Being these days a regular curmudgeon, I am always getting upset about the ceaseless attacks launched against reason and logic in these foolishly emotion-drenched times. The disciples of feeling would reduce human beings to unthinking bags of hormones. The taste for irrationality is growing.
The current popularity of intuition and irrationality says the left brain is inferior to the right brain. In reality, there are two sides to this question! (Image: public domain)
Annoyingly, I came across just such an “attack” in G. L. Rico’s, Writing the Natural Way. Rico lists two sets of very different character traits, inferring that each set resides in one hemisphere of the brain. A careful examination of these sets (the items in bold below) reveals a clear bias in favour of those traits associated with the right hemisphere, often considered the seat of feeling and other irrational – or non-rational – aspects of the mind. Traits associated with the thinking left hemisphere are couched in ways that sound negative by comparison. To amuse my(nasty)self – and to turn the tables on an unsuspecting G. L. Rico – I typed up the lists in bold and then set out my own alternative interpretations in plain text. Do not take what you find here too seriously, but at least think about what I am rather strenuously suggesting. Take a minute or two to compare Rico’s original lists.
Here are Rico’s “wonderful” right hemisphere traits and my somewhat (okay, considerably) less flattering interpretations.
The Right Hemisphere: “Acceptance of Uncertainty”
Rico’s title (in quotes) is an attempt to make this list sound brave and daring. A better title for this list would be “Acceptance of Self-Annihilation”
Floating self: This would mean having no clearly defined sense of self. Rico wants to make sheet-wrapped Buddhists of us all.
Involvement: Here we have the excessive need for the affection and regard of others that often signals self-dislike.
Willingness to explore what is new: Ah yes, the love of all that is trendy and fashionable, novelty for the sake of novelty. Off with the old and on with the new so often you have no idea who or what you are.
Opening, loosening: Loss of self, no identity, adrift, no standards.
Flexible: The best way to be weak willed, weak minded, and easily pushed off course.
Yielding: This means nothing more than plain ordinary weakness.
Impulse for risk: Lacking a real sense of self, some people need big thrills in order to feel alive. They are self-destructive and do not properly look after or value themselves.
Learning to be larger, more encompassing, softer more absorbent: This refers to that ill-defined sense of self that leads to those “all is one” and “I am one with the cosmos” feelings that are the ultimate self-obliteration.
Here are Rico’s “less desirable” left hemisphere traits and my more positive interpretations.
The Left Hemisphere: “Thirst for Certainty”
Rico’s title (in quotes) is an attempt to make the left-hemisphere list sound like something from a dogmatic religion. A better title for this list is “Search for Self-Realization”
Extrication, disengagement: These are the traditional virtues of independence and self-reliance, two values much out of favour in these days of big government and proliferating entitlements.
Closing, clenching: This is a way of describing self-possession, being able to control your own behaviour. It means having a sense of direction and purpose combined with the ability to finish. Such people have a stabilizing “grip on themselves.”
Impulse for security: As a positive quality, this means you are not self-destructive. You prefer looking after yourself and valuing yourself. If you have a family this quality extends to looking after them as well.
Learning to be sharper, finer, more piercing, harder, tougher: Of course! What is wrong with being a healthy person who wants to hone their talents and skills while maintaining their independence and self-reliance? Being a soggy cream puff is for losers.
Rico’s lists are a confused yet deliberate attack on reason and represent a garbled hash of disparate influences. Her views on the self, for example, are Buddhist in nature. The idea of a rigid self versus a floating self is pure Buddhism. In reality, the authentic self is constant yet does partly reside in the unconscious, which most people assume is in fact the right hemisphere – where Rico misplaces the “floating self.” A floating self is another way of describing a false persona, and the false self is always a product of the ego, which is assumed by cognitive researchers to arise in the left hemisphere.
In reality, almost all genuine character traits arise from the unconscious where they develop when we are children as our genetic inheritance interacts with the milieu we are born into. The false persona, the way we prefer to think of ourselves and present ourselves to others is a later product of consciousness. How well this false self aligns with the true person has a lot to do with how mentally healthy we are and whether others see us as reasonably genuine or as a phony and a hypocrite.