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One “left”, one “right”—brain edition

Yeah, yeah, I’ve read that brains aren’t literally organized the way people thought for a while:

That the left side has all the nerd stuff: Dewey decimal system, numbers, letters, putting words for things, putting things in order, symbolic language, Lisp, discrete math. The hobgoblin of consistency lives here.

The right has the capacity to work wordlessly. Painting, drawing, cooking, feeling; things that are graduated and nuanced and not necessarily as consistent, more capable of working with contradiction and double speak and poststructural feels-over-reals.

It’s apparently not literally the case that one of them physically resides in the left side and the other physically in the right side. It’s just different kinds of processes and they’re a li’l bit spread out. Not that the brain doesn’t have regions, like Broca’s or whatever, it does, but the brain might a li’l less strictly separated than the left-brained eggheads originally had us believe. Or that’s what they’re saying now, I dunno.

Even though it’s not literally set up in two lateral halves, I’m a strong believer in how different those two minds can be, and how awareness of them can make us more capable and help us make wise decisions. I like to say “if you’re only listening to your thoughts and not your emotions, you’re only using half your brain”.

I’ve found myself more able to stay out of bad habits if I’m aware of how the two sides of me might both have a point.

For example, working vs slacking, or procrastination. If I have one side that wants to be goody—two-shoes and another side that wants to rest, if I listen to both sides I might make a healthy decision but if I try to suppress the “subconscious” side, I’m more likely to end up doing stuff that’s neither, like doomscrolling or whatever. People in the 90s endlessly whittling away at Solitaire on Windows 3.11 instead of either doing their actual work or getting actual rest or using their time to like learn a language or make friends. Not that solitaire isn’t a fun game, it is, but I’m talking about how we sometimes spend our time in ways we later regret.

But if I’m fully listening to the side that’s overwhelmed and don’t wanna do the thing, and the side that wants to do the thing for whatever reason, and try to let those sides “talk” to each other or “listen” to each other; one of the sides will be wordless and bubbling under and hard to access and the other will be a thread of running commentary in my li’l noggin (and what’s weird is that sometimes the “work work work” side is the conscious one and sometimes it’s the other way around, that the “work work work” side is an unspoken nagging feeling; the sides can switch their “interfaces” with each other apparently) but if I let myself access both, hash things out, I can procrastinate less and either get work done or get well-needed rest without guilt.

Speaking of “subconscious”, that’s another word that’s apparently out of vogue and now only considered to be New Age woo. The “well, actually” left-brainers have been all like “well actually if we’re not conscious of it, then it’s obviously unconcious”. But I’m not gonna hop on that train. I’m a big believer in how unaware many left-brainers are of why & how & when we’re actually doing things.

Uh, TL;DR: if you see me use the word “left-brained” or “right-brained” it’s not out of ignorance, or I guess it is in the sense that science as a whole is not sure about this kind of stuff, but it’s just shorthand for a more nuanced & mystic topic.