This is a book summary of Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life by Jill Bolte Taylor PhD (Amazon).
“I am a true believer that the most important relationships we have are the ones that are being carried out inside of our own head.” — Jill Bolte Taylor
If you haven’t seen her viral TED Talk, be sure to check that out:
- All content in quotation marks is from the author unless otherwise stated.
- All content not in quotation marks is paraphrased from original quotes.
- I’ve added emphasis in bold for readability/skimmability.
- I’ve organized content into my own themes (vs the author’s chapters).
Book Summary Contents: Click a link here to jump to a section below
- About the Book
- The Stroke (of Insight)
- Duality, Ego, & The Hero’s Journey
- How the Brain Works (in a nutshell)
- The Four Characters
- 90-Second Rule & Brain Huddle
- The Conscious Choice of Whole Brain Living
The Four Characters of Your Mind: “Whole Brain Living” by Jill Bolte Taylor (Book Summary)
About the Book
“What makes this book so unique and exciting is that the psychology I present here is specifically correlated to the underlying brain anatomy and what we know about the function of those specific groups of cells.”
- “In the big picture, this book is about our shared journey into the challenges of our lives and what our choices are in how we can live our best life while taking our brain anatomy into account.”
- “In this book we are talking about four predictable and easy to identify characters that we all have, based on the anatomy of our brain. Every ability we have is completely dependent on the underlying brain cells that manufacture those abilities, and these four different groups of cells manufacture four different skill sets, ultimately resulting in the expression of each of our Four Characters.”
- “This book is your road map to peace, which really is just a thought away.”
The Stroke (of Insight)
Jill’s story is fascinating. At age 37 in 1996, she suffered a left hemisphere stroke which caused her right hemisphere to become temporarily dominant. It took her 8 years to recover.
On the left hemisphere shutting down:
- “Over the course of four hours I watched my brain functions shut down one by one. On the afternoon of the stroke I could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of my life. In effect, I had become an infant in a woman’s body.”
- She could no longer: experience the linearity of time or a sense of urgency; speak or understand language; identify the physical boundaries of where the body began and where it ended; perceive individuality/personality; understand the concepts of self-loathing, feeling guilty, or feeling lonely; experience past regrets, present fears, or future expectations.
On the right hemisphere experience:
- “When I awoke later that afternoon, I was shocked to discover that I was still alive. When I felt my spirit surrender, I had said goodbye to my life. Then I realized, but I’m still alive, and I have found Nirvana, and if I have found Nirvana and I’m still alive, then everyone who is alive can find Nirvana. I pictured a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate, loving people who knew that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres and find this peace. And then I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be for how we live our lives. And it motivated me to recover.”
- Her right-only experience: peaceful euphoria and bliss of the eternal timelessness of the present moment; oneness with the universe; felt like a gigantic ball of energy that blended fluidly with the rest of the energy in the universe; could only perceive the pixelated atoms that make up space and exist at the level of the cosmic flow; perceived the essence of myself as enormous and expansive; perceived us all collectively and energetically as a part of the same being; we were all woven together into a fabric of tiny molecules that were in motion; spirit soared free and boundless; both free flowing and as big as the universe.
On regaining the left hemisphere functionality:
- “Over the course of eight years of recovery, as the circuits in my left brain regained their functions and became strong again, my left-brain characters eventually recovered and came back online. My Left Thinking Character 1, as I mentioned earlier, wanted to take over and be the boss inside my head again. But although she had been both an effective and brilliant part of my pre-stroke life and I had achieved a high level of success under her leadership, I was no longer motivated by the external factors of money and prestige that she valued. Although I knew I would have to earn a living again, my right-brain characters valued a more peaceful life, at a slower pace, with more time spent sharing deep and meaningful connections with my family and friends.”
- “Before the stroke, I had been proactive and willing to compromise my relationships by moving away from both my home and those I loved for the status and monetary gain of a career as a neuroanatomist at Harvard. Although I was truly grateful to recover the vast and important abilities of my left-brain Character 1, post-stroke I was no longer willing to choose the treadmill of work, work, work. Pre-stroke, my left-brain Character 1 had defined success through the achievement of external reward. Post-stroke, my right-brain characters found meaning through the internal standards of loving, being loved, and being in service to others.”
- “My left-brain emotional Character 2 was wiped clean like a motherboard and never recovered. Consequently, the trauma of the stroke forever stripped me of my emotional past.”
- “It is a relief for me to experience my emotions again, as they not only add depth to life, but they stretch my boundaries for personal growth.”
- “I regained the emotional circuits of resentment, guilt, and embarrassment, as well as all of the other more subtle feelings and emotions that make life alluring. Our emotions, even the negative ones, truly enrich our perception of experience and make life nuanced and more remarkable.”
“The most valuable insight I gained from this sojourn into the depths of my brain: the realization that we have the power to turn our emotional circuitry on and off by choice.”
Duality, Ego, & The Hero’s Journey
I’ve pulled these themes out specifically because I think they are absolutely critical to understand.
- “By having both of these hemispheres working together inside of one head, we experience a natural duality. As a result, it is normal for us to endure an ongoing internal conflict, based completely on the two uniquely autonomous perspectives of our left and right brains.”
- “It is critical to recognize that this divergence in how our two emotional brains assess threat gave rise to the duality of our two unique forms of consciousness. Our right-brain emotional Character 3 would dwell consistently in the conscious realm of the present moment and always perceive itself in direct relationship with the cosmic consciousness of the universe from which it came. But as soon as the consciousness of our left-brain emotional Character 2 shifted into the temporal realm of the past, it defined itself as an individual in the three-dimensional external world, no longer caught up in the flow of the whole but instead rendering itself as isolated and alone. Henceforth, our right and left brains would forever evolve on separate yet parallel tracks of consciousness and exist in duality. Our right brain would evolve to be the home of our feminine, yin, and grace of the cosmic right here, right now, while our left brain would develop masculine, yang, and ego-centered traits based on our individuality and past experiences.”
- “The only problem with denying the duality of our left and right brains, and the realms they independently navigate, is the billions of things in our right-brain world that defy our left brain’s definition of truth. Even the existence of life itself is unexplainable by our left brain. It is so important to realize that simply because our left brain has an opinion about something, that does not make it true.”
- “When my left thinking network went off-line, a specific part of my personality, a character that I had known for decades as my ego-self, also disappeared.”
- “Pre-stroke, I had known who I was because there had been a group of cells in my left brain that manufactured my identity as Jill Bolte Taylor. These cells that made up my left-brain ego-center knew who I was, where I lived, and tons of other details like what my favorite color was. These ego-center cells had worked day in and day out to keep me abreast of all the tidbits, details, memories, and likes and dislikes that had made up my identity. I, Jill Bolte Taylor, existed because the cells in my left-brain ego-center told me I existed. When those cells of my left-brain ego-center shut down, and I shifted into the oblivion of my right brain, I had no idea who I was and I could not recall anything about my pre-stroke life. It was not as though I was missing a memory that I simply could not put my finger on; it was more like that memory (and I myself) had never existed at all. I know it’s a bit disconcerting to think that who we are is completely manufactured by a small group of cells in our left brain, and that we can lose ourselves at any moment, but that is exactly how fragile our ego identities are.”
- “The chattering ‘monkey mind’ of my left brain went silent. With that internal dialogue circuitry shut off, I sat in the center of a completely silent brain for five full weeks. I even lost that little voice of my left-brain ego-self that could say, ‘I am an individual, separate from the whole. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor.’“
- “In the absence of my own left-brain Character 2, which had anchored me in the external world at an emotional level, my ego-self disappeared and with it all of the personal content of my identity. Consequently, I no longer existed as an individual who was separate from the flow of the universe, and I knew nothing about my life. Interestingly, my mother, G. G., even lost her ‘mother power,’ because not only did I not know who she was but I didn’t know what a mother was. With no language available for me to label anything, or any individuation of things in the external world, it was impossible for me to think abstractly.”
- “When many authors and teachers refer to the authentic self, you may wonder which of these Four Characters they might be referring to. In fact, from the way they describe the ‘authentic self,’ it is clear that they are referring to Character 4. But please understand that none of the Four Characters is more authentic than the others. Each of these characters represents an authentic part of who we are at a cellular level and should be treated with dignity, respect, and honor.”
- “It does this by manufacturing a holographic image of ourselves so we can delineate between what is inside of us and what is outside of us. When this happens, our left brain perceives the physical world as separate and concludes there is an external reality and an internal reality. The external world and our relationship with it move to the forefront of our focus because now we are separate from the whole. This means we are no longer safe because with life and separation from the cosmic flow comes the threat that there is now something we can lose, which is the ‘me-self’ as the center of the universe, as well as life itself. Because we have become the center of our own universe, our left-brain ego-cells come online and begin organizing everything in the external world around our individuality. With this shift of focus toward our relationship with the external world as separate from ourselves, the consciousness of the eternal flow remains, but shifts into the background.”
- “When my left brain went off-line, I lost all words and language, including the mental file that held all the details of my life. Consequently, I had no identity and knew nothing about myself. Although the consciousness of me still existed inside this same body, the person I had been before, her likes and dislikes, no longer existed. Yet even in the absence of my left-brain ego-self, I remained a conscious and living being. I simply could no longer communicate with words. They had become mere sounds that had no meaning. This experience was the first step in my Hero’s Journey, when I laid down the sword of my ego—my individuality—and stepped into the realm of my unconscious right brain.”
The Hero’s Journey:
- “This journey we will take into your brain is reminiscent of Joseph Campbell’s classic monomyth that describes the steps a hero must take to fulfill his Hero’s Journey. In the language of the brain, the hero must step out of his own ego-based left-brain consciousness into the realm of his right brain’s unconsciousness. At this point the hero feels connected to all that is, and is enveloped by a sense of deep inner peace.”
- “Before the hero’s left-brain ego-cells developed his perception of himself as an individual, he possessed the collective knowledge of his right brain’s unconscious mind. With time, as the individuation of his left brain developed, it grew to dominate and inhibit the knowledge of his right-brain mind. Consequently, the cosmic consciousness of his right brain shifted into the background, becoming his unconscious intuition.”
- “Our left-brain Characters 1 and 2 interpret the space between any two things to mean that they are separate. Science teaches us that there is an electromagnetic field of atoms and molecules that surrounds us, and that we exist within it and it exists within us. Our left brain is unaware of this sea of energy because a small group of cells in our parietal region defines the boundaries of our body, surmising the separation. How different would our world be if we understood that we have the power through our thoughts and emotions to influence this field of energy? Perhaps gaining this insight into whole-brain living is humanity’s collective Hero’s Journey and how we will evolve as a species to live our lives with purpose.”
- The Hero’s Journey Call: leaves behind the rational, ego-based consciousness that processes the reality of the external world (left brain); sheds the rational, ego-based individuality; must be willing to let go of possessions and worldly knowledge; lays down the justice-demanding judgment of the dominating left brain.
- The Hero’s Journey Unconscious Realm: enters into the realm of the unconscious (right brain); meets the Anima/Animus (the androgynous nature of the soul); embodies the merciful characters of the compassionate right brain; battles the fear of death and all the other left-brain monsters; gains the insights of his heroic quest while enveloped in the wisdom of his euphoric right brain.
- The Hero’s Journey Return: the hero must choose to either return home and share hard-won whole-brain knowledge; returning home, the hero is different now, and it is a challenge to figure out how to live a balanced life in the external world while remaining aware of both conscious and unconscious characters and their conflicting values.
“Our Character 4’s consciousness is the most distant destination of our Hero’s Journey, and returning to this consciousness is a coming home to our precious and most peaceful self. Our Character 4 is our authenticity, as it is the part of ourselves that we share with the One. Yet that does not negate the understanding that each of our Four Characters is individually authentic.”
How the Brain Works (in a nutshell)
The reptilian brain, mammalian brain, human brain, and two hemispheres (left-brain cells, the connection, right-brain cells).
Reptilian Brain (Brain Stem):
Instinctual survival; fundamental activities (breathing, heartbeat); regulating body temperature; managing our balance; processes pain, aggression, pleasure, and our drive to mate.
- “Many of these circuits operate like on/off switches. Because these functions are necessary for our survival, the reptilian part of our brain is both rigid and compulsive, in that once a circuit is turned on, it will stay on until it is either satiated or exhausted. For example, I feel hunger until it is satisfied. I am thirsty until my thirst is satiated. It is fascinating to me that this part of my brain has to tell me to stop drinking water or I will drink myself to death.”
- “At this most fundamental level of information processing, I breathe because there is a group of cells in my reptilian brain stem that tell my diaphragmatic muscle of respiration to contract, and in response to that pull, air is sucked into my lungs. If those brain stem cells should be destroyed, I would die unless I was placed on a ventilator to help me breathe.”
Mammalian Brain (Emotional Limbic System Tissue):
Modify and refine well-organized data from the brain stem by streaming it through the filter of emotion; make an automatic threat assessment based on how something feels; ask moment by moment, ‘Am I safe?’; committed to our self-preservation; regulate our body’s response to emotional stimulation and activate our fight, flight, or freeze automatic response.
- “The neuroanatomical difference between a reptile and a mammal is the addition of emotional tissue.”
- “We experience emotions via the cells of our limbic system, and these cells are evenly divided between our two hemispheres.”
- “We are completely dependent on our emotional tissue, specifically the cells of our hippocampi (one in each hemisphere), to create memories.”
- “The cellular networks of our emotional system never mature.”
- “The limbic emotional cells positioned in our two hemispheres receive direct inputs from our reptilian anatomy. However, although our left and right emotional brains receive the same information from our brain stem cells, they process it in very different ways. To put it as simply as possible, our brain stem (including the midline midbrain region) sends information directly to the emotional cells of our two amygdalae. We have one amygdala in each of our two cerebral hemispheres, and it is their job to make an automatic threat assessment, based on how something feels.”
- “At a most basic level, it is the job of our amygdalae to conceptually ask moment by moment, ‘Am I safe?’ This safety may be either physical or emotional.”
- “Because our two emotional systems simultaneously assess our external level of threat in opposite ways, we reap the combined benefits of both: the big picture of the right here, right now as well as our wisdom from past experience.”
- “When information from the external world streams in through our sensory systems, it is processed first by the cells of our limbic emotional cells before it is refined by our higher thinking centers. So, from a purely biological perspective, we humans are feeling creatures who think, rather than thinking creatures who feel.”
- “At a neuroanatomical level, when we experience conflicting feelings it is because we have two emotional groups of cells that are completely separate from one another in that they do not share any cell bodies.”
Human Brain (Thinking Cerebral Cortex Tissue):
Directly modifies and refines the underlying emotional limbic tissue of our left-brain and right-brain.
- “The difference between the human and other mammals is the addition of our … modules of thinking tissue.”
- “In the mammalian nervous system, a new species is often created by adding new brain cells on top of a well-integrated preexisting cellular matrix. When this happens, the new tissue is designed to refine and evolve the abilities of the tissue below. In the case of the human brain, although we share the cells of our deeper emotional limbic tissue with other mammals, such as dogs and monkeys, what distinguishes our human brain as unique are the newly added-on higher cortical cells of our two thinking brains.”
- “The cell bodies of our emotional brains are already in position and relatively well hooked up in circuits by the time we are born. As a result, we are wired to express ourselves emotionally as soon as we arrive in the external world. This is not true for our thinking cells. Although the cell bodies of our thinking characters have migrated into their position in the six-layer cortex by the time we are born, it will take years for those cells to interconnect.”
- “As we are feeling creatures who think, rather than thinking creatures who feel, our left-brain emotional Character 2 will eventually transfer much of its information up to our Left Thinking Character 1, while our right-brain emotional Character 3 will send its information up to our Right Thinking Character 4. Our two thinking brains will then regulate those emotional characters, as well as share their unique temporal modes of consciousness.”
- “When our limbic anxiety circuit is triggered, we are neuroanatomically cut off from accessing our higher cortical thinking centers, which is where our learned knowledge is stored.”
Why Two Hemispheres?
- “Clearly, we have two hemispheres for a reason, and without our left brain we are completely nonfunctional in the external world, in that we have no past or future, no linear thought, no language, and no sense of the boundaries of where we begin or end. Our left brain offers us our individuality, while our right brain connects us with the consciousness of not only the collective whole of humanity but the vast expansive consciousness of the universe.”
- “Our two hemispheres value completely different things, so when your heart says one thing and your head says another, it is simply a dispute between the different parts of your brain.”
- “Our two cerebral hemispheres think about different things, they care about different things, and, dare I say, they have very different personalities.”
- “The two halves of our brain house completely different character profiles that each exhibit unique wants, dreams, interests, and desires.”
- “At any moment in time, both hemispheres are contributing to the input, experience, and output of the nervous system. However, as I stated previously, brain cells dominate and inhibit their counterpart cells as a standard practice, so the brain is not all-on or all-off under any circumstance except for death.”
- “Four Characters are the natural by-product of our brain hemispheres’ cells, circuits, and functional modules of thinking and emotional tissue.”
Left-Brain Cells Overview:
- Linearity/Temporality: functions linearly like a serial processor; creates abstract linearity; ability to think sequentially; manifests temporality, the linear sense of time whereby we can separate past, present, and future.
- Order/Separation/Identity: create order out of the randomness of the cosmic flow; perceive a thing as separate from the background of the cosmic flow; manifest both an identity and a consciousness (an awareness of itself and its relationship with the external world); defines the edges of where we begin and end as individuals.
- Details/Differentiation: focuses on the details that distinguish one thing from another thing; designed to perceive differences and separation at the level of things; identifies individual things by shifting its perception in such a way that it can compare, critically analyze, and distinguish minute differences in structure and texture; capable of distinguishing two items as separate from one another by examining their differences; take an idea, compare that idea to the next idea, and then compare the by-product of those ideas to the next idea; organize and categorize things based upon their details.
The Hemisphere Connection (Corpus Callosum):
- “Our two cerebral hemispheres communicate with one another via the connections of our corpus callosum. Scientists understand that neuroanatomically the majority of these commissural fibers are inhibitory in nature and that they run from one set of cells in one hemisphere to the comparable set of cells in the opposite hemisphere. At any moment in time, both hemispheres have cells that are active, but opposing hemisphere cell groups dance between dominance and inhibition. In this way, one hemisphere has the power to inhibit the function of the comparable cells in the opposite hemisphere, dominating the function of that particular group of cells.”
- “At a neuroanatomical level, the power of our human brain is not in the way our cells excite one another but in the way they inhibit one another.”
Right-Brain Cells Overview:
- Parallel Processor: functions like a parallel processor, bringing in multiple streams of data that simultaneously reveal a single complex moment of experience.
- Present Moment: manifests a rich composite of the right here, right now present moment by adding depth to the creation of our memories, which are influenced by both of our hemispheres.
- Big Picture Flow: focuses on the pixels that have no distinguishing characteristics and move as one, as a part of the cosmic flow; the big picture.
The Four Characters
“I learned the hard way that we each have four distinctive groups of cells, divided between our two brain hemispheres, that generate four consistent and predictable personalities. Neuroanatomically these four groups of cells make up the left and right thinking centers of our higher cerebral cortex, as well as our left and right emotional centers of our lower limbic system. Collectively, I call these personalities the Four Characters. Getting to know them inside of your brain is a ticket to freedom.”
Character 1: Left-Brain Thinking (Serial Processor)
Verbal, thinks in language, thinks linearly, past/future based, analytical, focuses on details, seeks differences, judgmental, punctual, individual, concise/precise, fixed, focus on ME, busy, conscious, structure/order, organizes everything, categorizes well, is naturally mechanical, is neat, plans well, respects authority, critically judges right/wrong and good/bad, counts everything, is protective.
Character 1 Carl Jung Archetype:
- The Persona: “Our Character 1 is our power in the world and also the face we show: as we saw in Chapter 2, it corresponds to the archetype of the Persona, which Jung defined as ‘a kind of mask, designed . . . to make a definite impression upon others.’ As our alpha self, our Character 1 will compete when it is challenged and fight for what it believes in. Using its ability to discriminate between this and that, our Character 1 will define what is right or wrong and what is good or bad. In this way, our left-brain thinking tissue establishes for us a worldview and belief system within which we will make our decisions and evolve our life.”
Character 1 Description:
- Linear: process information linearly; thinks linearly and rationally.
- External-focused: focuses on things in the external world: viewing the external world at the level of things; perceive things and our relationship with those things as outside of ourselves.
- Time-Based: past/future based; punctual; busy; efficient.
- Goal-Driven: Purposeful; intentional; plans well.
- Language: verbal; thinks in language; count, list, and eventually name everything once they have structurally manifested language for communication with others.
- Judging: judgmental; critically judges right/wrong and good/bad; ability to discriminate between this and that; competent; controlling; protective.
- Order: structure/order; neat; well-organized; organizes everything; categorizes well; grouping things in repeatable and predictable routines; generate higher levels of order that eventually reach an advanced level of sophistication.
- Details: obsessed with the details of life in the external world; counts everything; perfectionist.
- Differentiation: seeks differences; refinement and higher levels of differentiation; analytical; thorough; concise/precise.
- Individual: focus on ME.
- Worldview: establishes for us a worldview and belief system within which we will make our decisions and evolve our life.
- Competitive: compete when it is challenged and fight for what it believes in.
- Respects Authority: obeys rules.
Character 2: Left-Brain Emotional
Constricted, rigid, cautious, fear-based, stern, loves conditionally, doubts, bullies, righteous, manipulates, deceives, tried and true, independent, egocentric, selfish, self-absorbed, self-righteous, self-promoting, critical, superior/inferior, right/wrong, good/bad, anger/name-calling, feels guilty, internalizes shame, negative self-judgment, anxious, whines, blames, holds grudges or resentments, no respect for authority.
Character 2 Carl Jung Archetype:
- The Shadow: “The Shadow is often described as the unknown, dark side of our personality, while our Character 2 often presents itself as the unsavory or most deeply pained part of our unconscious left brain. At its worst, this part of our brain is emotionally reactive to the external world and does not accept responsibility for its behavior. It is also inclined to sacrifice its future, as it is blinded by the pain from its past.”
Character 2 Description:
- Compares present vs past memories: designed to bring in information about the present moment and then immediately compare that to any emotional experience we have had in the past; emotions dependent upon a memory from another place and time; holds our past pain in memory for our future protection; feels and knows our past pain; determines our current level of safety by bringing in information about the present moment and then comparing that stimulation to threats from our past.
- Deepest emotions: source of our deepest and most profound emotions; ability to experience dozens of specific emotions, both positive and negative, but they are relative to past and future experiences; emotional volatility and reactivity.
- Happiness: the natural underlying circuitry of happiness (or lack thereof); can feel happiness, but such happiness is based on external conditions.
- Stress: part of our stress circuitry; pessimistically sees the glass as half empty.
- Protection from hurt: programmed to protect us from anything that has a history of hurting us; primed to say ‘No’ and push things away; screams, wails, and rages against all those injustices that it has perceived as hurtful, dangerous, or unfair; runs all of our experiences through the emotional filter of what has given us pain and what is dangerous, bad, or wrong so it can protect us.
- Fight, flight, or freeze: fear-based; holds us back, flees, or freezes when something triggers our fear; filter out immediate danger and simultaneously help us focus our attention; these cells act by making comparisons and then attracting us toward things we want and repelling us away from things we don’t want.
Character 3: Right-Brain Emotional
Expansive, open, experiential, risk taking, fearless, friendly, kind, empathic, loves unconditionally, forgiving, trusts, supports, grateful, playful, joyful, goes with the flow, awe-inspired, curious, creative/innovative, collective, sharing, equality, contextual, style, hopeful.
Character 3 Carl Jung Archetype:
- The Anima/Animus: “We are all equally important brothers and sisters who are united as one human family. Our uniqueness contributes to the betterment and increased variability and viability of the whole. I believe that our right-brain emotional Character 3 is the same part of ourselves as Carl Jung’s archetype the Anima/Animus, which represents the inner femininity of males and the inner masculinity of females. According to Jung, all humans are energetically androgynous, and this part of ourselves serves as the primary source of communication with the collective consciousness of our species, independent of our gender.”
Character 3 Description:
- Focuses on the present moment: processes present-moment experiences in the present moment; experiences emotions in the right here, right now about this present moment; always exists in the here and now and has no recollection of the past; no perception about the past, and it never disconnects from the consciousness of the present moment; can act impulsively in the present moment without considering the consequences of our behavior; can be quite compulsive.
- Interconnected with universal flow: perceives everything as interconnected and in the flow of all that is; everything is about the connection with myself or with others; always exists at the level of the flow of the universe (consciousness of the One, God, Allah, the power of the present moment, Nature, the Universe, whatever suits your belief system); the realm of that unconscious dimension that is ever flowing in the background of our left-brain focus on the external world.
- Big picture, present moment threats: provides us with the big-picture bird’s eye view of danger; interprets our overall level of safety in our immediate environment based upon how much of what we are experiencing feels familiar; assesses the threat in the present moment based completely on the information it is processing in the here and now.
- Experiential: experiential sensations; moves enthusiastically toward any experience that remotely smells like an enticing and juicy adrenaline rush; sensually experiential.
- Joy and gratitude: joy is the underlying feeling; feeling gratitude for anything at all.
- Connection with the body: loves doing stuff in our body and being active.
- Reads body language: reads body language, matches it with facial expression, and then interprets the emotional cues of inflection of voice and vocal intonation.
- Sees possibilities: sees possibilities instead of limitations; pushes limits, bucks authority, asks for forgiveness rather than permission.
Character 4: Right-Brain Thinking (Parallel Processor)
Nonverbal, thinks in pictures, thinks experientially, present moment-based, kinesthetic/body, looks holistically at the big picture, seeks similarities, compassionate, lost in the flow of time, collective, flexible/resilient, open to possibilities, focus on WE, available, unconscious, fluid/flow, aware, expansive, connection, accepting, embraces chance, authentic, generous of spirit, clarity, intention, vulnerability.
Character 4 Carl Jung Archetype:
- The True Self: “Carl Jung spoke of the Self as the archetypal part of ourselves that was the unification of our unconsciousness with our consciousness.”
Character 4 Description:
- Source, energy, universal intelligence: the source of our life; the portal through which the energy of the universe enters into and fuels every cell of our body; the all-knowing intelligence from which we came; how we incarnate the consciousness of the universe; consciousness of the microcosmic flow remains omnipotent and omnipresent; a spiritual being having a physical experience; shared with one another, and all other life; shared common consciousness; connection to our Higher Power whereby we exist as a part of the Infinite Being; the life-force power of the universe and the consciousness of our cells; the energy within which we exist; woven into every cell of our body and every molecule in the universe; the energy ball within which we live and breathe and have our being.
- Awareness: aware; awareness that we are safe regardless of our physical circumstance.
- Boundless: no physical boundaries or sense of our own individuality.
- Openness: open; expansive; as big as the universe; open heart.
- Accepting: accepting that everything is exactly as it should be; does not judge; simply celebrates with wonder the life that it lives; grateful for the gift of life; accepts what is.
- Deep peace and love: the feeling of the cosmos, the sensation of an all-pervading experience of deep inner peace and love; deep inner peace and contentment, where we are perfect, whole, and beautiful.
- True enlightenment: the road to true enlightenment is knowing that this eternal peace is our future, present, and past.
90-Second Rule & Brain Huddle
“Ultimately this book has been about the evolution of the human brain toward whole-brain living and how we can use the Brain Huddle to purposely increase the number of cellular connection we have between each of our Four Characters.”
- “Once the circuit is stimulated and we have triggered an emotional response, it takes less than 90 seconds for the chemistry of that emotion to flood through us and then flush completely out of our bloodstream. Of course, we can either consciously or unconsciously choose to rethink the thought that triggered the emotional circuit to run and stay hurt, angry, sad, or whatever for longer than 90 seconds. But in that case what we are doing at a neurological level is restimulating the emotional circuit so it will run over and over again. If there is no repeated trigger, the emotional circuit will run its course and stop after the 90 seconds that it takes for the chemistry to neutralize. I call this the 90 Second Rule.“
- “At any moment in time, there are pretty much only three things going on in our brain. We think thoughts, we feel emotions, and we run physiological responses to what we are thinking and feeling. Each of these activities is completely dependent on the health and well-being of the cells that are performing those functions.”
- “We can choose to nip an emotion in the bud and feel the circuit run in our body and let it dissipate after 90 seconds, or we can act it out for 90 seconds, or we can rerun that circuit into a loop of emotion that goes on and on and on for 90 minutes or 90 years.”
Brain Huddle (B-R-A-I-N):
- “The Brain Huddle requires that I push the pause button, which is essentially the same as running the 90 Second Rule. Pausing for 90 seconds allows whatever chemicals are running through my bloodstream to flood through and then completely flush out of me.”
- “We have much more power over what is going on inside of our heads than we have ever been taught.”
- “What I have learned is that we do have the power to pause, sidestep our habituated patterns, and make better choices. We have the power to choose moment by moment who and how we want to be in the world. That ability, like every ability we have, is dependent on the cells in our brain that perform that function.”
- “The Brain Huddle is how we own our power by taking full responsibility for who and how we present ourselves to the world, as well as how we choose to let the world influence our thinking, emotions, feeling, and behavior.”
- “Just as with the other neural circuits in our brain, the more time we spend practicing the Brain Huddle during the benign moments of our lives, the stronger that circuitry becomes.”
- “I can attest that nurturing the habituation of our Brain Huddle will lead to a more whole-brain life.”
- “The Brain Huddle encourages all Four Characters to voice their opinions. I run my brain like a democracy where every character gets an equal vote—unless I am in danger.”
- “Regardless of what is going on outside of ourselves, we have the power to routinely come out of the huddle with an appropriate and peaceful resolution.”
- “Breathe and focus on your breath. This enables you to hit the pause button, interrupt your emotional reactivity, and bring your mind to the present moment with a focus on yourself.”
- “Recognize which of the Four Characters’ circuitry you are running in the present moment.”
- “Appreciate whichever character you find yourself exhibiting, and appreciate the fact that you have all Four Characters available to you at any moment.”
- “Inquire within and invite all Four Characters into the huddle so they can collectively and consciously strategize your next move.”
- “Navigate your new reality, with all Four Characters bringing their best game.”
The Conscious Choice of Whole Brain Living
“When we know, understand, and nurture our own Four Characters, their relationships with one another, and their collective power within us, we promote our own cognitive, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness. This is whole-brain living. I truly believe that this is the evolutionary goal of humanity, and we are getting there one brain at a time.”
Living with the Four Characters:
- “Creating healthy relationships between our own Four Characters and the Four Characters of others is our goal, especially if we would like for most of those interactions to be positive and life giving.”
- “The more familiar you become with who is who inside of you, and the safer you feel to exhibit each of them, the more whole-brained your life will become.”
- “We are each one magnificent brain with Four Characters, and we have the power to choose, moment by moment, which of those Four Characters we want to embody.”
- “When we train our brain so we can easily shift between our Four Characters, we are constructing new neural connections between those different modules of brain cells. Using those connections to bring our Four Characters into a Brain Huddle at any moment empowers us to bring our best self forward and live our life on purpose.”
Actively Choosing & Building Connections:
- “When we believe that we don’t have any choices, we run on automatic. When we understand the anatomy underlying our choices, not only are we empowered to not just react but we have the ability to make informed decisions.”
- “The best news of all is that neuroplasticity is real, and we do have the power to heal our brains and have a successful recovery if we are willing to consistently do the work.”
- “Practice does make perfect when it comes to brain circuitry, because every time we run a circuit by choice, it becomes stronger.”
- “I have learned that my worldview is 100 percent dependent on the health and well-being of my brain cells and their connections with one another.”
- “I believe that the better we understand the various groups of cells inside of our brain, how they are organized, and what it feels like to run each of those different cellular circuits, the more power we have to purposefully choose which of those neural networks we want to run. By doing so we ultimately gain the power to choose who and how we want to be in the world each and every moment, regardless of what external circumstances we find ourselves in.”
- “When we realize that every ability we have is dependent on cells to perform that function, we become sensitive to the idea that our brain is a highly sophisticated collection of cells, and that our emotions, experiential feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are simply cells running in circuits. We are wired to be miserable just as we are wired to feel joyful, and we have the power to choose which of these circuits we want to focus our energy on and run and for how long, as well as how we will feel about it.”
- “Humanity exists in an ongoing state of evolution: First, we are actively integrating the newly added-on tissue of our left thinking brain (Character 1) with the tissue of the underlying left emotional brain (Character 2). Second, we are integrating the newly added-on tissue of our right thinking brain (Character 4) with the underlying tissue of our right emotional brain (Character 3). Third, we are connecting the left emotional brain tissue (Character 2) with the right emotional brain tissue (Character 3). And finally, we are integrating the left thinking brain tissue (Character 1) with the right thinking brain tissue (Character 4). When we accomplish this we will evolve into whole-brain living.”
- “The evolution of humanity is an ongoing process, and we have the power to consciously direct our own development as part of that evolution. We have two beautiful cerebral hemispheres, each of which processes information in its own unique way, and I believe that bringing them together into whole-brain living is our road map to both our own deep inner peace and peace in the world.”
- “Because our brain is a product of both its nature and our nurture of it, we have the power to voluntarily change the cellular structure underlying our thoughts and feelings. For humanity this means that for the first time in the history of life on this planet, as far as we are aware, we have the power to direct our own evolution to a higher level of intercommunication.”
- “Because our society is skewed to the values of our left brain—which values that which is outside of ourselves more than our whole selves—it has been impossible for many of us to find true purpose and meaning in our lives.”
- “A healthy brain is made up of billions of healthy neurons that are in communication with one another. Comparably, a healthy society is made up of billions of healthy people who are in communication with one another.”
“We are the life-force power of the universe with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. We have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here, right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere, where we are, I am, the life-force power of the universe. I am the life-force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form, at One with all that is. Or, I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere, where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, and separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the ‘We’ inside of me. Which would you choose? Which do you choose . . . and when? I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemisphere, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be. And I thought that was an idea worth spreading.”
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An interesting set of ideas, but undermined by the contention that there is an ‘evolutionary goal’ for humans. Evolutionary processes are blind. Humans may collectively run the ‘become as One’ circuitry or may collectively run the ‘an individual against all’ circuitry… evolution doesn’t care but processes *at a population level* the circuitry that leaves more descendants. Which may change as circumstances change.
Good point, AC. I also thought about this. I don’t think Jill Bolte Taylor is alone here.
I’m now reading Iain McGilchrist’s “The Master and His Emissary,” and I’ve been getting a slight sense that Iain is rather biased against the left hemisphere. I’ve felt this in his videos/podcasts as well as the book so far. He reiterates often that he isn’t and recognizes the importance of both hemispheres (he’s fully aware that no one would want to live without their left hemisphere), but he seems very driven to paint a specific picture of the world showcasing the right hemisphere. I’ve also noticed he seems to have a strong personal love of poetry and music (right hemisphere driven). I can’t help but wonder how much his personal bias of wanting to make the world more like the things he likes may influence his research and writing. Anyway, this may be totally off-base as I read more of the book, but this has been my initial gut reaction.
McGilchrist obviously has a critical point he’s trying to make in his book. Maybe my feeling comes from what seems like a “blurring of the lines” between 1. objective sharing of research and 2. subjective sharing of his argument. I feel like he’s blurring 1 & 2 a bit instead of sharing 1 objectively and then moving onto 2. For instance, in “How to Read a Book,” Mortimer Adler says the highest level of reading is “syntopical reading” where the reader should maintain “dialectical objectivity.” The syntopical reader “tries to look at all sides and to take no sides.” It seems even scientists may struggle to separate the objective and subjective.
I really appreciate the comprehensive nature of this summary. There are people who aren’t likely to ever pick up the book who I will share this summary with.
That’s great, Jim! Thanks for sharing. All my book summaries are some of the most comprehensive you’ll find online.