I'm walking around in the forest, listening to Daniel J. Siegel narrate his own book, "Mindsight" and toward the end of Part One of the audiobook, he has been telling us about an old man named Stuart who could not get in touch with his emotions, because his right brain was not functioning as well as his left, and it has become an issue of translating images and feelings (right brain stuff) into words (left brain stuff) -- "finding the words to accurately depict our wordless internal world." Ah, how often have I suggested to my students that people don't think in sentences, or even words... images, feelings, senses come first and then we translate them into words, language, sentences. We use our left brain to give name to what is going on in our right brain. (Of course, it's more complicated than that, but...)
And when we write (and read), especially when we write (and read) fiction, it gets even more complicated.
Here's what Siegel says: "We use the left hemisphere's packets to ask another person's left hemisphere a question about his experiences or feelings or to ask ourselves the same question. That person must decode those signals and send a message across the corpus collosum to activate the right hemisphere, which comes up with the nonverbal, somatic, sensory images that are the stuff of feelings. He then has to reverse the process, translating the right hemisphere's internal music back into the digital neural processors of the left hemisphere's language centers. Then, a sentence is spoken. Amazing!"
He goes on: "This was why it was important for Stuart to write in his journal and make it not only a record of his thoughts, but also the sensations, imagery and feelings that were entering his awareness.
"Using words to describe and label this internal world can actually be useful, not just for those like Stuart who have trouble accessing their emotions, but for those who need to find a way to bring balance to overactive feelings. Such people have an excess of right mode flow, without enough linkage to the left, versus Stuart's excess of left mode activity w/out enough linkage to the right, and may suffer from emotional disregulation and chaotic outbursts."
"They can become overwhelmed by fragmented and biographical images filled with bodily sensations, awash in emotions that overwhelm and confuse. For these people balance entails gaining some mental distance in the sanctuary of the left mode. Since the right hemisphere is more intimately linked to the emotion-generating subcortical areas, we can see why raw, spontaneous feeling is more fully and immediately felt in the right mode. And why it makes sense that linking the right and left modes through the left hemisphere function of language might bring about the necessary balance.
"And indeed studies done by my colleagues at UCLA have actually shown that naming an affect soothes limbic firing. Sometimes we need to name it to tame it. We can use the left language centers to calm the excessively firing right emotional areas."
The sanctuary of the left mode. The sanctuary of language. The sanctuary of fiction...