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Left and right brain balance: The neuroscience of mindfulness based coaching and counselling.

Laterality explains how the left and right hemispheres of the brain differ from each other. Neural processing involves both sides of the brain and there are situations where different sides of the brain handle things differently and can even compete with one another! Have you ever experienced an inner conflict? It's often a driver for people to seek out life coaching and can be a big cause of stress. Some people have a more dominant side of brain and some have even said modern life favours the left brain and undermines the right. Both the left and right side of the brain have emotional bias and a proper balance allows us to experience a healthy mix of positive and negative emotion.

The left side of the brain is known for secondary processing and has more connections to explicit memory. It works in a linear fashion, giving memory it’s time, place and social expectation. The left brain is a system of control and according to Freud involves the work of the ego, trying to understand the id and meet its needs in reality. The left brain has a bias toward positivity, prosocial behaviour, assertiveness and be able to find safety in groups. Whereas the right brain involves primary processing has more implicit memory connections and is linked to the limbic system. Implicit memory is the memory that can be transformed or erased in neural plasticity. Have you ever experienced a breakthrough or insight where the past, present and future all seem to collide and change? The right hemisphere has a bias towards suspiciousness and negativity and keeps us alert to danger. It’s mostly unconscious, emotional, non-verbal, sensory motor processing similar to how Freud describes dream analysis. It’s driven by instinctual drives, a felt sense and the id.

"Though the brain is enclosed in a single skull, it is actually made of two seperate lumps.... which are designed to disagree with each other." ~ Jonah Lehrer

There have been many laterality studies showing a close connection between emotion and memory.  Laterality is dependent on the consolidation of experiences, feelings and meaningful narrative and happens in favourable attachment conditions. It's ideal to have both sides of the brain working together. Anxiety and depression have been associated with right brain processing and good treatment aims to enhance balancing the two. Complex trauma and post traumatic stress disorder is also associated with right brain processing.

A healing relationship can act as a function to reintegrate the right and left hemisphere of the brain through reality testing, emotional expression, and putting words into feelings in the context of the present moment. Through a trusting therapeutic relationship and mindful awareness you can learn how to attend to and translate right hemisphere processing into left hemisphere language and meaning. Laterality is desirable because it helps you be more self-aware and gives you a more inclusive self-narrative which serves as a new blueprint for on-going neural integration. 

Cozolino, L. (2017). The neuroscience of psychotherapy: Healing the social brain.  W.W. Norton & Company


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