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Whole Brain Living with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Meet Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist. In 1996 she experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain causing her to lose the ability to walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Her memoir, My Stroke of Insight, documenting her experience with stroke and eight-year recovery, spent 63 weeks on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list and is still routinely the #1 book about stroke on Amazon. Dr. Taylor is a dynamic teacher and public speaker who loves educating all age groups, academic levels, as well as corporations about the beauty of our human brain and its ability to recover from trauma. In 2008 she gave the first TED talk that ever went viral on the Internet, which now has well over 26 million views. Also, in 2008, Dr. Taylor was chosen as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and was the premiere guest on Oprah Winfrey’s “Soul Series” webcast. Dr. Jill Botle Taylor’s latest book Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life is on sale now. 

This conversation, if it doesn’t change your life, please let me know! I was enamored throughout the entire interview with what I learned about our brain, how it functions, and ways to better understand why there can be such discord and challenge within our own thinking and emotional systems. Dr. Jill explains your brain’s anatomy in a new way and incorporates a brilliant way to dialogue with the four distinct aspects. You’re going to want to read on. Grab a paper and pen, so you too can name your four characters. I’ve shared our names below. Get ready to have your mind glowin’, as I like to say (because who the heck really wants their mind blown).

Whole Brain Living

Did you know that your left and right brain each have their own amygdala and hippocampi? In Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book Whole Brain Living, she explains that these are the emotional centers responsible for feelings like anger, frustration, and connection. I had no idea that we have two of each and that each hemisphere has its own little team going on; the thinking tissue and the emotional tissue. You might wonder why this is interesting and how this affects your life; after talking to Dr. Jill, I realized that her research and work is both groundbreaking and crucial to better understanding our own development, way of processing life and emotional thinking, and how to better handle setbacks, anxiety, and tough situations. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s approach is one where we honor, acknowledge and tune into all four areas of our two hemispheres. This is what whole brain living is, and when you understand how powerful you are and the four characters are (see below), you will realize how much choice you have in creating a life that is fulfilling and truly connected to your deepest desires. I was blown away by this discussion, and I think you will be too. 

The Four Characters

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor has discovered what she calls the Four Characters. These are connected to the emotional and thinking tissue in our right and left hemispheres in our brain. I have outlined each of the four and invite you to give each character a name. Mine are listed below.

  1. The left thinking tissue in the left hemisphere – this is the rational thinking part that categorizes language, thinks through things quickly, likes to have control and be the boss, and is the typical ‘Type A’. It does well with right and wrong, defines structure and details, and critically analyzes data. Both Dr. Jill and I call ours Helen. I chose Helen after my high school Journalism teacher, who was one of my best teachers and was a high Type A kind of person who was all about rational thinking and thinking critically and quickly.
  1. The emotional thinking tissue in the left hemisphere-is where we store emotions from the past and are connected to our limbic cells. The 2nd character is connected to what we know as the ‘fight or flight’ response and is the zone responsible for feelings and emotions like rage, self-loathing, and anger. Dr. Jill talks about having massive respect for this aspect of your brain as it is the part that clings to the sacred past and future. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor calls this Abby, in connection to the abandoning process when leaving her mother’s womb (this will make sense if you listen to the episode), and I call mine Randi, as a metaphor for when I’ve run or ‘ran’ away from emotions in the past.
  1. The emotional thinking tissue in the right hemisphere – this is our sensory, emotional connection to the present moment. This is a very experiential part of us that wants to stay only in the present and is curious about present experiences like noticing how clothing feels, hearing the birds singing, feeling the sun on your face. This is the adrenaline junkie aspect that wants to experience a tribal, communal, and creative present experience without judgment. For this character, think of joyful and enthusiastic chaos. Dr. Jill calls her 3rd character Pig Pen (love that), and mine is Joy. Would love to know your names!
  1. The thinking tissue in the right hemisphere – this is the seat of consciousness and connection to the whole, and deeper relating to the greater Universe. This is where consciousness connects, and we feel into the fact that we’re 50 trillion cells as big as the entire Universe. In this area, you can tap into the gratitude and acceptance for being here and honoring that “I am alive”. Dr. Jill calls her 4th character Queen Toad (more revealed in the interview), and mine is Queen Lotus.


Time for a Brain Huddle

A brain huddle is where you get to ask in every moment, what is my next best response for my life to be what I want and for what I want my life to be? Understanding each character, you can literally have a huddle, or chat, with each character to get further insight into how you want to move forward with a decision or way of being. The goal is for all four characters to talk to one another. The power in this model is that you get to choose who you want to be.


Slow down, to Go Faster

One of my favorite reminders, especially for my Type A folks out there, or our Helens (or whatever you name your character one), is to slow down. Dr. Jill explains that we must slow down to listen and hear what’s going on inside and to be able to tap into Character 4, which ultimately is the connector to a greater sense of unity, peace, and deeper connection. One of the best ways to do this is through nature and mindfulness practices.


Final Thoughts

Getting to know our Four Characters intimately helps us with our emotional thinking, deeper consciousness, and rational thinking. We have to be in touch with all aspects of our brain to live our lives fully and come from a place of balance, happiness, and joy. Pick up a copy of Whole Brain Living today to learn more.


Sacred Connection

As always, this community is a sacred, safe place built on love and acceptance. It was created to help you evolve and expand into your highest self. Please share your wisdom, comments, thoughts. I love hearing from you and learning how you are being your truest, you-est you. Please join us in our Facebook group The You-est You Community for Soul Seekers

Join host Julie Reisler, author and multi-time TEDx speaker, each week to learn how you can tap into your best self and become your You-est You to achieve inner peace, happiness, and success at a deeper level! Tune in to hear powerful, inspirational stories and expert insights from entrepreneurs, industry thought leaders, and extraordinary human beings that will help to transform your life. Julie also shares a-ha moments that have shaped her life and career and discusses key concepts from her book Get a PhD in YOU.

Here’s to your being your you-est you!

Connect with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor


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