Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A brain of two halves

In this morning's Guardian;
The broader point Bolte Taylor makes about stress and relationships is that, in the 90-second aftermath of a row, we are all at the mercy of our biochemical reaction - "anger" as we call it - but that after it subsides we have a choice: to hang on to it or to let it go. It is, she says, a question of recognising that "emotions and relationships are just circuitry" and can therefore be resisted or rewired. Even if the person you've been arguing with is really, really annoying? With a flourish, Bolte Taylor cites her own mother, who before she had the stroke could wind her up like nobody else. But after the stroke, she says, it was like pushing "the reset button". "And so it was fascinating for both of us, because she had no power. Her power was gone. I looked at her differently; I did not respond to those things that I had been trained throughout my life to respond to."

Her mother must have loved that.

"Yeah, I don't think she liked it at all. We had to establish a new relationship. And she would try this stuff on me and I would say to her, 'That's not effective any more. That's not the relationship we have any more.' And she got it, real quick. And we became equals in this process and it was beautiful because we got to bury all the garbage."

Realistically, hitting the reset button sounds like something most ordinary people might only achieve by getting comprehensively stoned, shutting themselves in an isolation tank or actually having a stroke; but Bolte Taylor insists it is just a question of recognising and then bypassing the circuitry. "I try to think of something that is funny. I just go somewhere else. You have the choice of changing the focus of your attention. Some of us get into fights and we go around thinking, I should've said this, they did that to me, and that's your left hemisphere, just egging it on, egging it on. And then let's say the phone rings, you get really excited about something else and then you hang up the phone. And then you have a choice."
Always and everywhere...., remember yourself.