The Right and Left Brain: Post 1

The human brain is divided into two halves or hemispheres with each hemisphere being responsible for certain functions. Although they can sometimes seem as though they work independently of each other, they in fact, do work together and are bound by a bridge of fibers called the corpus callosum.

Today’s post will look at some of the different functions that each side tends to be responsible for:

Left brain:

  • Logic. This is the side of our brain that likes sequences, tends to be detail-oriented and appreciates order and patterns. Bring me the facts please!
  • Math and Science. The left brain likes what is linear and this is where we go when we need to add something up in our head.
  • Words and Language. This is where the song lyrics are formed, when we think with words, how we link names to objects.
  • Reality based. By now, you can see that the left brain likes what is rational, practical, safe and predictable.

Right brain:

  • Imagination. Day dreaming, creative story-telling, the arts, symbols and images…this is the stuff the right brain loves!
  • Feelings. The right brain will use emotion to figure out big picture, or holistic thinking. Philosophical and existential thought.
  • Non-Verbal, Intuitive. This is the side of the brain that picks up on what is not being said. Tunes of songs, being able to visualize something, understands meaning.
  • Impetuous. When we take a risk, it is right brained oriented. Much more interested in the present and the future than the past and will present us the possibilities.

Although it was often thought that we tended to have a dominant side of our brain, it has been shown that there is no true relevance to this theory. Tomorrow’s post will look at how the two side of the brain work together to create optimal functioning.

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How to Accept Constructive Criticism

First, let’s define what I mean by constructive criticism.

Whoever wrote the little lyric of “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” clearly wasn’t bullied or criticized. If there is one thing I can say about criticism, especially in childhood, it can have very damaging effects to a person’s self-esteem. Sometimes this can make us hyper-sensitive to any type of criticism and we end up perceiving what someone says as critical when it wasn’t intended that way. If we don’t have a complicated history with criticism, we can still initially feel hurt when hearing that we have done something incorrectly, or have made a misstep. In either case, we put our armour on and deflect what is being said instead of actively listening. Here are some steps to accepting constructive criticism:

  • Recognize that it is constructive. Generally speaking, constructive criticism is delivered in a calm manner and is quite specific. It often includes your strengths as well as what needs to be improved upon or tweaked. It tends to focus on the situation and not on character. It can include actionable solutions.
  • Recognize where your sensitivity is coming from. Take a deep breath and be open to the fact that perhaps you are perceiving something as critical, when in fact, it isn’t.
  • Recognize the value in it. Being able to be open to hearing someone else will help build and strengthen relationships. When you can accept constructive criticism, you create an open space for others to approach you.
  • Sleep on it. Sometimes you may not entirely agree with the feedback and that is okay. Take some time to gather your thoughts about it, vetting them to someone else to make sure you are being objective and create more conversation once you have made your own points about the situation.

Being able to accept and work with constructive criticism leads to overall flexibility, greater self-awareness and a strengthening of a sense of healthy self.

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The Importance of Accepting Praise

Ever hear these kinds of comments?

“This old thing? I got it real cheap on sale.”

“Thanks but I could have done better.”

“Oh it was nothing, took me no time at all.”

“I’d look even better if I was 10 pounds thinner.”

Sometimes receiving a compliment can feel uncomfortable or awkward. Perhaps we don’t like being the center of attention, perhaps we learned somewhere along the way that to receive a compliment led to being conceited, perhaps no one ever taught us how to accept praise, perhaps our self-esteem doesn’t allow us to see our true worth.

When we accept a compliment by downgrading ourselves, we serve no purpose. We put ourselves in a position of first accepting the praise then denying it, and we can make someone giving us the compliment in a position in which they have to convince us that we are worthy of it. When we deny a compliment, we fail to show compassion to ourselves.

Being able to smile and say “Thank you; how nice of you to notice,” is a response that will help to build your own sense of pride while also acknowledging the kindness of another person. When we both give and receive compliments, it tends to strengthens relationships. It can also help reinforce our self-worth. Hey, if other people can notice your great skills and hard work, you can too!

Learning to accept praise is a small but important skill in effective communication and contributes to our healthy sense of self. It can also help us feel more comfortable in social situations.

A general rule? When you have an opportunity to give a compliment, do so. When you are in the position of receiving one, simply say “Thank you.”

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Self-Reflection Question 7

In our ongoing series of self-reflection questions, we come to this one:

“Have I made someone smile today?”

It is not difficult to get caught up in the activity of our day – routines to stick to, timelines to make, we have to get the kids to their activities, suppers to prepare and houses to neaten. Sometimes we rush from our homes to our jobs and back to our homes again. If we are stretched too thin, we run the risk of becoming frayed; leaving us feeling drained and hardly in the mood to smile ourselves.

The act of making someone smile can become a part of our daily goal. It can be as simple as opening up a door for someone, smiling and saying hello to people you pass by on the sidewalk, a text midday to a loved one (emoticons included), taking time to chat with someone at work, picking up a little gift for someone in your home or circle, saying thank you.  In order to achieve this, we may have to give ourselves permission to slow down – when we feel we can move at a comfortable pace, we feel content and more apt to want to spread the love.

Making someone smile today – seems like an achievable goal to me 🙂

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A Poem to Lighten the Load

 

This poem was recently shared with me:

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly.

Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.

Just let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days.

Lightly, lightly. It was the best advice ever given to me….to throw away your baggage and go forward.

There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,

trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. 

That’s why you must walk so lightly.

Lightly my darling…..”  – Aldous Huxley, Island.

We often carry what isn’t ours; or become overwhelmed with task. We are often weighted down by things from our past, mulling them over until they become part of the load. What a lovely reminder that despite our day ahead of us, we can bring lightness into our thoughts; we can invite it into our every day routine.

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Self-Care for a Rainy Day

This time of year often brings rainy days and we can find ourselves in the house, feeling a bit cranky that the weather has predicted our day. With little control over the weather, perhaps we can turn a rainy day can into an opportunity for self-care:

  • Cuddle up on the couch with blankets, loved ones, popcorn and a feel-good movie.
  • Bake a favourite recipe; focusing on comfort food.
  • Write a letter to someone – the old fashioned way.
  • Have a home spa day – candles, a warm bath, pedicure.
  • Enjoy a warm drink while sitting down to read a book.
  • Research vacation ideas.
  • Visit memory lane by looking through old photo albums.
  • Go to a cafe, sit by the window, enjoy the sound and look of rain.
  • Laugh with re-runs of a funny TV program.
  • Indulge and take an afternoon nap.

Although rainy days have the potential to make us feel blue, we can proactively change our inner climate by focusing on the cozy and feeding our comfort system. What are some things that you like to do on a rainy day?

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How Light Can Bring Hope

I love this passage about how light can bring hope:

“Scientists have discovered that what looks like darkness to the human eye is actually filled with tiny particles called ‘neutrinos,’ slivers of light that pass through the entire universe. Apparently, there is no such thing as total darkness anywhere, even though the human eye thinks there is. Knowing that the inner light of things cannot be eliminated or destroyed is deeply hopeful.” – Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ

There are times when darkness feels invasive; it is comforting to know that what we may not see, is in fact still there.

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The Book “The Second Moutain;” wise words about suffering from David Brooks

I have just finished reading a book entitled “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks. In this book, Brooks explores four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose. It is a book about personal fulfillment and the sense of agency that is required to live a joyous life. In the beginning chapters, he speaks about suffering:

“There’s nothing intrinsically noble about suffering. Sometimes grief is just grief, to be gotten through. Many bad things happen in life, and it’s a mistake to try and sentimentalize these moments away by saying that they must be happening to serve some higher good. But sometimes, when suffering can be connected to a larger narrative of change and redemption, we can suffer our way to wisdom. This is the kind of wisdom you can’t learn from books; you have to experience it yourself. Sometimes you experience your first taste of nobility in the way you respond to suffering.”

He goes on to say, “The right thing to do when you are in moments of suffering is to stand erect in the suffering. Wait. See what it has to teach you. Understand that your suffering is a task that, if handled correctly, with the help of others, will lead to enlargement, not diminishment.”

Suffer our way to wisdom – a hopeful sentiment and so true. We learn just as much about ourselves from what hurt us as from what loves us. Brook’s wise words also touch on the importance of leaning into the support of our loved ones, for it is the midst of care and connection that we best heal.

Check out “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks here: https://www.amazon.ca/Second-Mountain-David-Brooks/dp/0812993268/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+second+mountain&qid=1573151255&sr=8-1

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A Lovely Story of Empathy and Forgiveness

I regularly listen to a podcast called Ear Hustle. It is based out of San Quentin and gives the listener a glimpse into the daily realities of life in prison. In their latest episode entitled “Tell Christy I Love Her,” we meet Tom, a police officer, his wife, Christy and an offender, Jason, who is serving 19 years in prison for shooting Tom in a violent encounter in 1997.

Jason, a 17 year old gang member in 1997, mistrusted the police from an early age. After being pursued on foot by Tom, the encounter turned violent when Jason shot Tom in the neck. Jason was found guilty and sentenced; Tom and his wife were left to try and heal from a traumatic and life changing event.

When Tom attended a parole board meeting to ask that Jason not be granted parole,  he noticed and heard some things about Jason that he wasn’t expecting. And so began a journey into trying to understand what happened.

Through a restorative justice project, and what is named the Victim-Offender dialogue, victims and their offenders have the opportunity to write to each other through a mediator. There are times when they are also given the opportunity to meet. This is what Christy had to say upon watching Tom meet Jason for the first time:

“One of the first things that I noticed about Jason was how remorseful he was; that was one of the first things that touched me when I saw that. And if the victim could see that the person was remorseful, imagine how much of their life they could save, not having to wonder?”

This was an absolute lovely story to hear about; rich in detail with the opportunity to listen to all of them tell their story. It is worth your time to listen to it: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ear-hustle/e/64629111?autoplay=true

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The Risk of Black and White Thinking

Emotions will create action urges; we are often compelled to a behaviour based on the way we are feeling. In order to make a sound decision, we allow logic and reasoning to inform our emotions; a concept known as Wise Mind.

Every so often in therapy, I meet clients who rely too much on their logic and they tend to ascribe to black and white thinking. They see things a certain way, and that’s that. No amount of trying to bring their attention to another perspective sways them; they remained locked into their opinion and subsequent solution.

The risks of this type of thinking include:

  • Decreased capacity for closeness in relationships. If the people in your life feel they don’t have an opinion or a say in how decisions are made in the family, it will create a roadblock for true intimacy.
  • Black and white thinking can lead you to tactics such as the silent treatment or cutting people out of your life who don’t agree with you.
  • By not listening to another person’s perspective, you run the risk of losing their respect and admiration. Without respect, you actually lose compliance.
  • Black and white thinking will continue to create and cement a pattern of rigidity; people will begin to perceive you as  stubborn, unapproachable or cranky.
  • It undermines those you love; making them feel small or powerless in your presence.

Life tends to be more grey; there are always two sides to a story and a purpose to compromise. We are much better served when we lean into flexibility and looking for solutions rather than looking to be right. Being open to others opinions, and to our own emotions can guide us into a healthier way of thinking.

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