Split Brain Theory
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Split-Brain Theory, but it’s utterly fascinating. I hadn’t heard of it until just a few days ago and most people think of the whole right-brain, left-brain thing when you say it. Or, if you are an unapologetic Steve Martin fan like me, you might think of “The Man with Two Brains.”
It is neither. Basically, it is a pretty commonly accepted theory in modern psychology that you, me, all humans do not just have one self. When I lay it all out it’s going to sound like a ‘duh moment’ but this concept acknowledges that we are not one-dimensional creatures with one identity that cleanly encompasses all that we are.
In our brains and minds we have these very separate, fully independently functioning selves or parts that all coexist like neighbors living together in a condo complex. This is an idea that has existed for a long, long time and is explored in the occult rather openly, encouraging people to become aware and comfortable with their internal dualities, to do shadow work and to strive toward acting and being always as your highest self and in less occultic context, can be likened to when therapists or coaches might encourage you to name a particularly critical voice in your head or give your fear a name.
Sometimes it is this inability to reconcile these selves as ours, that can cause a complete psychotic break or the development of certain disorders, but most healthy people can navigate the complex neighborhoods of their minds while on autopilot.
This idea first got introduced to me while reading Jim Kwik’s book ‘Limitless’ about how to upgrade you brain and supposedly learn, read and consume information faster. The book itself is an easy and straightforward read with some basic but helpful tips, especially if you’ve never explored brain optimization before, but this small segment referencing split brain stood out to me. It was one of the only texts that I highlighted from this book.
The very next morning I was reading a chapter from ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ which I feel like I’ve been reading for over a year now… I may be, honestly. I’m intentionally reading this slowly so I can fully absorb and appreciate everything and unlike ‘Limitless,’ this book covers a wide range of intricate psychological theories, tests and practices specifically relating to PTSD and treatment options.
Well wouldn’t you just know it, but the chapter was all about the split brain and split selves that exist within traumatized patients. Therapists discovered that if they can help clients identify and name each of these personality profiles who all serve very important roles in protecting and ensuring the survival of the holistic self, then the patient can in turn start asking each individual self to step back and stop protecting this vulnerable place just temporarily so that they can fully understand what’s going on inside.
I was so enthralled that I kept reading until the end of that segment. I don’t know if it was that phenomenon that I’m sure you’ve experienced where you become aware of something and now your brain sees it everywhere, you know, like when you decide you may want to buy a Tesla now all of the sudden instead of seeing one or two occasionally on the freeway you are spotting them literally everywhere and counted 72 on your way to work. Or this might be some grand sign from the universe to pay extra special attention to this. I’m not fully ruling out either, because I’ve been very seriously considering going back to school for either a masters or doctoral degree but I’ve been having a challenging time deciding an area of focus. I know that it will most like be in psychology as I have hopes of putting forward work as social psychologist focusing on the impacts of social media and digital consumption on our identities and lives. This is a field that I truly believe future generations will need dedicated specialists. I have also been thinking about religious psychology and working with people who have been traumatized by religious or cult programming and lastly, I may pursue being a sex therapist.
Oddly enough, there is no dedicated degree program to become a sex therapist, though it is one of the most needed and most vulnerable areas of practice. Instead, there is a certification you can get as an additive to your existing psychology degree.
Enough about school… (But if I do go back, you can bet your bottom that I’m going to stock up on Lisa Frank supplies!) I was a little unsure about why I was so captivated with this, and then I remembered something that my good friend and colleague Ann has said to me on multiple occasions now. She said that I often seem surprised by my own emotions. Like I didn’t know they were even there or that I could or should be feeling them.
This prompted a little investigation and what I landed on was that it might be because I have a very strong idea of who I think I am or should be, so anything that deviates outside those parameters does in fact, surprise me. This could also explain why I was drawn to acting for a time for the particular reason of discovering new faucets and sides of self within my characters. I never looked at it as me becoming someone else, I always experienced it as me digging down deep into my personal well and finding new feelings, perspectives, empathy and understanding that I never knew existed within previously.
Ok, so what does this all mean? Well, I don’t know. Ha! I hope you don’t feel that I’ve been leading you on this whole time. That was not my intention. I think I’m just at the tip of the iceberg on this one and I’ve been spending time identifying some separate and often opposite selves inside of me. And I encourage you to do the same to deepen your own self-awareness and understand a little better about how you function in this world. Here’s a couple examples to show of what I’ve been doing and noticing:
This part of myself is extremely insular, private, quiet and studious. This part values silence, stillness and being alone above all else. I get edgy if I don’t give this part of myself adequate attention and space to exist. I would dare to say, this may be my anchor self. My rooted self, because this is who I return to during times of healing, growth and transition.
This part of myself has almost obsessive energy and wants to be a central part of the action. This part of me likes to be in control, have attention and values fun, beauty, excess and novel or new experiences as a vital way of experiencing life. This is my playful self. The self that can temporarily forget about long-term consequences or responsibilities.
And almost in complete opposition of the Fireball is the Observer. I often find myself feeling like I am not actually part of this world, but watching it and all of the people from the outside. I interact, I respond, but mostly I exist in a state of observance as this part of myself. The world is like a living classroom and I learn from watching others, always keeping a guarded distance.
This part of myself is infuriated by injustice and lack of equanimity. This part of myself is extreme passionate, emotional, vocal and uncompromising. I have a strong sense of morality, ethics and deep compassion for humanity and will fight to defend the defenseless, voiceless or resourceless. This may be why being a journalist was so uncomfortable for me, because it removed the opportunity for advocacy.
Let's #ShineStrong Together