The sayings “Two heads are better than one” and “Let’s put our heads together” are popular idioms for good reason. Their truths are apparent when trying to solve difficult problems, make important decisions, or come up with creative ideas. What most people don’t realize is that we already have two “heads” within our own brain that can readily serve these purposes. All one needs to do is get them talking with one another, and that is much easier than you’d think.
Psychologists and neurologists have been studying the differences between the left and right hemispheres of the brain for the past 50 years, and many people now have some idea about how these differences work. For those who don’t, here’s a rough break down of how the functions of the two hemispheres have traditionally been understood:
- Left hemisphere
- Language functions
- Logical thinking
- Analytical reasoning
- Linear thought
- Organized – oriented to details
- Right hemisphere
- Feeling and sensing
- Non-linear thought
- Holistic – seeing the big picture
- Ungoverned by rules
This isn’t by any means a definitive list; it’s a bit more complicated. Today’s researchers have discovered that each hemisphere has the ability to process both types of information, so there’s a better way to think about their differences.
In some ways, these two sides of the brain resemble how the two different parents in a family might work. Prior to the 1960s, many families had mothers and fathers who assumed relatively standard roles in family life. Fathers were considered to be rational thinkers who went to college, became breadwinners, and assumed the role of authority in decision-making and parental discipline. Mothers were more likely to be caretakers in the home, tending to the emotional and physical well-being of families and assuming responsibility for most of the shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Then the social revolution of the 1960s altered these norms dramatically. It was soon realized that wives were capable of doing everything husbands could do and vice versa. This is a better way to think about the differences between the left and right functions of the brain. Though generalities still exist, each is capable of adapting to serve different needs.
There’s another important way in which the two hemispheres of the brain mirror the relationships between husbands and wives. Imagine two identical families living across the street from one another. In each, the husbands serve identical functions to one another, as do the wives. Their only difference is that one couple doesn’t cooperate with one another and the other does. It’s pretty clear which couple is more likely to raise better-adjusted children. The same principles apply to the two hemispheres of the brain. Just like couples, when the two sides are able to communicate and cooperate, the mind as a whole is able to function more effectively and with less confusion.
Forget about trying to understand which side of your brain serves which functions. What’s more important is teaching your two hemispheres how to work together. This can be done quickly and easily. I say this with certainty because I’ve been teaching my psychotherapy clients how to do it for more than 25 years.
The first step involves the mechanics of getting your two hemispheres to communicate with one another. A network of nerve fibers, the corpus callosum, connects the two hemispheres in a way that allows communication to take place. You can stimulate this communication using a technique called two-handed writing in which two pens (one in each hand) are used in an alternating fashion to create dialogues between the hemispheres. Because each side of your brain controls the opposite side of your body, your right hand will speak on behalf of your left brain and your left hand will speak on behalf of your right brain.
In order for communication between your two brains to be most effective, it needs to be collaborative rather than argumentative. (Yes, the brain can, and does, argue with itself.) Again, think of the differences between couples who cooperate instead of arguing. You want the different sides of your brain to have a healthy partnership, and there are a number of different ways they can partner with one another. For instance, one is a partnership between your head and your heart. Another is a partnership between your rational mind and your creative mind. A third is between your analytical mind and your intuitive mind. In order to create the partnerships between the two sides that you desire all you need to do is get them to talk to each other.
Two-handed dialogues are initiated by having you’re dominant handwrite a question to the part of your mind with which you want to collaborate. Begin with a greeting and question, such as, “Hello, Heart. . .”, or “Hello, Intuition. . .”, or “Hello, Creativity… can we talk about subject X?” After your dominant hand poses a question or makes a comment, pause and simply listen, allowing your non-dominant hand to write a response. Your non-dominant hand’s writing will be slower and messier, but it’s worth the wait! You may be astonished by what you hear coming back from the non-dominant side of your brain.
There are countless benefits to becoming more bi-brained. Solving problems, managing emotions, and generating creative ideas all become quicker, easier, and more effective. Whenever I suffer from writer’s block, a brief conversation between my left and right brain gets me through the block like a hot knife through butter. As a clinical psychologist, my main purpose for teaching bi-brain communication is to help clients heal different parts of their mind that are divided by conflict or conscious and/or subconscious levels of awareness. The technique of two-handed writing has been the most effective tool for healing the mind that I’ve encountered in the past 30 years.
Credit for this amazing technique belongs to art therapist, Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D., who first wrote about it in her bestselling books, ThePower of Your Other Hand (1988, 2019) and Recovery of Your Inner Child (1991). Capacchione’s work inspired the NewYorkTimesbestseller, Thought Revolution:HowtoUnlockYourInnerGenius(2012, 2014) by William Donius. In his book, Donius explores how cognitive powers are magnified in different ways using bi-brain thinking. Daniel Pink’s groundbreaking book, AWholeNewMind:WhyRight-BrainersWillRuletheFuture(2006), explains how people who tap into the right brain’s capabilities will enjoy distinct career advantages over primarily left-brain thinkers.
My own forthcoming book, WholeMindHealing:ANewPathforChanging Your Life by Healing Your Mind (2019), teaches readers how to heal their minds using dialogues between their two brains. It’s no exaggeration to say that the ability to improve your mental health, expand your thinking powers, and shape your destiny literally lies within your own two hands. We are all wired to be bi-brained, and it is merely up to us to determine how to take advantage of our brain’s infinite potential.