The Devil on Your Shoulder : Page 2 of 2
The Devil on Your Shoulder
Based on one of these random thoughts, you might want to go and make a cup of coffee or write a musical masterpiece. All on the whim of a thought.
In Iain McGilchrist's excellent book, The Master and His Emissary, he gives an incredibly detailed account of how the two halves of our brain interact, intercommunicate and indeed suppress each other so that the other can better function in differently appropriate situations.
He cites the function of a chicken's brain where the right eye is looking for individual grains to eat on the ground (processed by the left brain). Meanwhile at the same time, the right brain (fed by the left eye) is scanning for predators.
Note that neuroscientists can now anesthetise (or switch off) one of our hemispheres (or individual regions) temporarily to see how we then perform.
For you reading this article, for example, your left brain will be processing individual words while simultaneously the right brain works out the overall context. If anything you read makes you stop and think, or confuses you, what happens is that both hemispheres have a little debate and discussion. It is remarkable that all of this can happen without us giving it a second thought.
Note that there is a lot of intercommunication between the front and back of each hemisphere too. What is also of interest and note is that the relative use of our left and right hemispheres has changed over our history and varies in different societies. Much of this bias gets programmed in through our education and culture. For example, it has been shown that where language is depicted in pictograms, a right brain bias is detectable.
The right brain also tends to process new information and when it is learnt and ingrained, it gets passed to the left hemisphere of the brain to process. Driving a car or typing on a keyboard being two classic examples. Try driving on the other side of the road or using a keyboard with a different layout and you will get thrust back into that right brained mode of learning.
Our education system, which tends to favour learning by rote, repetition and example, biases us to a left brained existence. Especially if, as happened to me when I was 13, you were forced to choose between studying science or art and music. I've made some amends since.
In the context of experiencing light bulb moments, it is vital that both hemispheres are working in concert. Over the course of processing the idea, the different hemispheres will take on their respective roles. For example, when working on the detail of your invention, the left side may be dominant. When brainstorming all the possible spin offs, the right side may take precedence.
You can imagine the internal dialog between the hemispheres when you are Mind Mapping.
The left brain says to the right brain, "Aha, a map! I do the map reading around here, leave this to me."
The right brain, seeing that the left brain is busying itself in the detail says, "Great, now I can be truly creative."
The same type of dialog occurs when we are painting or writing especially when we're typing on a computer or using a mouse or tablet.
So most of our days are spent flipping from one hemisphere to another. It used to be thought that the structure called the corpus callosum mainly passed information between both sides of the brain. Current wisdom is that it actually suppresses one side while the other carries out a task.
To foster the generation of light bulb moments on demand, the suppression mechanism itself has to be suppressed. When you do this, your brain truly lights up.
You then enter a state of Whole Brain and indeed Whole Mind Thinking permanently which in turn leads to a new way of being. •
Next: Collective Thoughts »
Renaissance Man and Imagineer Tom Evans is the author of four books and counting about creativity. More »