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Does a left handed person use reverse hemispheres of the brain for imagery?

17 Jan
A cardiac nurse asks an interesting question about the way the left and right hemispheres of the brain work when it comes to lefties - are these functions reversed, she wants to know..
Hi, BR!
I’m a cardiac nurse and I just gave an introductory talk on guided imagery, and had a person ask me if, in a left-handed person, the left side of the brain still governed logical thinking and the right processed creative, intuitive thinking. I wasn''t sure if it would be reversed in a left-handed person. (I am using your tapes with my cardiac patients and they are finding it helpful, particularly to tame their type A behavior.) Thanks for your help.
Jeanne C., RN

Dear Jeanne,
So glad you’re using imagery to help those Type A’s subdue their impatience, "hurry sickness" and generally driven behavior! This is so important - relaxation and imagery training can significantly help improve cardiac conditions, along with other lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise.. (but nowadays, even our pioneering dean of the low-fat cardiac diet, Dean Ornish, claims that learning relaxation, meditation and imagery may be the most critical component in reversing heart disease, with or without major surgery.) So thanks for carrying the torch to our Type A’s and helping to save them from themselves!!

As to your very intriguing question about right and left hemispheres, the answer most of the time is: NO, lefties are not much different from righties - the left brain still governs most structured, logical, sequential, analytical thinking and the right still governs most creative, intuitive, abstract and holistic thinking.

But here’s the thing: it’s not that simple in any of us. Our brains are really not split down the middle - the temporal lobes, for instance, fire up on both sides when it comes to accessing intuitive insights and a felt sense of the mystical - so-called ‘right brain’ functions. And so it goes with many of these capacities - they crisscross the brain like crazy. Truly, you’re better off using "right brain" and "left brain" as symbolic concepts, rather than as some kind of concrete, physiological reality.

The thing that’s showing up more and more to make a difference in ability to access intuition, creative thought and general hypnotizability, might well be the corpus collosum - the nerve network that mediates between the hemispheres, which has been found to be more substantial in most women and some gay men - Robert Bly jocularly compares the corpus collosum in women to an 8-lane superhighway, in contrast to the ‘country road’ found in most men. This explains why so many women can put words to feelings more readily than a lot of men. But of course that’s just a statistic - there are plenty of straight guys with extraordinary intuitive and creative abilities and who can talk about their feelings!

Truth is, we’re just beginning to truly get the way our brains work, thanks to the new technologies of brain scanning. A lot is still a mystery, but new knowledge is rapidly unfolding. (I’m a lefty who can mirror-write almost as readily as I can write frontwards, and I’m sure it has something to do with my overblown corpus collosum. It created problems for me in first grade when, for the life of me, I couldn’t distinguish the difference between a lower case "b" and a "d" ; but it’s also what later allowed me to put language to images. So what the heck. It’s all very interesting, and getting more so by the minute these days, with all the new discoveries.

Thanks for the question and good luck with those Type A’s!



Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award