Students this week were offered a preliminary lesson on the two hemispheres of their brains, and the amazing “corpus collosum” or superhighway that connects the two sides. The point of the lesson, in addition to learning about major functions of the right and left hemispheres, was to help them understand from a structural perspective that they are in charge of steering their own “ships” down the “River of Calm.” We reviewed the right side of the brain as being responsible for emotion, creativity, and artistic tendencies, while the left side is more responsible for words, language, organization and lists, and literal interpretations. We discussed the right side as encapsulating the “spirit of the law” while the left side represents the “letter of the law.” With the analogy of a superhighway, the children were introduced to the concept that we all have tendencies toward both sets of traits, and it is through the superhighway of the corpus collosum that the right side of our brains can talk to the left side to process things like “big emotions.” Kids considered the danger of being stuck in the riverbank of rigidity (left side) and the danger of being stuck in the riverbank of chaos (right side). Picturing themselves paddling down the river, the children were left with the knowledge that our brain is formed to adapt to challenges and big feelings, and it is through language and planned strategies that we can process those big emotions so as not to become stuck on one side of the riverbank or the other. There is such power in our capacity to stay calm and present in the midst of hard times or chaos, to think through problems reasonably and with an understanding that no problem is insurmountable as long as we fight hard to remember our options. It is easy to give in to fear or to react in a tantrum type of way, at which point our brain tells us untruths that simply make us more upset and more stuck. As human beings, we have choices, we have options, and we have the capacity to steer our own ships down the “River of Calm” and to realize that the more we practice calm reactions and talking through feelings, the better at it we get.
Julie Bassi, Ph.D.