.
The cool thing is I can put myself in that state right now. Stop. Focus on my heart. Slow my breathing down. Think lovely thoughts. One minute of this…Ahhh. So good!
I feel so grateful I had a chance to play with the EmWave2 machine and that I now know in my body what it feels like to shift into that zone. Thank you to the Justice Institute of BC for offering such training in Resiliency for Leaders. Thank you to the wonderful assistants, who helped make the class happen – one of whom, Anastasia, was with me the whole time. Thank you too to the designer of that curriculum who thought up this lovely exercise.
I feel blessed.
“My mother told me I was blessed and I have always taken her word for it.” … Duke Ellington