Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been studying extensively with Dr. Bonnie Badenoch, a psychotherapist, author, mentor and speaker. She leans heavily into Ian McGilchrist’s work of the divided brain, which I have found increasingly fascinating. It is proposed that the left side of the brain attempts to create certainty through categorisation. New information is dismembered and sorted according to familiar classifications. The left side is about plans and goals; it continually asks the question: How will this benefit me? Protocols, interventions and task-orientation is coming out of this side of the brain. There is an “either/or” perspective and a tendency towards judgement. The cortical columns of neurons in the left side of the brain are relatively isolated and there are far fewer interconnections. It could be said that the information becomes somewhat dead.
On the other hand, the right side of the brain orients us to the space between, the “relational space” and how it is unfolding from one moment to the next. Everything is held in context and becomes a unique experience that is unrepeatable. Whereas the left side of the brain is concerned with either/or, the right side of the brain can accept the paradox and a both/and perspective. There is an awareness that there is uncertainty and with that a potential for both suffering and meaning. The cortical columns of neurons in that side of the brain are “richly interconnected”, which makes it a well-wired network.
It is not about vilifying the left side of the brain; it’s about understanding that both hemispheres are important with their relationship to each other being vital. However, it is crucial the right side takes the lead and the left supports. Both McGilchrist and Badenoch postulate that a significant shift in society towards “left dominance” has happened, which essentially prevents us from being fully present and in our bodies. We’re unable to process stress and trauma and derive meaning from life, which can only happen when we inhabit and lead from the right side of the brain.
For me, personally, the gifts of the pandemic have been the online trainings I have been able to attend for the last 18 months. Whereas before the pandemic, I would have needed to travel at least within Europe, I can now take some further education from home via the internet. This has enabled me to connect to colleagues from around the globe, from America, to South America, Europe and Asia, which has been a truly touching and enriching experience. Last weekend I had the privilege to attend a four day CPD with Ditte Marcher, senior teacher in the Bodynamic system, which is a form of body psychotherapy looking at the psychological potential of muscles in distinct developmental stages.
One of my most important learnings from that training, which was about attachment, bonding and connectedness, was the distinction between asking for support versus making demands. It’s the distinction between seeking safety together with another person vs. seeking safety through the other person. When I’m asking for support, I’m taking responsibility for my own needs; when I’m making demands, I’m asking the other person to fulfil my needs and become responsible for my happiness, well-being, safety, etc. Ultimately, we’re dependent on one another and being self-sufficient is an illusion. However, it’s not the responsibility of other to fulfil our needs; it’s our own responsibility. Taking responsibility for our own needs, including safety, does not mean we can do it by ourselves. Most of us need to learn to ask for support and then to take it in when it’s offered. If someone can’t support us or does not give us what we need, we don’t lose our right to support and safety, it simply means we might have to re-orient.
When was the last time you made someone else responsible for your safety, happiness or well-being instead of owning it yourself?
Yoga, well-being and mindfulness... always walk in beauty.