Awakening the right side of the brain

In developmental psychology, it is generally accepted that we each have left and right hemispheres within our brains that address specific functions of our bodies. The right brain is said to be dominant in spatial and facial recognition, and musical/visual affinity. The left brain is more rigid, preferring calculations, math, and logic. Our personal preference is most often based on our dominant hand, which causes the most activation and strengthening of the corresponding opposite hemisphere.

For example, I am right handed, and developed my left brain very strongly as a result. Throughout my life I have attempted to write and draw with my left hand, or to incorporate it into usage, but it was frustratingly difficult to remember to do so.

I became interested in specifically expanding the usage of my right brain as I learned more about neuroscience, and how the brain can actively grow through the learning of skills or knowledge. Learning juggling is said to physically increase the white matter of your brain—any such gain leads in turn to enhanced efficiency and capability in any other task correlated with the skill you learn. The right brain is said to be the home of “intuition”, or your ability to connect the dots (the dots being the specific objects or facts in your left brain), and I was definitely eager to see if I could improve that.

I took a drawing class—“Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain”—to see how easy and/or effective such a change could be. I have always been an artist, but I have always drawn with my right hand and left brain (resulting in stiff drawings from clipped memories).

After just a few classes, I began to notice shifts in my perception. Practicing this method of drawing was forcing me to specifically consider the spatial relationships between objects, rather than the objects themselves. As that became more and more fluid, I became able to draw accurately from life rather than from the filtered viewpoint of the left brain (which acts to sort and categorize all incoming information).

Other aspects of my life changed as well. I gained a greater appreciation of music, and have started writing songs (something I’ve never done before). I understand geometry and the sciences of spatial relationships much more (formerly one of my weakest subjects). My terrible memory for faces has started to improve—all in the past 6 months, since the drawing course started.

I started practicing writing with my left hand again, though it didn’t seem comfortable or fluid in any sense until I realized it made more sense to write in a mirrored fashion to enhance the flow of the wrist. Making that shift was surprisingly easy, and it has enabled a tremendous gain in speed and accuracy.

I thought I might get a boost out of tracing a mirrored alphabet, and set about finding one online. However, every single site that I looked at presented only worksheets on fixing mirrored writing. Parents were worried, seeing their children write in such a fashion, and they set about correcting what they perceived as flaws.

For many kids, being told that something is absolutely wrong will affect their perception of it for the rest of their life. Inserting a filter that confines spatial perception blocks the growth of the right brain and each attached function (musical, visual, facial affinity). Teaching a child to do both methods (or teaching anybody to do so) enhances their ability to make connections. The best example of this point may be Leonardo da Vinci, who could and did write effectively in both fashions.


Dedicated to the Maine NEWL of 2013

We came here as individuals,

noble and fierce in our own right.

Those first few days changed us

as we learned of leadership’s great might.

Hand to hand we considered our lives

broken apart by society’s divide.

Heart to heart a new chain was formed

Ready and able to withstand any storm.

Knowing the truth in that strength,

tempered by love and by rage,

Bar by bar we will tear down

that terrible oppressive cage.

So that each and every future woman

can stand up and say,

“I’m ready to face life.

Today is my day.”

–Lura Jackson, 06/03/13