- Jill Bolte-Taylor is a neuroanatomist who had a stroke in 1996 and wrote two books about her experience and recovery.
- Stroke of Insight: Jill describes how she lost the functions of her left hemisphere, such as language, logic, and identity, and shifted into a state of blissful awareness of the present moment, feeling one with the universe.
- Whole Brain Living: Jill explains how she discovered that there are four distinct anatomical structures in the brain, two in each hemisphere, that correspond to four different characters or aspects of our personality, each with its own skills, values, and preferences.
- Left Brain/Right Brain: Jill discusses how the left brain is responsible for creating order, structure, and categorization, while the right brain is responsible for experiencing the big picture, the energy, and the connection of all things. She also addresses some of the misconceptions and nuances of the left brain/right brain dichotomy.
Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people. We’ve done nearly 700 of them now, and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu, where you’ll see them organized in several different ways. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there are PayPal buttons on the site and a page that explains alternatives to PayPal. And from the very start, I was opposed to having any kind of paywall or advertising or anything else. There are some annoying YouTube ads, but you can skip them. But other than that, this is totally supported through voluntary donations. Another little point, just before we get started, is that I’ve been on this campaign to get all the interviews transcribed, and I recently began using a program that’s made by the people who make ChatGPT, the open AI company. It’s called Whisper, and it’s remarkably accurate in terms of creating transcripts. So I’ve been going through and transcribing all the interviews with that. But then they need a little bit of tweaking, so volunteers are listening to interviews and making little adjustments as necessary in those transcripts. So if you feel like volunteering for that, get in touch, and you can choose whichever one you want to work on that hasn’t already been done. My guest today is someone I’ve wanted to interview since near the very beginning of starting this show, Jill Bolte-Taylor. Most of you have probably heard of her. Years ago, ’96, I believe it was, she had a rather serious stroke, and after recovering for eight years, she eventually gave a TED Talk, which was one of the first really successful TED Talks. I think it helped to kind of launch the TED platform called “My Stroke of Insight,” and she also wrote a book by that title, which was very successful. Let me just read her bio here. She was working at Harvard at the time as a neuroanatomist, and she’s now affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Neurology. So in ’96, she had that severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain, which caused her to lose the ability to walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Then she wrote that book eventually after recovering called “My Stroke of Insight,” which documented her experience with stroke and her recovery. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 63 weeks, and she was on Oprah Winfrey and all these different shows. Her most recent book, which I just finished listening to, is called “Whole Brain Living, the Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters that Drive Our Life.” Dr. Taylor loves educating all age groups, academic levels, as well as corporations, about the beauty of our human brain and how we can work with ourselves to live a more peaceful life. Okay. About her TED Talk, “My Stroke of Insight,” I thought about this, and I thought, well, I’d like those of you who haven’t heard that story to hear it, but I don’t want to have her take the whole chunk of time regurgitating the story when she did such a brilliant job in that TED Talk. So I’m going to put a link to that TED Talk in the description of this interview, just below the YouTube video, and I encourage you to watch that. It’s only 18 minutes long before proceeding to watch this interview, because it’ll be a good kind of precursor to what we’re going to talk about today. It’s had over 28.5 million views, by the way. In 2008, she was chosen as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and I mentioned that she was on Oprah Winfrey’s Soul Series webcast. And her website is drjilltaylor.com. So, that was a long introduction. Welcome, Jill.
Jill: Hi, Rick. It’s good to be with you.
Rick: Good to be with you. And Jill was just telling me she lives on a boat during the warmer weather for like six months of the year. So she’s on a boat in some beautiful lake in Kentucky, is it?
Jill: Yes, and of course the boat is named Brainwaves.
Rick: Great. Must be lovely to live on a boat. So, let me give you my nutshell understanding of the most important point you made in your book, and you can use that as a launching pad for everything we’re going to talk about. And that is that there are four distinct anatomical structures in the brain, two in each hemisphere. I believe two are in the hippocampi and two in the amygdalae. And each one of them is associated with a particular character, as you call it, or aspect of our personality, each of which is quite distinct from one another. And you say that you feel that the full development of all these four characters is the evolutionary goal of humanity. And that implies, of course, that most of us don’t have them all fully developed, and that even our personal evolutionary goal would be to fully develop them all and have them in nice, cooperative, collaborative relationship with one another. So is that a good little synopsis?
Rick: Almost, yeah.
Jill: So as you think about the brain and the mammalian nervous system, the way that it evolves over time is the addition of new tissue on top of the old tried and true circuitry that has now become streamlined. So the two groups of cells that make a mammal a mammal are the addition of the emotional tissue, one on each hemisphere. And the emotional tissue is the amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus. That’s mostly it. So we have two amygdala, two hippocampi, two cingulate gyri, one in each hemisphere, and they process information in similar but different ways. They use the filter of emotional experiential content, but the right hemisphere is about the right here, right now, temporality, while the left hemisphere is about a past and a future. And then the difference between a typical mammal and a human mammal is the addition of more tissue on top of that, which is the thinking tissue in each of the two hemispheres. So we end up with two modules of emotional tissue as well as two modules of thinking tissue, and they do different things. But each of the modules as a collective result in certain skill sets, and when we wipe out that module of cells, we wipe out a predictable skill set, and with that goes a certain part of our personality. So we really do have four very distinct and specific personality profiles that we all have, and to me, yes, the evolution of humanity through a neuroanatomical perspective is to have the thinking tissue on each hemisphere communicating with one another, the emotional of both with one another, as well as then the thinking and the emotional in each of those hemispheres. And I truly believe that is the evolution of humanity, at least prior to the concept of now we have an internet. And the internet becomes a different level of consciousness, which we’re kind of using our brain cells as the computers that are interconnecting at that network level.
Rick: Okay, and so when you had your stroke, it pretty much wiped out your left hemisphere, right?
Rick: Yeah, and just give us a nutshell version of what your experience was like in the throes of that stroke.
Jill: Well, so it took for four hours, I watched my own brain break down circuit by circuit, the ability for me to do very specific things, and over the course of that four hours, then by the end, I could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of my life, and at an anatomical level, I blew a hemorrhage in the left half of my brain, and it was kind of evenly distributed between wiping out the thinking tissue, rational thinking tissue in that hemisphere, as well as the emotional tissue of that hemisphere. But when I awoke, I remained conscious, I just simply no longer had the skill sets of everything that normally would have been going on in my left hemisphere.
Rick: And yet, you were a pretty happy camper. You felt like you were one with the universe.
Jill: Yes, yeah.
Rick: Kind of in this blissful state.
Jill: Well, when you think about what do the cells in that left hemisphere do, they take the big picture, and they package it, and organize it, and categorize it, and part of that packaging is a group of cells in the left parietal region that defines the boundaries of where we begin and where we end. So I know that this is my skin of my face, and I know that these glasses on my face are not me, because I have a holographic image in my left hemisphere that defines the boundaries of where I begin and end. If I lose those boundaries, then I perceive myself to be the energy ball of this conglomeration of some 50 trillion cells of life, and in that perception of the present moment, there’s no boundaries of where I begin and end. So that left hemisphere comes in and says, “Okay, we’re going to take this big picture now, and we’re going to package it, and we’re going to package it as a me, an individual.” So I then have boundaries, and I become separate from the whole. I become my perception of my individuality is separate from you, and then the goal of the left thinking tissue is to take the package now that I define as me, the individual, and relate me to the social norm, which I and my colleagues will define, but I then fit myself inside of that box of right, wrong, good, bad. So each cell, each of these beautiful cells inside of our brain, they have very specific circuits. They are responsible for very specific abilities, very specific behaviors. And yeah, I mean, when I lost the left hemisphere, I didn’t have the right, wrong, good, bad of the social norm. I didn’t have all my pain, emotional pain from the past or my fear of the future. I didn’t have my relationships in the external world. I didn’t know what a mother was, much less who my mother was. All I had was the experience of the present moment of being a big energy ball as big as the universe, and it was lovely there. I liked it.
Rick: Yeah. Well, funnily enough, I mean, a lot of people who listen to this show, that’s what they’ve been striving for for decades, perhaps, as spiritual seekers. And I think we’re going to talk about the implications of that. And I think you were a classic example of someone who, you were a good demonstration of the fact that we not only need the unbounded one with the universe thing, we still need to remember our zip code and pay our taxes and know who our mother is and all the specific nitty-gritty details of an individual life.
Jill: And that’s the beauty of having these two very different ways of being. One in the right here, right now, Rick, if I’m just looking at you and I’m in the present moment, I don’t remember who might be standing behind me because they were in my past. So, the experience of the present moment and the freedom to be the big ball of energy that I am, that expansiveness and openness, it ends up as a character profile. And I think people can access that part of who we are easier when we know who we want to be, what it will feel like, what are those characteristics, instead of just kind of saying, “Okay, I’m going to combat the noise in my left brain. I’m going to try to quiet those voices. I’m going to try to bring my mind into the present moment, even though I’m really mad at my husband. I’ve got all that. I’m going to let it all go because it’s not in the present and come into the present as this massive presence of being, and this is a perfect moment. Every moment is a perfect and beautiful moment when we allow ourselves to reduce all that other chatter going on inside of our head. And we can all attain it all the time because we’re wired for it.
Rick: Yeah. So, would it be true to say, perhaps simplistic but true, that the left brain is responsible for any happiness we may derive from external experiences while the right brain is responsible for internal happiness or joy that we may find within?
Jill: Yeah, that’s what the research looks like. So, when we have a conditional joy, “Okay, you and I are going to go for a picnic today.” And so, I’m really excited about it. We get to go for a picnic today, and then it rains. And so, now I’m not happy because of the condition external to me that it’s raining, and so now I’m not going to get my picnic. But that doesn’t have any negation over the fact that I still get to be in the presence of you, and I have this incredible joy because we get to share energy and share time and space and conversation. Wow, how great is that?
Rick: And let’s say two friends are sitting on the rim of the Grand Canyon enjoying the view, and one of them is miserable and the other is very happy, even though they’re looking at the same scenery. So, that must say something about the functioning of their two brains.
Jill: Well, at least in that moment.
Rick: Yeah, at least in that moment. And it could be chronic.
Jill: It could be chronic. And that, to me, that’s the beauty of this material is that just knowing that I have all four of these parts of me, then I can look at myself and say, “Okay, how do I evenly distribute my energy or my time between these different parts of who I am? How do they negotiate how I spend my life with one another?” And in any moment, we have the power to pick and choose who and how we want to be, and it helps when we know, “Well, what are my choices?”
Rick: Yeah. So, I’ve heard criticisms of the sort of left brain/right brain thing from people who know what they’re talking about, and you are one, that it’s often dumbed down too much. It’s made too simplistic. It’s more nuanced or sophisticated than is often portrayed. So, kind of educate us as we go along here about how it is more nuanced than how it’s not quite so black and white, cut and dried.
Jill: Well, we have these two hemispheres. They’re constantly, both of them are in constant action. And so, at any moment in time, let’s say we have a thousand circuits, and this is just an example, a thousand circuits that are being run. Well, I might have half of those going on in each of the hemispheres at the same time. So, what happened back in the ’70s and ’80s was we all decided, “Oh, we’re right brain or we’re left brain,” and it became this enormous fad. But we actually do have dominance, but we are whole-brained. We all have both. And I think that the biggest mistake we made back in the ’70s and ’80s in response to those beautiful experiments that were performed about the differences between the two hemispheres was if I had a tendency toward, if I was a child and I had a tendency toward music and art and dance and physical stuff, then I was considered more right brain, and so I was put on a more right brain path for school. And if I was more scholastic and I was more language-based and I was better at engineering or mechanics, then I was put more into left brain skill sets, when we should have done the exact opposite. Because instead of taking a child who had natural propensity toward one hemisphere or the other and increasing that only skewed their inability to be a whole brain. And I think we’re paying for that now as a society.
Rick: Yeah, but you wouldn’t want to take a budding musician who seems to be a child prodigy on the violin or something and force him to go to law school.
Jill: No, you wouldn’t, but what you would do is you would want to teach them the language of music. So instead of just letting them go make a lot of beautiful music on their own, out of their own head in the garage, you’d want to teach them actually notation. You would want them to practice skills like scales. So you would want to actually develop the whole musician instead of just what came out naturally.
Rick: Okay, so perhaps at this point it would be good for us to spend some time talking about what each of the four characters are that correspond to these four regions of the brain.
Jill: Great, and I think that now is probably a good time to mention that after I’d written this book and I was listening to a bunch of research on Carl Jung and the four archetypes, his four archetypes land exactly on top of these four characters. And what that said to me was, well, it makes sense that somebody who was a psychologist who is observing human behavior ended up coming out with the exact same four groups of collective abilities that look like personalities. But the difference between the four archetypes is that character one, what I call character one, that left thinking tissue, is rational and it is conscious. But the other three archetypes, if you look at just the way the system is built, are in a part of our unconscious. And because I lost the conscious part of my brain, that character one left thinking, they all became conscious. And so that’s really what whole brain living is. So let me just start with that. So if you look at the two hemispheres, to me, when I lost my left hemisphere and I existed in a complete state of silence, absolute silence for five weeks, because I lost all language, I lost all identification, me the individual, I lost all of my past, I lost all of my future, I shifted into the consciousness of the right here, right now, present moment. So the right hemisphere is going to be the present moment experience. And when I recovered those self circuits, one at a time of the left hemisphere, I was regaining, rebuilding my past experience and the potential understanding of the future. So the left hemisphere has temporality. It’s like a bridge across time. So we have the ability to think linearly. You’ll put your shoes on and your socks on, but you have to put your socks on before you put your shoes on. That kind of thing. You have to have, I had to have anyway, that left hemisphere in order to perform that function. So if the right hemisphere is in the right here, right now, and I’m literally big as the universe, I don’t have an identity, an individuation, all of that comes into the left hemisphere. So the left thinking tissue is what I call character one. And this is the rational brain that we use in order to define ourselves as an individual in relationship to the external world. So we have the ability to create order around us so that we can have some sense of control. So we can, character one likes to control people, places, and things. It likes to create order. It’s good at categorizing and organizing. It has language in order to be able to communicate. It creates language in places, sound and meaning for comprehension. It’s our ability to write. It’s our ability to read. So there’s all of these skill sets that we use as human beings in order to communicate with one another in the external world. As a collective whole, we individually get together and decide what is the box we’re going to live in. What are the social norms? So it defines what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad. And then we try to fit ourselves into that box. It thinks in terms of a hierarchy. And we all know where we are on every level of that hierarchy. How big is my house? How big is my boat? How big is my bank account? How big is my body? How cute am I? How whatever. It’s that hierarchy of comparison. So that’s character one. For most people, it’s the A-type personality. It actually cares where its stapler is and the stapler goes back where the stapler belongs because that’s the only way that it can create order.
Rick: Yeah, so what I’m gathering though then is that we talk about control freaks. So-and-so is a control freak or he’s very neurotic about everything just being, just like that. Just so. So it seems that certain people are predominant in that character and in other characters we’ll get to, to the neglect of the other characters or there’s an imbalance. Either they’re unaware of the qualities of their other character or they’re just rather stunted and undeveloped compared to the qualities of a particular character.
Jill: Right. And that’s why it’s so important to recognize that we all have all four. And for some of us, if character one is really well developed, then if it’s developed in me and I don’t respect my own character three, which is very playful and in the present moment, then I probably don’t respect your character three either. So my relationship with you may revolve around me being a very strong character one and that comes with an expectation of you as well. So when you stop and you think that if there’s four of us inside of each one of us, then there’s eight of us inside of every relationship. And it’s no wonder there’s so much, I mean, that’s and networking and looking at and really analyzing who am I and who do I, how do I bring myself in each of my relationships and what works and what doesn’t work, oh my gosh, all of a sudden my life can be so much better if I know that, yeah, I’m going to spend time with Rick and he’s a strong character one and it’s important to him that I show up and comb my hair and put on a clean shirt and show up on time and my lighting’s good. So, but I don’t have to do that, right? But what if I don’t do that, then how does that influence you and our relationship?
Rick: Yeah, so I imagine that for each of the characters, and maybe we can do this as we go through each one of them, you could give us an example of a healthy version of that character and an unhealthy version of that character.
Jill: Let’s do that for character one. Yeah, well, character one is generally very leader-based, they’re perfectionist, they’re organized and structured, they’re good at leadership, but they can be, there are two different types of leaders really. There’s a soft character one who comes in and says, “Okay, I’m a team leader, you’re my team, we’re a collective whole, and we’re going to sit in a circle and we have a task to do. So who’s good at this, who’s good at that, who’s good at the other?” And the leader becomes a part of the collective whole. And a win for the group is a win for the leader, and a win for the leader is a win for the group. So that’s a very different kind of leader than what I call a hard character one. If a hard character one is actually being motivated by the fear pushing by their character two, because the character two is a completely different kind of part of who we are, and it is fear-based, and it is a driving force. And so if I’m a hard one, what I call a hard one leader, then I’m the boss, you people work for me, I may not even know what your names are, I really don’t care about any of your personal needs, all I care about is that here’s the job and we’ve got to get the job done, and I’m not going to be a part of the team, I’m going to use the whip from behind and prod you all along, and a loss for you is a loss for you, and a win for me is a win for me. So it’s a completely different type of what is motivating that character one, is that character one motivated by a real sense of their own abilities and their own ability to lead, or are they being driven by the fear of their character two?
Rick: Yeah, so that’s interesting. So it’s as if the character one is functioning without the healthy counterbalance of a healthy emotional character, whichever of the characters is responsible for emotions. So it’s hard, it’s uncompassionate, it’s unfeeling, that kind of stuff. Do you find yourself, when you watch politicians on television, or famous personalities and movie stars, different people like that, do you find yourself assessing how predominant one or another of their characters are, or how stunted or deficient one or another of their characters are in their development?
Jill: Sometimes it’s obvious, and politicians, based on values, I mean this really does come from a value structure of what are we valuing and what are we fighting for, because we’re all kind of using the same words, but we value two very different things. But I hear the four characters in music, I see it in movies, every movie pretty much has all four of these characters, and you can just watch them interact with one another. But my favorite is music. When I listen to some of the songs, I did it my way. I mean, if that’s not a character one, I don’t know what is, right? But, What a Wonderful World, that is as far away from a character one as you could possibly get. So it’s fun, because the beauty of being human is that we all have this brain, and each of us has these two emotional modules of cells, and these two thinking modules of cells, and then we are all unique in how they interact with one another, and how much time we spend in each of them, and what is the relationship like inside of my brain between them, because there’s a lot of negotiation going on inside of our heads. Every moment, all this does is help bring differentiation to what’s already going on inside of our heads.
Rick: A question related to the one I just asked, do you think that people affiliate with a particular political party based on the predominance of one or another character, or can predominance also be a predictor of occupation or of certain talents?
Jill: Well, I absolutely think that it’s a predictor of occupation and talents. If I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time being my character one, my house, my drawers are not going to be well organized, my pantry is going to be kind of everything is where it is, things come in and they land where they land. Character one likes order, and there’s a certain personality type that thrives in that absence of chaos, and cannot thrive in chaos at all. So chaos, then, that can become a tool that we can work with or against one another. But ask me that question at the end, because really it boils down to values between the four different characters from a political perspective.
Rick: Okay. All right. So let’s keep going through the characters. So we’ve pretty much covered one. We can always loop back and talk about them more. But how about two?
Jill: Well, first, let me say I encourage everybody to not only recognize this part of yourself, but it’s an identity. We each have these four identities. So I encourage people to name their four characters so that when they’re talking about their character one, they know exactly who they’re talking about. So I call my character one Helen, Helen Wheels. She gets it done, and that’s who she is. And people even recognize her when they call me. They can tell when Helen picks up the phone because it’s like, “Hello. Hi. What can I do for you?” Right? It’s not, “Oh, yeah, let’s sit around and chat for a while and have some tea.” No, it’s like, “I’m busy. What do you need?” And they say, “Hi, Helen. Could you maybe have somebody call us back later today?” And it’s like, “Sure.” So because each of these parts of us are representative of facial expressions, the way we hold our bodies, and there are even differences in right and left of pain inside of our body. But that’s a whole other story. So anyway, character two. So character one is the identity of the thinking tissue, left thinking tissue, that relates me, all of me, to the external world, and it likes to have control of people, places, and things in order. The emotion of character two. Character two is this most amazing thing. Information streams in through our sensory systems in the present moment, and somehow or another, a group of cells inside of our left emotional system, our limbic system, takes that information out of the present moment and compares it to everything we’ve ever experienced in the past. It actually changes time. It steps out of the present into the past, and it looks at the present and says, “Is there anything in the present moment that, based on my past experience, gives me a reason to push it away and say, ‘No, no, I don’t like that. That’s dangerous. That’s a hazard. That’s a threat to me.'” It’s amazing that this group, but what this means is that all the pain from our past is located in this little character two. So all of our childhood trauma is in the character two. There’s craving tissue right inside of that character two. It’s part of the brain called the insular cortex, and that’s where craving happens. If we wipe out craving, we wipe out an addiction because we don’t want the addiction anymore. There’s never a propensity toward it. So this little character, this is our pain from the past. When we go into psychoanalysis for 30 years, that’s what we’re doing. We’re talking about our little character two. We’re talking about the pain. The thing about pain is, whether it’s an emotional pain or a physical pain, it’s tissue damage. So if I hit my shin and I have pain, there’s tissue damage down there, and my body is screaming, “Hey, pain, we got broken tissue. We need the immune system. We need some attention.” So that’s what happens. The immune system runs down there, and it takes care of the pain. But when it comes to emotional pain, we think of emotional pain as real. But what emotional pain really is, is a group of cells inside of this portion of our brain, and all the energy ball has gone to that, and it’s running on that, saying, “I need attention on this detail.” And so I can either fuel that and relive that and go around and around and around about that, or I can actually use the other parts of my brain to come in and listen to that, hear that, and help that not just heal, but transform it so I can shift up and away from that, back into the rest of my brain that is healthy. So our relationship with our little character two is critically important. And when we move on automatic trigger or automatic reactivity, that’s generally that little character two needs to be heard. Now, don’t misinterpret that as I want us to pull all the energy away from it and never tend to it. Absolutely not. We have to go toward it, but we have to be able to go toward it, not just to listen to it and let it routinize and routinize and routinize, but we need to go toward it with the other parts of our brain so we can actually find what is the message here, how can I heal this wound so that I can come back into the present moment and live a healthy life.
Rick: To routinize means to think about something, is that right?
Jill: Over and over again. It’s kind of like obsessive thinking.
Rick: Right. I heard you say that anger is an energetic response to pain, right? A person who’s angry a lot has a lot of bottled up pain.
Jill: There’s something in there that they’re not paying attention to. And if I just run the anger and I don’t bother to come back, step out of the anger that I’m expressing and actually look at, well, why am I angry? What is this anger? Is this even in a present moment anger? Or is this an anger based on something that happened 30 years ago or two years ago? What’s going on? What is triggering this circuit? Because the circuit is screaming energy, energy, energy, and then it’s like, okay, and that gets lashed out as anger to push away, say, no, I perceive this to be a threat. But it might not be a threat anymore. Maybe it was a threat from my past at some point, and now I’m just still having the automatic reactivity of pushing it away.
Rick: So an unhealthy character two then would be someone who has been traumatized a lot earlier in life and is carrying that trauma around, hasn’t purged or resolved it, and is acting out in various ways, anger, violence, all kinds of things like that What, by contrast, would a healthy character two be like?
Jill: I think this is such an important point, Rick, because most of the time for most of us, our little character two is not being triggered. When was the last time you were really angry? When was the last time you were really fearful? Yeah, you don’t do it. So most of the time, your little character two is just fine. And so getting to know your little character two is the richness and the deliciousness of our life. We don’t want to quiet it. We don’t want to hush it. We don’t want to squash it. Everybody says, “Oh, I just want to cut that part out of my head.” And it’s like, no, no, no, because that’s the part where we grow. We have to look at what pains us and what we’re up against and analyze and look at it, nurture ourselves through that process in order to have personal growth. So when I am emotionally triggered, I’m not going to say, I’m not presenting the most healthy part of me. Absolutely. But most of the time, I’m not emotionally triggered. And so my little character two is the richness of my emotions. I love it. It’s Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers. I love my mother. She’s been gone since 2015, but my love for her is still so vast and open, and it is that ability to then be able to have that level of depth, whatever the emotion is.
Rick: So character two then is primarily responsible for emotions. If we’re in love with somebody, if we love our dog, if we love our partner, or whatever, if we love–
Jill: Emotions from the past.
Rick: From the past. Okay, good.
Jill: From the past.
Rick: Okay, good.
Jill: But it is. But it also tends to be a conditional love. As long as your love looks like this, I will stay married to you.
Rick: So, okay, so I guess we’ll get to emotions in the present. That must be a different character. You said something, if I were to cut, some people say, “I would like to just cut this character out.” And I was wondering, have you met people who, through a stroke or some other injury, have actually lost one or another of these four characters very specifically? I mean, with you, it was the whole left hemisphere, but have you met people whose stroke or injury was more pinpointed than that, where just one particular character was shut down? And have you met examples of that for all four characters?
Jill: Yes, I have.
Jill: And it is very interesting, because people who–if you lose your little character two then, life doesn’t have this richness of emotion. And, I always tell people, “I don’t mind if you’re being miserable, as long as you enjoy your misery.” Because it’s delicious to be miserable. It’s delicious to be angry. It’s delicious to be sad. Grief is overwhelmingly, envelopingly delicious. I mean, this is the richness of the possibility. But character two is a place that we need to visit. We don’t need to make it a lifestyle.
Rick: So if somebody lost their character two, let’s say, through a stroke, would they just be sort of numb, emotionless?
Jill: Yeah,I had that for eight years. Yeah. And it was very sad. It was, it’s great to be in blissful euphoria all the time, but, no, I actually missed the depth of my connections with others and my growth. I mean, you have to have that pain in order–you have to have the high to have the low. You have to have what you don’t like to know what you do like. So there’s this beautiful richness that happens because of this character profile.
Rick: Interesting. So this should have been obvious to me, but so if your character four is intact and your character two gets wiped out, you could be sort of very content and even blissful or happy, but you lose out on all the spectrum of human emotions, all the nuances, all the shades.
Jill: And your relationships show it.
Rick: And your relationships, right.
Jill: I mean, because I love–when my character four is online and I’m just in the love, blissful euphoria of the people who are in their character four, we don’t even have to be in the presence of one another. I just have to think of these people and my whole heart swells and fills. But, I’d like to have people in my daily life who I care about, I care about their emotions, they care about my emotions. We can share misery loves miserable company, happy loves happy company, worry loves worrisome company. I mean, really, we’re attracted to sharing at that level of depth of emotion.
Rick: Yeah, imagine if your character two was wiped out, you couldn’t enjoy most movies or Shakespearean tragedies or even comedies.
Jill: Blissfully, but numb.
Rick: Yeah, interesting. And how about someone whose character one is wiped out? Would they just be sort of a disorganized mess where they could have emotions and all the rest, but they just wouldn’t be able to organize their way out of a paper bag?
Jill: Exactly. And I think that as we look at some of the autism scale, I think some of these people at the level of the scale show exactly what you’re talking about. Certain characteristics are like on run on all the time, and the level of detail of that is intact, but it’s a disconnect from a normal social reality.
Rick: Interesting. I’m thinking of Rain Man now, as you mentioned that. He had this incredible memory, and he could count cards in Las Vegas, read the phone book, and remember all the names, but then he was emotionally in a weird place.
Jill: Exactly. Oh, you’ll start looking at everybody differently.
Rick: Yeah, I already have that. It’s like, although I don’t obviously remember it as well as you do, but I kept pondering it as I was listening to your book and trying to think of examples of people who are predominant or deficient in one or another character.
Rick: Okay. In terms of autism, which you just mentioned, do you feel that autism might have an anatomical basis in terms of one or another part of the brain being shut down?
Jill: Well, I think that autism is on a scale. So what does that mean? That means different people have different levels of connection or disconnection, development or non-development of certain circuits inside of their brain, because every ability we have is because we have brain cells that underline and perform that function. So, I mean, when you stop and you think that each one of us comes from a single cell, right? An egg cell shares its DNA with a sperm cell, and that single cell, that zygote cell, is going to multiply and divide itself over and over and over again for nine months at a rate up to 250,000 cells per second. Per second. That’s a lot of multiplication. So let’s say during the third trimester, the mom gets a cold or she gets the flu, and all of a sudden her blood is depleted of something like folic acid for just a few days at that moment in time. Well, what was that folic acid supposed to be doing during normal development, right? And we don’t go backward in time for development. We just keep going in more development. So really, it’s a miracle any two of us can communicate at all. I mean, if you start there and you figure out, wow, what a miracle it is at that level, then everything else makes sense along the way that, okay, well, we’re all differently wired. Why are we differently wired? Because we all came through different nine months of development and different childhoods, and we’re just this collection of cells, and they’re constantly responding to the experience, not just the DNA and the genetic profile, but the experience of life.
Rick: Yeah. This is a bit of a tangent, but I’m sure you’ve heard about these people, and I actually interviewed somebody who studied these people who have some kind of brain injury, and they become a savant. Well, we mentioned Rain Man, but there have been cases where some guy got injured, and all of a sudden he could play jazz piano fabulously without any or much background in piano. What do you make of that kind of thing?
Jill: Circuitry. Cells are cells, and cells are circuits. The power in the human brain is inhibition, not excitation. Excitation brings you up to a level of threshold, but inhibition keeps you right below. And so when you look at the magnitude of which cells are communicating with which cells, with which chemicals and what quantities of those chemicals, and the variation that happens inside of each one of us, and then all of a sudden now there’s trauma to a certain part of the brain, so whatever that brain was doing as excitation is gone, but it’s also removed its inhibition off of these other cells that somehow, miraculously, was a circuit that knew how to be a savant.
Rick: Yeah. I’ve heard people say that one of the main functions of the brain is as a filter, and if it didn’t have that filtering function, we’d be overwhelmed. I’m sure you’re aware of this, but maybe you can comment on it. I’ve heard that they expected, perhaps, that on psychedelics there would be a real upsurge of activity in the default mode network, but in fact there’s a marked reduction, and yet the person is having so much more experience than they ordinarily do.
Jill: Right. Well, that’s a whole other conversation, too, and a very important one, because what the psychedelics do is they’re lifting the brain up out of characters one and two, shifting it more into character four realm, throwing in hallucination and delusion, which is the biology underlying schizophrenia, and so the benefit is for very few people will benefit from psychedelic, and another population of people, it will turn on their psychosis and not get the message to turn it off, and actually the cannabis of this day and age is also doing the same thing. So we’re messing around with a very fragile organ, and yeah, it sounds like fun, but at the same time, what are we actually doing?
Rick: Yeah, I mean, I wonder about with the legalization of marijuana and even psilocybin in some states, what it’s going to look like 20, 30 years from now if people have been doing these things routinely, which many people have been anyway, but it’s becoming more widespread.
Jill: Right. Well, it’s going to explode once the FDA approves it, then the whole world is going to see that as permission for this, and I think that there are very few rational voices saying, “You know, what we’re doing is we are traumatizing the brain in a way that it is resulting in neuroplasticity and neurogenetics.” I mean, we’re actually creating a situation that is the natural trauma of the brain and the response of the trauma to the brain, and so, actually using whole brain living, one of the tools I’m working on at the top of my list is working on a workbook that people can learn whole brain living, learn about your four characters, learn about the brain huddle and how to get these different parts of you to communicate and go into the psychedelic journey with a plan, and then during that plan, think about what’s actually happening at the level of your four characters, and then when you come out, be able to use whole brain living and the brain huddle to integrate and create sustainability of what you just did so that you don’t feel like you have to go back again in three months. My biggest concern is the addiction, the new addiction we’re going to be creating in people, and there are actually people who are already using whole brain living in that way, and it’s like so great because they’re feeling like, “No, I got what I needed, so I don’t have to go back and do it over and over again.”
Rick: Yeah, interesting. I did my fair share of psychedelics for about a year back in the 60s, and I was pretty messed up by the end of it, which was not entirely the fault of the psychedelics, but all the things I was doing in my life, but then I learned to meditate, and it really turned me around, and I’ve been doing that regularly for 55 years, and at this point, I would approach this psychedelic experience very cautiously. I really wonder whether I would benefit from it because I’ve just been pursuing a natural means of doing this for so long in an integrated way.
Rick: I’m not saying never say never, but I’d just proceed very, very cautiously, and I often run into people who’ve gotten in trouble who get in touch. “Can you refer me to somebody who can help me get my feet on the ground again?”
Jill: Right. Yeah, and that’s why, as a neuroanatomist, I care. First, I recognize the research. I recognize the value for a very small percentage of the population, but this thing is coming down the pike on a train track, going a million miles an hour, all around the world. This is really becoming a global phenomenon, and it’s going to be fascinating because we’re going to be paying repercussions for decades in the future because not just of this, but cannabis isn’t what it was back in our day.
Rick: I’ve heard it’s a lot more powerful.
Jill: Yeah, I mean, all you have to do is look at those buds, and whoo, you’re buzzed on just looking at them, the resin. So, yeah, I have deep concern about… To me, I had to work so hard to get my brain back and to get it crisp and to get it clean and to get it functioning again that I just won’t do anything anymore to sacrifice it at all.
Rick: Yeah, I hear you. And alcohol, too. I mean, we’re picking on psychedelics here, but as I used to say in 1967, I’d much rather be smoking this than drinking that, in terms of the effect it has.
Jill: Right. Yeah. Drug of choice.
Rick: Yeah. Okay. So, let’s see. So, we want to go through all four characters, and so far, we’re proceeding slowly through them. Oh, just one more point on psychedelics. I knew there was thought in there, and that is that some people argue that, well, people need a kickstart. You’re not going to get a large percentage of humanity to meditate regularly or do these more natural, slow, incremental things. They need a good kick in the pants to show them a vision of possibilities, and then maybe they’ll buckle down and do a regular spiritual practice or something. What do you say to that?
Jill: Well, I think that for people who are not susceptible to other problems, but we don’t know if we are susceptible or not, from the kickstart, a kickstart, some people, if they have the experience, as soon as you have the experience of dissolving normal reality, where we are, all connected to one, oh, my God, the color, oh, my God, the trip, oh, my God, whatever all that is, I mean, yeah, when you come back from that and you realize, why am I worrying about something that happened five years ago? Or, all of a sudden, I have this new insight. But what generally happens is people then go back for more, and they go back for more, and they go back for more. So it’s not like the kickstart is actually causing a whole new awareness that says, oh, yeah, okay, I’m realizing that. Well, in the research, they are getting the kickstart, because they’re being taken on a very specific guided journey about a problem that is very specific to that research. And when you look at the research that’s going on, what, 98% of the people who want to be in the study don’t qualify. Well, why don’t they qualify? That means 98% of the people who want to be doing this thing, for some reason, even the scientists are saying, oh, they’re not a good candidate for this because of other things. Well, absolutely no one with schizophrenia. What’s going on with bipolar? I’m not guessing that’s not a good option. Mania, not a good option. Severe depression, do we have other options, depending on what it is? PTSD, yeah. Why? Because PTSD is a trauma that happened in another time. And so now if I take a psychedelic and it blasts me out of all my past pain, and I land in the present moment of the present experience, and I realize I am nowhere near that war, and I can have a completely different perception of, okay, I can bring myself into the future now, which is where I have not been, even in the present, because I’ve been in the past. So for a small group of people, a small group of trauma, I get it. That makes sense to me, but that’s not how it’s being sold to the general public.
Rick: Okay, good. So I think we’ve covered that topic. Obviously, we can do whole interviews about it, but good enough for now. So let’s go on to character three.
Jill: So character three is the emotional tissue of the right hemisphere. So the right hemisphere right here, right now, it doesn’t have a past and it doesn’t have a future. So the emotion, the experience of the present moment, the experience, the filter is the feeling of the present moment. So what does it feel like to have these squeezing on my ears? What does it feel like to have glasses on my nose? What does it feel like when I dive into the water and I feel the pressure of the water against my body? The experience, what’s the temperature of the air and how much humidity is there? I’m connected to my body, to the sensations of my experience of the present moment. Now, also, can I get angry in the present moment? Absolutely, because let’s say all of a sudden a bus is driving down the street and bam, fear, right? Jump out of the way. So the present moment experience is that character three. Well, if I’m in the present moment and I’m not in my left brain and my left brain is what defines the box of what is right and wrong and good and bad, my right hemisphere doesn’t feel any desire whatsoever to fit myself inside of the box of right or wrong or good and bad. So in the present moment, what sounds good in the present moment? Well, I think like jumping out of an airplane sounds like a great adrenaline rush, right? I think sneaking off with you into the neighbor’s pool in the middle of the night sounds like a great idea. Or, let’s say all of a sudden in the present moment, I catch my spouse having an affair. And what do I do? I get a gun and I shoot him. So a whole lot of stuff can happen in the experience of the present moment. So it’s not always good. It’s not always peaceful. But there’s also a level of creativity because there’s not a box that I have to fit in. And with that creativity comes innovation. It comes entrepreneurialism. It comes out of the box, big picture thinking. But from an experiential perspective and because it’s not about me, the individual, it’s about we, the collective whole. And so this is the part of me that is going to engage as an activist with my peers in order to care about something that’s big picture like global warming.
Rick: Okay, so you just sort of did it. But as with the other characters, we were contrasting a healthy one versus an unhealthy one. You’re saying that with the character three, an unhealthy one would be acting impulsively, recklessly, perhaps, without a lot of discernment of right and wrong. Or, possible ramifications of behavior
Jill: no consequences of behavior
Rick: one just not doesn’t care about all that. This is kind of a adrenaline junkie
Jill: and put some alcohol or drug in that. Now I’m really acting stupid. Right?
Rick: Yeah. And a healthy one would be like you were saying, care for humanity, perhaps an entrepreneurial or creative expression, that kind of thing.
Jill: Musical, artistic, in my body dance, my the expression of drama, the experience, just the the end, it’s community. It’s really connected to others. So it’s collaborative work.
Rick: And as we did with the other ones, have you met someone whose character three brain apparatus had been shut down and damaged? And what are they like?
Jill: Yeah, they’re stuck in the details of their left brain and there’s not a whole lot of joy. If there’s one emotion of character three, it’s just kind of like in the present moment. Joy. And it’s hard for people. And there are a lot of character ones who view character three because of how they were brought up, as a waste of time. And so if you’re a strong character one mom or dad and you’re looking at your kids and your kids haven’t done their homework and all they’re doing is playing basketball every day, it’s like, basketball is a waste of time. You need to buckle under and do some work. And so that dominating left brain can come in with negative judgment and be very hurtful to the future of other people actually being able to be more well developed. And having both.
Rick: Yeah. Now I’m remembering that movie with Robin Williams. It was that Dead Poet Society. Remember that?
Jill: I do.
Rick: That was a great movie where the kid was all create. He wanted to be an actor or something like that. And the parents were, no, you’re going to be a lawyer and you can’t do this acting stuff, it’s frivolous. It’s a waste of time. And the kid ended up committing suicide in the movie because he wasn’t allowed to express himself.
Jill: And how many of your friends are, exactly have run that that program, they because we were the boomers And the boomers were, let’s play. Right. Let’s do more. Let’s do it, do it, do it. And our generation above us, which really lived through the depression, was you got to, that’s a whole other animal. So having all of these pieces of ourselves really fully, because also it’s the character three that is going to be in the body. It’s going to be the person who just does something over and over and over again because it loves it. So it’s going to get really, really good at things and then add in some left brain skill sets to my music or to my art or to my whatever my art is. And I’m going to become really, really quality with that because I do it all the time out of my love for it.
Rick: Yeah, I remember that book by Malcolm Gladwell, what was it, Outliers, and he talked about how the Beatles, Bill Gates and a couple of other people, they dedicated 10,000 hours to doing the same thing over and over and over and over again. And then became great because they did it so much.
Jill: Yeah. And they did it at the right time. They showed up at the right time with a different skill set that said, okay, this person is now exceptional and can excel.
Rick: Yeah, interesting. And obviously, we do have to remember that joke. Someone walked up to, I don’t know, Horowitz or somebody on the street in Manhattan and said, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? And he said, practice, practice, practice.
Jill: So, isn’t that the beauty of humor? I mean, in order to have true humor, humor comes in in the present moment as it relates something to the left brain character one, but differently. And that’s how we find humor. So when someone has a good sense of humor, or they have a real wit about them, it’s because they’re in the present, but looking at something with that lens of the bigger picture or the detail. And that’s what we actually think is funny.
Rick: Yeah. So this would be another area in which we could contrast healthy and unhealthy. So someone who has like obsessive compulsive disorder might be just fixated on doing one thing over and over and over again and stuck in a rut. But then the healthy aspect of that would be someone who practices violin eight hours a day and becomes great at it. And it’s nothing unhealthy about their obsession.
Jill: Right. Well, and ultimately, I think it boils down to the balance. Because I can have an obsession, but I need to, and I do have an obsession. I’m a stone carver. And oh my God, I just, I wake up in the morning and I just want to go carve stone. I mean, there’s just something about it that for my whole character three is delicious. And yet, if I’m going to be on a podcast with you at two or two thirty, I can’t have just been doing my podcast, my stone carving, because I’m covered with dust. Right. So, it’s this negotiation between, okay, I’m going to go carve stone when we’re finished there, but I will be clean for Rick up until I don’t have to be clean anymore. So it’s really the ability to find this balance between these different parts of who we are.
Rick: I remember a few years ago, I saw some pictures of you with these giant brains. They’re practically the size of a Volkswagen. And did you carve those things?
Jill: No, those are actually made out of fiberglass, but I did this big show called the brain extravaganza and they’re five feet high, four feet wide, four feet long. They’re huge. And they’re neuroanatomically correct. And I have twenty, twenty two of them in a big show art show. And it was fantastic. But it was, you got to do something fun. Right. And if I’m going to be about educating people about the beauty of the brain, it’s got to be fun. And so the the title of that was, it was called the brain extravaganza. But our cool our line was brains are cool. Brains are cool. And, for the kids to be able to go around our community on campus, Indiana University campus and on Bloomington, Indiana, to each of these twenty two brains. We had an app game and we had all kinds of things that went with the program. And it was a blast. Because brains are cool. They are.
Rick:We don’t want to be without one. All right. So I think we’ve done it for character three. Let’s get on the character four.
Jill: So character four is the thinking tissue in the right hemisphere. And when you stop and you think about what does that mean? Right hemisphere’s right here, right now. And the new tissue, the thinking tissue is designed to modulate and regulate what’s going in on below it. So in the left hemisphere, the left thinking tissue of our rational brain is organizing and creating order and modulating and regulating the little character to pain tissue. So in the right hemisphere, this tissue is in the present moment. There’s no definition of the boundaries of where I begin and where I end. So my perception of self in the present moment is literally I am this organic mass of cells and all this energy and my energy is unlimited. There’s no separation between my energy where I am and your energy where you are. So we’re just all blended as life forms, except for that little group of cells in the left hemisphere that says, no, I’m separate from you. But get rid of that. And I’m just right here right now, big as the universe. The cells in the right hemisphere are designed to be open and expansive for new possibility. But it’s not experiential. It’s not character three. Go, go, do, do something. It’s the simply in the presence of being. And it’s kind of like, I describe it as it’s the blue sky that is always there. And the clouds can go by and character one can analyze them and character two can see the storm clouds coming in and character three’s just out bouncing around in them. But character four is simply the observation of, oh, my God, I’m alive. I am life. I’m alive. And I’m not a single cell microbe. I’m 50 trillion amazing molecular geniuses compacted together. I’ve got liver cells and I got heart cells and I got muscle cells and I got brain cells and I got sensory systems. And I have digits that allow me to manipulate the space around me. And I have legs that move this mass of what I am into the world. Oh, my God, I’m alive. And it is that awe that sense of awe and gratitude of wonder. Oh, my. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. That’s character four.
Rick: Now the way you describe it just there. There’s a lot of emotion involved. Oh, my God. This is wonderful. Incredible. Yeah. And yet I think perhaps we could take it deeper. I get the feeling that you’re saying that the character four part of the brain is the interface between our individual body and personality. And unbounded awareness. And unbounded awareness in and of itself isn’t whoop dee doo. It’s more like an ocean, an unbounded ocean of consciousness.
Rick: Yeah. And but it’s kind of like the go ahead.
Jill: Yet I still have consciousness that I have this form.
Rick: Right. Exactly.
Jill: Because I’m not out there. Right. I’m not out there and I’m not totally just in here. I am in it’s the interface. I call it like a porthole. It’s the portal through which I have the experience of being at one with all that is because I am that consciousness as a character four. But more than that, I also have character three, character two and character one to add to the richness and deliciousness of the experience of being human.
Rick: Yeah. There’s a verse in the Bhagavad Gita which says that contact with Brahman is infinite joy. And so it’s more like it’s sort of like the interface, the friction or juxtaposition of individuality with universality that just results in bubbles or waves or tidal waves of joy within the human experience.
Jill: Yeah, I would agree with that completely. And this is the consciousness that we spend eons of time meditating toward. We pray to reach this experience of of universal connectedness mantra. When we when we recite a mantra or a parent prayer, it actually preoccupies the circuitry language centers of character one so that it’s busy. And then, oh, it allows us through intention to shift into an added space of being, if you will, and meditation. So as I look at character four, everybody says, wow, why didn’t you just stay there? And it’s like, well, I’m going to be gone. I’m going to be dead for an eternity. I’m going to be that. Why not celebrate the other aspects of actually being a human while I’m being human. So this is, Eastern medicine and Eastern thought and the ego is bad. And it’s like, no, it’s not. The ego is a tool that we can use in order to be human as we are humans, as humanity. And to me, then the whole conversation should be about whole brain living, not we are just skewed to the left value structure of materialism. And me, me, me as the center of the universe or the collective we and the one and the ego is bad. It’s like, no, as a human, let me be human. Let me be fully human while I’m human. And then I can go be that for an eternity.
Rick: Yeah, I have a friend named Craig Holiday who wrote a book called Fully Human, Fully Divine. And I’ve had conversations with people who they insist that they don’t have any sense of a personal self anymore. And there’s a very famous woman whose books are right behind me. What’s her name? Bernadette Roberts. And she talks about the loss of a sense of personal self. And it hasn’t happened to me, so I want to give them the benefit of the doubt But I wonder how one could function without a sense of personal self and why one would want to. Because like you say, it’s a matter of integration and you kind of need everything. You need all four of your characters and having all four doesn’t diminish the value of having number four, the unboundedness one, fully online.
Jill: I think that the argument might be that in the absence of individuation, my values are for the collective whole. And I live my life and I make my decisions for for how it impacts the collective whole. Kind of like, the Native American tendency to not make decisions for anything less than the next seven generations to come. So it is meaningful to come into the world through that intention and that value structure. But I still have to use the skills of my left brain in order to manifest the best of me as an individual in the world. So to me, being fully human is to use the whole brain.
Rick: Yeah. And there are verses in various scriptures which say things that encourage the kind of perspective I just or that might tend to defend the kind of perspective I just mentioned. Like there are verses in the Gita, for instance, which say that, the enlightened person experiences that he is, he or she, is not the actor, that they are pure consciousness and pure consciousness isn’t doing anything. That all the action is taking place through some divine orchestration. But still, I mean, and some people end up using that as an alibi for misbehavior. I’ve heard people, they end up sleeping with their students and saying, well, it wasn’t me. I’m not the doer. I mean, God’s doing it. Maybe God wants to enjoy that.
Jill: And I think that goes straight to your then question about the good versus the not so good of character four character four. I think in its purity is a beautiful consciousness. I think it’s the consciousness that that drove that zygote cell to multiply billions and billions of times in order to be 50 trillion strong. There is a consciousness in that energy because otherwise it couldn’t do it at a rate of 250000 cells per second. I mean, there’s something driving that. And the universe has a tendency to create order out of disorder and to make sense out of nonsense. I mean, biologically, the energy has this propensity toward its own organization, if you will. So you look at life and life is an incredible organization, even if it’s just a single cell microbe, much less, a human. So I think that that is the consciousness that is in that celebration of life and awe and gratitude and simply connected to the fact that it is alive. And it is that, as you said, interface. I love that. It is the interface between this life, this being of an organic creature, animal and that the divine consciousness. The divine consciousness of everything else. And it’s not separate, but it is kind of like, OK, right now I am that drop and that bigger consciousness is that ocean. And I have a drop of it that is being being messed around with now by these cells. And, to me, if you look at the meaning of life, OK, now we’re going to go there. The meaning of life to me is, as let’s say it’s just the cell, if it’s a single cell, a single cell is a semi permeable membrane cutting off and separating an outside to itself and internal so that it has these little receptors capable of receiving stimulation from the external and then relating and interacting with that external. So to me, the meaning of life at the level of a cell is to stimulate and be stimulated by. And so just look at a human. And what are we doing with all these magnificent sensory systems and motor systems and and visceral systems? We become this organism feeling, experiencing the world around us and how that thing gets filtered is our behavior into the external world. So so, yeah, I think we’re just totally cool.
Rick: I guess another way of putting it is we want to be able to be unbounded and bound at the same time. Not bound in the sense of in shackles, but in the sense of localized. And, theoretically, a person could be a neurosurgeon or flying a jumbo jet or something and be in an enlightened state where their innermost nature is fully awake and they know themselves to be one with the universe. And yet they’re focusing on this very precise task that lives depend upon and there’s no conflict. It doesn’t, the unboundedness doesn’t handicap their individual abilities. In fact, it could enhance them.
Jill: You’re very good at this. Oh, thanks. I mean, because they can maintain broad comprehension while focusing sharply on the specifics.
Jill: Right. And they’re doing it for a lot of reasons, but hopefully the biggest reason is because they love to fly.
Rick: Yeah. Or do brain surgery or whatever they’re doing.
Jill: Or do brain surgery. Right. Because why on earth would we not want to pick a career in our lives that, we’re going to spend ten thousand hours just to get really good at it and then kind of run it on automatic. I mean, but then, when we look at like at suicide and rates of suicide in our society by very advanced people, judges, attorneys, physicians, dentists. I mean, there’s, we’ve got some real chaos going on inside of of ourselves. And, how can we help people recognize how how they can bring more balance into their lives and live more meaningfully for themselves, more wholly so that they can really enjoy their time in this form.
Rick: Yeah, like we were saying an hour ago, there’s an aspect of our brain, which is responsible for our experience of inner happiness, which is irrespective of outer circumstances. We could, if that aspect of our brain is sufficiently developed, we could be in a prison cell and yet be a very happy person. And so when I hear people like you just mentioned committing suicide. I think, well, unfortunately, they just didn’t have access to that inner happiness. And that’s a shame because everyone potentially can have it.
Rick: And I think our society and our educational system should be designed to culture that access as we educate ourselves in or in relative ways that we all always have. I imagine you would say that, too. I mean, think of the educational system. Do you see our modern educational system as being lopsided in terms of emphasizing one or another character to the neglect of the rest?
Jill: I think that our educational system, especially after what it’s been through for the last few years with COVID and, a program, a research program was run last year on whole brain living in the schools. And what this research team did was they took a population of leadership, teachers, all educators and a population of parents, and they gave them each five hours of whole brain living. And the first three were separate and then the last two were bringing them together. And, just the level of respect in understanding, OK, so, here comes, my character two has been traumatized in the trauma. I push away. I’m not happy. I come in very unhappy. And but now I can recognize and others can recognize me as not being happy in my character two, what does my character two need in order to be able to come back into feeling heard by the character fours around us? And then being open to a character one solution to whatever the problem was that stimulated the trigger of that pain. So what what they were doing was they were using whole brain living to create a healthy village within which then the kids grow. And so the research was beautiful. And actually, this summer, we’re just starting running whole brain living for school communities as well as for individuals. So it’s very exciting. You know, people it’s so easy to understand your brain. It’s based on the brain. So it’s completely neuroscience based. Now, it is evidence based through a research project and people are just looking for peace. They are just trying to find a way to manage their own discomfort, their own anxiety, their own fears. And how do we really build community again after what we’ve been through? And how do we do that in a way that’s that’s loving and biologically based?
Rick: Yeah, and it sounds rather sophisticated as you describe it, but I imagine it can be tailored to a third grade, third graders or, little kids and made simple and games and things like that.
Jill: We’re not doing it for the children. We’re doing it for the adults.
Rick: Okay, so you don’t have something tailored to the children?
Jill: Not yet.
Rick: Okay. That’s true. I mean, that’s what everybody’s developing.
Jill: Oh, I have a list this long about what I need to do. Yeah, but the whole brain living is really it’s only been out in the world a year. And so trying to figure out, how do we do this? How do we help people? Because people love it because once you know, your four characters and I mean, let’s talk music, I got a brand new pair of roller skates. You got a brand new key, right?
Rick: That’s Melanie
Jill: I don’t even care who it was. What I care about is that’s my character three and your character three playing together. Right? Or you come out with the, we are the world. We are the people. That’s as character four as you’re going to get. Oh, what a wonderful world. That’s as character four as you’re going to get, you and me against the world. That’s as character two as you’re going to get.
Rick: And then you have things like, I’d rather see a dead little girl than to be with another man. That must be character.
Rick: That was an old Beatles song. Remember that, run for your life?
Jill: It was. Wow. I’d have to listen to that whole song. To get an idea. But that’s it, because there are songs written by the character four to the character two, there are character ones about the character threes. I mean, it’s just all of a sudden you start seeing your whole world differently.
Rick: Yeah. Interesting.
Jill: Yeah. So, yeah. No. Finding a way I truly believe that this is the reason why I have life. I didn’t die that day. I was so close to being a dead that day. And I came back. I came back with with a mission and and with just the intention of I didn’t die. And based on I did not die what else can I say about that left hemisphere that I lost that I got to watch through the eyes of a neuroscientist, break down circuit by circuit by circuit and then rebuild circuit by circuit by circuit? And I’ll tell you, when that character one came back online again, she wanted to be the boss in my head again. And it was like that was the realization to me of, oh, my God, these aren’t just skills. These are personality profiles. And she wanted to be the boss. And it was like, Alpha Queen, I think you’re fantastic. But we have a democracy going on in this head and you cannot be the boss. Welcome to the team. And yeah, so it was really in my face. That’s the only way I came out with the four characters was because they were so clear.
Rick: Interesting. I’ve interviewed a lot of people who’ve had near death experiences, Anita Moorjani and many others. And in almost every case, they had the choice. A lot of them were told, well, it’s not your time, but you could stay, but you should go back because you have something to fulfill back there. And so they go back and they end up with some whole new mission in life, which is helping lots of people based upon the insight they gained when they nearly died.
Jill: Yeah. I was given the choice to recover, but I was not aware of the choice to die. I’m not sure. No, I was on the thread.
Rick: I was you could have easily died if you hadn’t managed to dial that phone.
Jill: Yeah. Right. I engaged in all behavior to hang on. So, yeah. And then coming back, you don’t know if you’re going to be able to walk or talk and it doesn’t matter. I mean, I’m alive. And just to have that value and to know that my mother would have tended to me one way or the other, she would have loved me and she would have been connected to my hip. And she told me so. And that was part of the motivation to get better.
Jill: Love you mom. But I’d like a little independence. Thank you.
Rick: Have you gotten feedback from other brain scientists like Ian McGilchrist and people like that?
Jill: Yeah, I’m actually in his documentary. I love Ian’s work. And what I love about Ian’s work so much is he’s a white male psychiatrist. Yes, I did say that. And so his book, The Master and His Emissary, anybody who questions any of the science, I don’t bring any new science to the subject. What I bring is an experience to the science that is. And his book and my storyline fit together 100 percent. The only difference is I actually experience personalities and profiles and he hasn’t had the experience. So he doesn’t address that. So anybody who ever questions the science, I always encourage him to read that book. It’s a fantastic tome of all, of everything we’ve learned in the last 70 years at a basic science level about the basic differences between the two hemispheres. They are neuroanatomically structured differently, the same but different at a cellular level in the way they perceive information.
Rick: Yeah, I’ve read that book and interviewed him about it. If those who are listening, if they want to check that out, it’s Ian McGilchrist.
Jill: There’s another great book. I don’t know if you know, Frederick Schiffer, and he wrote a book called Of Two Minds. And he’s a psychiatrist at Harvard at McLean Hospital, which was where I was. I did not know him. But he actually talks about the differences in, as a psychiatrist working with the different personalities in the different hemispheres in order to help people become well from psychosis. It’s a very interesting book. And then I know you’re going to interview Chris Neubauer. And I’ve had several conversations with Chris about Eastern meditative, contemplative things as it relates to my experience with the brain.
Rick: Actually, that’s what I want to talk to you about next. We’ve touched upon it, but I want to get into that a little bit more. There’s a number of things we can, several, three, four different things on this that I want to talk about. One, this might be more of a philosophical question. I don’t know if you can answer it with any authority. But I have friends who argue that just because we have the experience of consciousness being unbounded doesn’t mean consciousness is really unbounded. It’s not like we’re tapping into some ontological foundation of the universe or reality. Our brain just gives us the impression that we are when we take some psychedelic or meditate or something. Do you have any thoughts about that? It’s a hard question to resolve because, they’re just saying it feels unbounded, but it isn’t really. And then someone else might say, “Oh, I know it’s unbounded. I am that, and there’s no limits to me.” What do you think?
Jill: People who have truly had an experience that allows them to live and breathe, character four. And that’s going to be most of the people who have had near-death experiences because when we die, what’s going to shut down? Character one’s going to get quiet. No more language. No more ego-centered. Character two, there is no past anymore. All there is is a present. Character three, I’m immobile. I’m dying. And character four, that’s all there is. And so I think people who have really had a strong character four experience know that part. And I think for those of us, I don’t think it matters because we’re not that yet because we are compounded by these other multiple consciousnesses. I think to say there is a consciousness is, I think there are multiple consciousnesses. I think character four, the consciousness of our body, is a layer of consciousness. Lay on top of that some mobility and energy, ATP, to move it into the world. Have the experience of the present moment of character three is a consciousness. I add a past and a future temporality of time. Automatically, my consciousness is shifted away from being in the present to being at another temporality, which really doesn’t exist at all because the past is the past and the future is the future. All there really is is the present, except for this beautiful group of cells that gives me the filtering experience of emotion and pain from the past and fear of the future. And then this rational thinking left brain that again has this linearity across time. So that has its own consciousness. So if they all have different consciousnesses and we can look at the different brain waves and the different types of beta versus alpha versus theta versus delta versus gamma, are those going to have a relationship with different levels of consciousness? And I think the answer is yes, obviously.
Rick: I think what a non-dualist would say to you here is that, well, there’s really only one consciousness, but it’s reflected differently in different ways. Just as there’s only one sun shining and you could have a dozen different reflectors,
Rick: or different pots of water or something, and they’re all going to reflect it somewhat differently, or the moon reflects, but it’s not generating its own light, it’s just the sunlight being reflected off the moon and Venus is reflecting the same sunlight in a different way. So like that, they would say that consciousness is sort of the ground state. It’s the ultimate reality and it filters through all the different nervous systems, a mosquito’s nervous system and a dog and a human being and different human beings and different parts of our own brain. It filters in all these different ways, the way sunlight would filter through any kind of a prism or something else.
Jill: And I think that that’s where we are with science and the brain. I think that what whole brain living and this conversation, having had a neuroanatomist lose part of her brain, is that I actually lost the ability to have certain levels of consciousness.
Rick: Certain functionality. You still had consciousness, but you couldn’t…
Jill: But I had different, but it was completely different. So I’m going to go back to circuitry because essentially what you’re describing is consciousness of I’m a thing and every circuit makes an equal contribution to the whole. And so I can lose language or I can lose mobility or I can lose whatever and I still am conscious. And that’s true at a cellular circuitry level, but that’s not what happened to me. What happened to me was entire personality profiles, profiles, a whole personality disappeared. So I was, I didn’t know what a one was, much less one plus one. People would say to me, Jill, what’s one plus one? And I’d go thinking in my head, one plus one, one plus one. Because I knew at one point I hadn’t had the answer to this. My mother was a college math professor. So what’s one plus one? They’d go a one, a one, a one is everything. And I think, well, if a one is everything, then how can you have another one?
Rick: Good question.
Jill: It makes no sense. I mean, it makes no sense. So the ability to take an abstract symbol like a letter or a number and to place meaning on that. So let’s use language as a great example. Just learning how to read, it was the hardest thing that I had to do again because there’s this random shaped thing. And my mother would say this, she’d draw it. She said, this is an S and it sounds like sss. And I would just look at her like, oh my God, I’m the one that had a stroke? I mean, it was absurd concept, just the most absurd concept. Well, there’s a whole personality wrapped around my ability to understand language in any way, shape or form. You wipe that out. And yes, I still have consciousness. I still had consciousness in the absence of my characters one, two and three. But I was depleted of a whole bunch more than just single cells and circuitry. Because look at a word, right? So you work so hard to learn, okay, these are the letters. And then you put the letters together and all of a sudden the letters don’t matter anymore. What matters is the word. And then the words don’t matter anymore. What matters is the sentence. And then the sentence and the words don’t matter. What matters is the comprehension meaning of that, that you just work so hard to get to. So this isn’t just like a single circuit. This is a wipe out of a functional ability. What is mathematics? What is language? Is that a level of consciousness that we can then tap into? Or is that a group of cells that we are completely dependent on in order to be able to have any understanding whatsoever of taking something completely abstract and placing meaning on it? And then the weird thing is in our society, in our world of science, the only part of us that is conscious that matters is character one. Character two, character three, emotion, unconscious, doesn’t matter at all, shouldn’t even be a part of science. And character four, oh Lord, Lord knows we can’t figure that out. And any science, any qualifying science that actually wants to apply and try to figure out, well, how do we test? Okay, so let’s talk about Cynthia. I mean, Cynthia’s whole world of quantum is on a whole other planet from traditional science. And physics can get away with that because physics is physics.
Rick: You’re talking about Cynthia Larsen, my previous interview guest.
Jill: It was great. It was a great interview. If you haven’t heard that one, go listen to that one.
Rick: So what comes to mind as you said all that is, imagine that consciousness is electricity, right? And electricity is causing all these different apparati to function, my camera, my lights, my computer, the refrigerator in the other room. And so, when you had your stroke, you still had consciousness, you still had electricity, so to speak, but half of your appliances had shut down. So you could still see, hear, smell, taste, you had certain functions that you still had, but other appliances, they were fried. They wouldn’t work at all. So when we talk about consciousness, that’s the kind of sense in which I’m using it. It’s something very fundamental, which enables all kinds of functions to take place, different perceptions, thoughts, emotions, all things that we are conscious of. But consciousness itself, it’s like the movie screen, and then you could play a thousand different movies on the screen, but it’s the same screen.
Jill:So what I would collate that with is character for consciousness, not just of being connected to all that is, but I’m alive.
Rick: Yeah, just pure consciousness.
Jill: But I believe cells have consciousness.
Rick: I do too. And when we die, and you said this earlier, when we die, consciousness will still be there, it won’t be functioning through this body.
Jill: It won’t be filtered through the allocentric receptors.
Rick: Yeah, or it might be filtered through some subtle body, or if reincarnation is a thing, it’ll be filtered through another body, and so on.
Jill: Yeah, a mystery.
Rick: Basic stuff. So one other thing in the spiritual arena which concerns me is, a few years ago I helped to establish an organization called the Association for Spiritual Integrity. And we did that, some friends and I, because it’s quite common among spiritual teachers for there to be some rather egregious ethical violations, behavioral things. In many cases, more out of line than even the average person would be guilty of. And yet, these people who do this stuff are very impressive in many respects. They’re eloquent, they seem wise, they glow in the dark. You feel something when you’re in their presence. And this has confused a great many spiritual seekers who have been around these people and then have been disillusioned in various ways. So I’m wondering if you can apply your model to this. I mean, which of the four characters manages ethics, and why is it that some spiritual teachers or gurus who seem to have their character four very developed are so stunted in whatever character it is that would enable them to behave ethically?
Jill: Well, you’re defining ethics based on the social norm.
Rick: Good point.
Jill: So that’s going to be character one. We live in a character one world. We have to. Our government, our educational system, we have hierarchy, we have rules, we have law and order. And it defines what is right and what is wrong and what is good and what is bad. But if I’m a guru and I’m all love and I’m filled with wisdom and I’m sharing with others and a beautiful person presents themselves to me, then if I don’t have the boundaries of that right, wrong, good, bad, I’m not going to fit myself inside of it. And so I may end up having a relationship with that person that your left brain might define as inappropriate and unethical. But if I’m true to me, I mean, but now I’m going to make a comparison based on that. One of my brothers has schizophrenia, which, of course, is why I grew up to study the brain in the first place. And my brother, his definition of right, wrong and good, bad is not in alliance with the societal norm. And so he has ended up in jail. God told him to go preach. Jesus told him to go preach naked at a local mall. And so he did. And the people let him go and said, go away, don’t come back. And the next day, Jesus told him to go preach naked at the local mall again. And so he did. And so they arrested him and he ended up in jail. And so now here we have my brother firmly, truly believes he’s Michael, the white horseman in his delusional hallucination of his schizophrenia, as we define him. And he presents himself in the world. And so here this poor boy is who is not, he’s gentle as a fly and is now in prison with people who have zero respect for, for the kinds of things that are going to come out of my brother’s mouth, out of his total innocence and ignorance. So I think that’s kind of the same. I think it’s a matter of if I’m totally a guru, if I’m totally in my character four then my value structure is my value structure based on my experience and who I am and who I want to be in the world. And I clearly am not fitting myself inside the box of your right, wrong, good, bad character, one societal norm.
Rick: Yeah, but you would probably agree that schizophrenia is an abnormality. It’s not that your brother just happens to be a perfectly normal person in his own right. What were you going to say?
Jill: Do you think a guru in our society is a normal brain?
Jill: Well, ideally, hopefully it’s a supernormal brain. In other words, someone who has doesn’t have a mental illness, but who has actually developed to a higher level of evolution that we might all aspire to. We don’t aspire to develop schizophrenia, but we. We aspire to develop enlightenment.
Jill: But is that really true? I mean, if you really look at what’s going on in that character four, what you’re essentially saying is we value the value structure of the character for because the character for believes it is, it’s honoring of life. honoring of what we are as a collective whole. It is aware of a certain level of consciousness, but if it is non-functional in a character one world, then it may be exceptional or it may simply be skewed into the character four. And as we had the conversation earlier about,what about the good or what about the not so good? What happens if you have a character for that is really detached from normal reality and doesn’t value the structure of it? If I’m a person, because I was that person, I became a character four, that’s all I had left. And then as my body got a little bit of strength and a little bit of energy back, then I became a character three because I had now movement into the world. But being a character three and a character four without any skill sets of a character two and a character one left me completely non-functional in a real world. I became a non-effective human being. And at some point I may be breaking ethical laws or rules or whatever you call them. What’s going to happen if that person who I’m attracted to now is 12 instead of age? So, I think that there are things about the character four consciousness that absolutely open us up to a level of awareness and openness and possibility. And enlightenment is a word that a lot of people use. And I would never say that I was enlightened because I wasn’t enlightened. I had the experience and was running the circuitry of that energetic vibration of being completely focused on that. But boy, I was a completely non-functional human being until I got the rest of my circuitry to come online. So, that to me is if all I am is my character four or my three or my two or my one, if I don’t have the balance between the different parts of what I am as a biological creature, this is a design. We are a design, a magnificent design built by who knows what, possibly just new cells being added on top. But the design is we have two emotional groups of cells, two thinking groups of cells, and ultimately having them all in balance and in communication with one another is going to make the most enlightened, aware, and performance bound for the collective whole. I truly believe that.
Rick: Well, that’s what I’m getting at. I hesitate to use the word enlightenment, but if I do use it, I define it as holistic development in which you’re not just sort of blazing cosmic consciousness with the other aspects of your personality undeveloped. Everything is fully blossomed and in cooperation or coordination with one another. So, you’re just kind of a, like you said in the beginning, a full development of all four characters is the evolutionary goal of humanity. But unfortunately, we have a lot of teachers around whose development seems to be more lopsided who do seem to have the consciousness bit down pretty well, but then are sleeping with a series of students half their age and ripping people off financially or whatever. And that’s troublesome. And I think we need to change the model of what enlightenment is commonly understood to be.
Jill: Yeah, no, I think you’re right. But if I’ve got my holiness in alignment and that becomes a part of my argument, then, that’s my story line.
Rick: It could be used as an alibi.
Rick: I’m so holy. You pitiful mortals don’t understand me.
Jill: Right. And it’s like, right, yeah. No, I agree.
Rick: Okay, good. You worried me there for a minute because it almost sounded like you were saying, well, it’s just a cultural norm. But, who’s to say that’s right?
Jill: Yeah, no, no, no. Well, that’s, to me, I just keep going back to the whole brain. I mean, I easily could have just stayed as a character four that easily because that’s all I was. And yet for me, it was, well, if I’m going to have, be effective as a human being among our society, if I am going to regain a status for my fellow man to give me a voice, then I need to get regain the mastery of my information, my expertise and my language of it. I mean, I can know everything there is in the world, but if I can’t language it, then I can’t really be a teacher. Not me anyway, not based on what I, whom I had been and, why my story had so much attention given to it. Wasn’t just because I was a girl who had a stroke and came back. It was because I was a brain scientist at Harvard. My area of expertise was how does our brain create our perception of reality? And then the universe said, little girl, you want to know, we’re going to show you.
Rick: Well, I’m glad you came back. We’re all better off for your having done so.
Jill: I feel blessed. I’ve had 20 years. I mean, this is just gravy time. I just feel, and I can be gone in an instant and still just wow, I had a life. I came back.
Rick: You’re probably having a lot more. I mean, it might sound weird, but you might almost say that if you had it to do over again, you’d still have the stroke because you’re having so much fun now. Compared to what you’re at.
Jill: Absolutely. I’ve learned so much. It’s one thing to know all about cells and the brain and have the conversation about consciousness. Because, I was born in 59, so I’m not far behind you.
Rick: You’re 10 years behind me. 1949.
Jill: Okay, so you were partying a little hardier than I was during the 60s. But, when I was in school, the two things that were taboo to talk about that we scientists, if we were going to grow up to be, good scientists, was energy and consciousness. I mean, those things, those were the taboo subjects. And, of course, we all went into it because we wanted to talk about that. And so we did around the lunch table, but nobody did any research on it. So how nice is it that, we have reached a point 50 years later where we’re actually not just talking about it, but scientists are dedicating their careers to figuring out, bits and pieces of the whole thing so that we’ve got something really beautiful to understand what we are as life and human.
Rick: Yeah, I’ve heard from so many people that at some stage in their educational or professional career, they were warned away from mentioning consciousness or anything of the sort. “Oh, you won’t get your PhD, you won’t get your tenure,” all this stuff. It’s just a taboo subject. But a lot of that resistance has really broken down.
Jill: Yeah, now we all are.
Rick: And you’re living on a boat. If you hadn’t gone through all this, you’d probably still be in Cambridge.
Jill: “No, don’t make me do that!” Yeah, I’m convinced this was the right life for me.
Rick: Yeah. I’ve heard some very intelligent arguments from people like Sam Harris that we don’t have free will, and it just seems like we do. How do you weigh in on that argument?
Jill: I think I’m a living being that is this magnificent collection of cells. I have a perception through these two different hemispheres of a past, a future, and a present moment, and that I think we do have choice. I think I was given a choice to recover. I think every time I took a step forward, I made an effort. I took a thousand efforts a day. I didn’t have to do that. Was I driven to do that? Yeah, I was. But I still think it was choice for me.
Jill: I don’t think the universe is addicted to driving our every moment of existence. There’s a lot of us here.
Rick: Yeah. I don’t see it as a script that’s already written.
Rick: Yeah, usually it’s the people who say we don’t have a self that say we don’t have free will. I think they’re right on some level, but I don’t think it applies on all levels, and you have to sort of be multidimensional when you talk about these things. Yeah.
Jill: That’s interesting.
Rick:Yeah. Now, I used to be a TM teacher, and we used to say in our introductory lectures that, “Oh, we only use 10% of our full mental potential.” I’ve heard you talk about this, that responding to the people who say we’re only using 10% of our brain, and you say, “Well, if it’s alive and it’s in your head, you’re using it.” But could it be true that we’re not using the whole brain efficiently, which is what we’ve been talking about today? Maybe it’s running at 10% efficiency the way an engine, which hasn’t been tuned up or which hasn’t had its oil changed, is running at a very low level of efficiency compared to what it could do. And so in that sense, we’re only using 10%.
Jill: That was said in 1907. How much do you think that person really understood? I mean, really, 1907.
Rick: That we’re only using 10% of the brain.
Jill: Yeah. I mean, that was based on what information? Very, very little.
Rick: Haven’t there been fMRIs and all that show that people who are under high stress have different parts of the brain that are really shut down, and it actually shows up in the fMRI?
Jill: Yeah, but that’s not the average person. I mean, that’s the person who’s got problems going on, and especially it may be really related to depression, because especially during depression, there’s a group of cells in the right parietal region that go to sleep. And trying to wake those up and get those active again helps bring a sense of possibility and meaning back into life. But no, I mean, that’s actually the beauty of functional imaging. As you look at a — you put your brain in a magnet, and everybody’s all lit up. And then it’s a matter of, okay, well, if everybody’s all lit up, now let’s get rid of the background and see who’s really lit up. The brain’s a busy place. I mean, cells are cells. I mean, just think about it. If you’re only using 10% of your brain, do you think that you would be able to sit here and perceive yourself to be a human, a man, and have all your consciousness be in a conversation outside of yourself, and you don’t even think about your cells and what they’re doing in an instant? I mean, there is so much. It takes so much for these cells. These are tiny little living beings that work together constantly, moment by moment, processing trillions and bazillions of bits of data, that’s official. And every moment, for you to be able to have the perception of yourself as even an individual and a living being, and we give them no credit for the mastery. Now, all you have to do is have a brain trauma, and all of a sudden, your whole consciousness gets broken down into circuits and circuits and circuits and what circuits work and what circuits don’t work. And for us to then be able to meld ourselves, like the word, the letters become a word, and all of a sudden, the letters don’t matter anymore. That’s what we are, these magnificent cells are those letters. And then there’s a me. And I’m all about the me. I’m all about every little thing that I can do. Those cells in there, trust me, they’re busy.
Rick: They’re busy, but like, for instance, when you had your cerebral hemorrhage, you weren’t using 100% of your brain there for a while.
Jill: I was using everybody who could. I mean, just think about what are cells doing? Cells are exciting others. They’re being excited and expressing themselves, or they’re inhibiting others. So if I’m a cell, and I’m being inhibited, okay, let’s say I’m saying something to you like, “I love you.” I mean, all of a sudden, you’re like looking at me like, “I love you.” And part of your brain is listening to the emotional content of the “I love you,” and another part of your brain is just hearing me say the words “I love you,” and then you’re putting them all together and saying, “Does that make sense?” I mean, the subtle little information processings that we are constantly doing that we’re not even tuned into, those are cells performing their job. So to consider, and here’s another thing about neurons. Neurons are just like people. They’re very social. They’re in social networks. They’re all in circuit. They’re all talking to one another. When you take a cell and you put it in isolation and you cut off stimulation to it, it dies. Okay, well, why does it die? Because it’s not receiving stimulation and it’s not participating in a bigger neural network. Now, just because we can’t perceive that at the level of innuendo that these cells provide us with doesn’t mean that they’re not being busy and they’re doing in the background everything they need to do.
Rick: Yeah, but like, okay, so over the decades that I’ve been on a spiritual path, I’ve found that I’ve gotten more and more mentally clear and coherent and behaviorally harmonious and all kinds of improvements have continued to happen and still continue to happen, which in some cases is the opposite of what some people experience as life goes on. And so there must be a neurophysiological correlate to that in terms of my brain functioning in a more coherent, orderly fashion.
Rick: Go ahead.
Jill: I think you’re just removing the inhibition.
Rick: Yeah, that’s a good way.
Jill: Yeah, I mean, let’s say you were busy being a character one most of your life and you didn’t spend a whole lot of time caring about spirituality or enlightenment or divineness or whatever you want to call that. Then you don’t spend any time running that circuitry, but it’s still there, it’s still alive and you’re inhibiting it. Okay, so then let’s say all of a sudden, okay, well now you’re looking and for some reason you get turned on to meditation and it’s like, yeah, I want to try this. And then it’s like in the beginning you may struggle with it. And then, okay, well I’m going to do it, I’m going to commit to it. And then eventually what I find is that that character one starts becoming a little more inhibited and the character four starts having more of a relationship. It doesn’t mean it’s not alive and it’s not doing things. You can’t have everything running all at the same time. You’ve got chaos. The power of the brain is in the GABA cells, which are the primary cell of inhibition. And so cells inhibit other cells. But it doesn’t mean that the cells that are being inhibited are doing nothing. They’re still there, available. They’re still alive. They’re still intimately connected. And boy, I’ll tell you, if you have a stroke and all of a sudden you wipe off the cells that are doing the inhibition, they wake right up.
Rick: Yeah, but I mean the whole premise of our discussion is that we have these four characters and they’re all developed partially. And we would like them all to develop fully and in a balanced way in collaboration with one another. So somehow or other, whether through inhibition or whatever the neurophysiological correlate would be, there’s some way in which the brain is not operating to its full capacity.
Jill: Okay, wait, wait, wait. Stop, stop, stop.
Rick: Go ahead. Let’s say you’re looking at your computer right now. You’re running Zoom. Your computer has the capacity to receive email.
Rick: Yes, and in fact some questions are coming in that I’ll be reading you.
Jill: Okay, so but let’s say that you don’t have the other screen and you’re not watching that. Let’s just say you’re not using that circuitry. It’s still there, available. Does that mean that you’re not using it or does that mean it’s simply not what is gaining focus in this moment? I mean that’s essentially what you just described. A computer has all these programs. I might have some apps or programs that are completely turned off.
Jill: But that doesn’t mean that the computer isn’t capable of running those in an instant. So does that mean that we’re going to negate the value of those cells or that we only use — when most people say we only use 10% of our brain, they’re talking about the same percent. And then 90% of it’s turned off. They’re not saying we’re rotating between using this 10% and then that 10% and this 10% and that we have a whole brain. They’re not saying that. What they’re saying is we only use 10% of our brain, which means 90% of it is in the mystery zone and we’re not using it. It’s like I just don’t believe that. If it’s alive and it’s in your head, it may just be sitting around waiting for you to open up that program and run it, but it’s still there waiting.
Rick: Yeah, but you may not be able to just run it on a moment’s notice. I mean, it might take years to develop all your characters fully.
Rick: And that means there’s going to be years of neuroplasticity taking place in which your brain kind of rises to the full capacity that it’s endowed with.
Rick: Right. So it’s in that sense that I’m defining this statement of not using the full potential of the brain. Sure, the neurons are alive, they’re in there, they’re firing, they’re getting blood, but somehow the whole arrangement is just not running on all eight cylinders as efficiently as it could.
Jill: So what you’re saying is we have not yet evolved to our fullest capacity.
Rick: There you go. Perfect.
Jill: And that I agree absolutely 100%.
Rick: Okay. Took us a while to get to that. There are a few other things I want us to get to and there’s some questions coming in which I want to ask. So it would be interesting to briefly talk about addiction in the four characters. It would be interesting to talk about the 90-second rule. Maybe you could do those two just real quick and then I’ll hit you with some questions that are coming in.
Jill: Okay, let’s do the 90-second rule. So at any moment in time, there’s really only three things going on inside of the head. We’re thinking thoughts, we’re feeling emotions, and we’re running physiological responses to what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling. It’s all cellular circuitry. So let’s say I’m going to think a thought. Now, every time I think that thought, it stimulates an emotional circuit of anger, right? You did me wrong 10 years ago and I haven’t forgiven you and I’m holding a grudge. And so I think the thought of you, I start running my anger circuit. I have a physiological response. Noradrenaline gets dumped into my bloodstream. It flushes through me. It flushes out of me. I madder than hell at you. My face gets ugly. My body sweats. But within 90 seconds from the moment I think the thought until my blood is perfectly clear is less than 90 seconds. So we run on these neurological loops of less than 90 seconds. And just knowing that and knowing that every emotion I’m feeling is actually cells in circuit, when I start myself feeling emotionally triggerable, I can actually observe the fact that, oh, I feel I’m starting to feel a little angry here. And I can observe myself run this loop as opposed to engage in it and actually allow it to run out of itself in that 90 seconds. So the 90-second rule is actually a really powerful tool for people to utilize in order to help themselves if they’re, instead of just running on automatic.
Rick: Right. And unfortunately, it’s a tool that not everyone has found, has learned how to utilize. Because, I mean, we have all this road rage and mass shootings every day and all this stuff. So obviously, if everyone could really flush it all out in 90 seconds, we’d have a peaceful — we’d have world peace.
Jill: Well, you know, we did have much more of that. I mean, from a social norm, we have legitimized — it’s okay in our society now to be aggressive and to lash out in our automatic reactivity in a way that we didn’t a decade ago. So, I think there is something to pack consciousness in what are we doing as a society.
Rick: Yeah, interesting. All right, let me ask you some of these questions that have come in, and maybe in the process of answering these, we’ll squeeze in addiction. This is from Alexis Leavitt in Salt Lake City. He says, “I am a social — or I guess it’s a man, Alexis. I am a social worker and interested in implementing your whole brain living framework in a therapeutic context. Do you have any recommendations?”
Jill: Please call me. Send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. I work with all types of groups, and right now we are doing trainings for different people. The best way to work with me is that I feel like I’m a big neuron, and if you want to bring whole brain living to your network, you come to me. I will say, “How do I serve you?” I will empower you with the information, and then you become the rock star in your world because it’s everywhere. I mean, the beauty of whole brain living is it is our brain, so that’s why people are just flocking to the model.
Rick: Great. Okay, here’s one from Fiona Healy in Ireland. “Have there been any studies done on the impact of the womb twin phenomenon, where only one twin survives, that is, in the transference of hormones from a male twin to a female twin, or vice versa, depending on which sex survives, and also the impact of the trauma on the surviving twin?”
Jill: I have no idea. I’m so sorry. Not my area of expertise. I’m sure there is. There’s a lot of fascinating work done about twins, and a lot of fascinating work done about the womb, but I’m not familiar with it. Sorry, Fiona.
Rick: Okay, here’s one from Reparin Eser in Turkey. “I love the idea of making an unhealthy obsession a healthy one. I obsess over forming romantic relationships and, after failing, obsess over why it didn’t work. How can I find an alternative, healthy option?”
Jill: Hmm, interesting. So I’m going to say Whole Brain Living is out in Turkish. I’m going to encourage you to get that book and work through it with your own four characters, and then ask yourself exactly those questions to determine what’s going on between your character one and your character two, because character one will obsess around and around and around, and character two will be about those emotional relationships from the past and how they didn’t work out.
Rick: Okay. Here’s one from Chris Anderson in Canada. “Could you please talk about selective mutism? How would this affect the brain and the recovery?”
Jill: It depends on the… That’s a big question because it’s so specific and diverse in the possibilities, so I can’t give you a good answer for that.
Rick: Okay. I see Irene’s getting ready to send another question, but until I get that, maybe you could say a bit about addiction and the four characters.
Jill: Yeah, absolutely. An addiction is something that has… Let’s go back to the brain as a group of cells, and cells run in circuits. The thing about the brain is it is an addiction machine. It’s biologically programmed so that it can run on itself, and then we don’t have to think about running it anymore. Then based on what it has run, new circuits can run on top of that, and we can build things. The way that the cells organize themselves is toward addiction, but a true addiction to a substance that becomes a negative addiction. I might be addicted to playing tennis, or I might be addicted to kissing my sweetheart, or I might be addicted to something that is going to actually hurt my body. Those are the addictions that we say become problematic, but again, it’s cells in circuits. There’s actually in that character two, it is a craving. I crave. Part of the running of the circuitry is I want more of the circuitry. A typical healthy biological system is I want something, I’m hungry, I want food. I eat food, I’m satisfied, and I’m no longer hungry. It has a natural negative feedback. With addiction, with these circuits, it’s a positive feedback system where I try cocaine, I like cocaine, I want more cocaine. Now I want more cocaine. Then I go and I get more cocaine, and then it makes me want more cocaine. It’s these positive feedback loops that actually get us into trouble at the level of our negative addictions. That’s in the tissue of character two, and it’s in the insular cortex deep inside. I got a little brain right here, and this is character one, and character two, character three, and character four. Deep inside of here is the insular cortex, and that’s actually where craving happens. For the craving of a positive feedback loop is hooked up into that character two. It’s not about getting rid of my addiction. What it is is it is about using the healthy parts of my brain to set myself up for success. I can go to my character one, and character one says, “Okay, I’m addicted to sugar, so I’m not going to buy any sugar and keep it in the pantry.” I’m actually using my character one to set my character two up for success. Character three, it’s going to say, “Okay, so I’m going to go engage in healthy things with other people who don’t encourage me to have my sugar addiction.” I’m then distracted away from that. Then my character four is going, “I really do value the fact that I’m alive, and my sugar addiction concerns me because ultimately the big picture is going to look like diabetes.” I don’t think any of the four characters inside of me want diabetes, so how do I support all of us? When I’m having that craving for that sugar, how do I come in and say, “Let’s let that 90 seconds of a craving of running that circuitry pass through and use the other parts of who we are in order to protect ourselves so that we’re setting ourselves up for success away from the actual addiction” Then, naturally, the more we do something, the more often we engage in a behavior, we’re running circuits, and then those circuits begin to run on automatic. When we do things less, then the power of those circuits tends to withdraw, and then my cravings become more separate.
Rick: During my drug days, towards the end, I was starting to use hard drugs a little bit. When I learned to meditate, I very quickly found within days that I was feeling better all the time than drugs had made me feel temporarily. I just never thought about them again. I also dropped all my druggy friends because I figured, “Well, if I keep hanging around these guys, I might get drawn back in.” I just hung out with the dog for a few months and took walks to the beach every day and got back into school and things like that. Then, next thing you know, I had a whole batch of new friends and all kinds of constructive activities and whatnot. Okay, another question from Martin Klein in Germany. “At the beginning of the interview, you mentioned pain. If I have an ongoing pain in my right lower belly, for example, to what part of the brain, which of the four character types, does it point to? What lack or deficiency in that part does it address, and would the answer also include a potential solution?”
Jill: First of all, when it comes to visceral pain, there are two types of pain. Somatic is of the muscle of the body, and visceral, which is of the viscera of the guts. If I hurt my tricep, then the pain is in my tricep. If I have a problem in my viscera, that pain is often what we call referred somewhere else. It’s just in the way that the vagus nerve innervates the guts and the viscera of the body. So, first of all, body awareness, body consciousness is cellular, and the whole brain has a relationship with the whole body. So it’s an easier question if you ask me, “How are the different parts of my brain going? How are the different characters going to think about or manage that part of my body?” As opposed to giving you medical advice, which I couldn’t do because I’m not an MD anyway.
Rick: Okay. Here is one from Ibrahim F. Doesn’t say where from. “How do you deal with fear of the future and worry in general?”
Jill: Well, I celebrate the fact that, oh my God, I’m capable of having fear of the future. Who was it? Wasn’t it Mark Twain who said, “I’ve died a thousand deaths and none of them have happened,” or something like that.
Jill: Yeah. And, it’s like, wow, I’m capable of having fear of the future, of a future that hasn’t happened at all. And that’s circuitry, and that’s energy, and I am running that circuitry. So what do I do? Bring my mind to the present moment. One thing that we haven’t talked about is the brain huddle. This is a tool that I use in order to call all four characters into the present moment in conversation with one another and really learning which of your characters is fear of the future. It’s going to be your little character two. It’s not in the right here right now. All you really have to do is bring your mind to the present moment. And if you do, then there is no fear in the present from the future. And we do have the ability to say, I am running circuitry in my brain and I don’t want to do that. When I was young, I remember when I was 12 or 13, oh, my God, I was in love. And then I suddenly had a broken heart. And it was like emotional devastation and really for the first time, really realizing, I’m spending so much time in my emotional devastation that my life is going by without me. And I’m just preteen here. What’s it going to be like the rest of my life? And it was like, well, being aware that this is cells that I’m running, these are circuits, and I don’t have to be obsessive over those thoughts that bring me no emotional comfort.
Rick: Somebody said that fear is an acronym for false evidence appearing real.
Jill: Yeah, exactly.
Rick: Remember what FDR said in his second inaugural address? The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Rick: OK, another question from Martin Klein in Germany. With the knowledge of those four parts of the brain, what would be a good way to tackle PTSD and trauma?
Jill: Character two. So PTSD is a remembrance. It is a circuitry and it gets re-stimulated when we have flashbacks. I actually have had two PTSD flashbacks of the morning of the stroke. And I know that I’m not having a stroke. Well, I’m hoping I’m not having a stroke because I’m assuming that I’m all, I’m just rerunning that circuitry because it is so real. And people around me, I mean, I look like I’m having a stroke. I lose my language. I’m paralyzed on half my body. I become a lump of lead in the bed and it’s like, but give me 45 minutes and it will flush through me. And so the way that I’m managing that kind of trauma is to recognize this is my PTSD. This is circuitry in my brain that is so powerful that if for some reason it gets triggered, it’s going to run and I have to let it run. And then it’s like, OK, well, how do I identify? And then that goes back to the psychedelic journey that we were having about before, because, what the psychedelics do is it lifts you out of having the trauma in the moment into a different part of your brain. And now as a character four I’m looking at my life, realizing, oh, I’m not having that trauma anymore. That is something from my past. And now I can recognize it when it starts to get triggered. And this is why the psychedelics are are being used for people with PTSD and finding it successful in a research environment.
Rick: Great. Well, I think that’s it for the questions. So this has been a wonderful conversation. We’ve covered a lot of ground. I hope people be inspired to get your book. It’s on audible so you can listen to it, which is what I did. And of course, it’s also available as a Kindle and a regular physical book. And again, if people haven’t watched your original TED talk, My Stroke of Insight, I encourage them to go back and do that. It’s only 18 minutes. It’s fascinating. Is there anything you want to say by way of conclusion?
Jill: I just believe we have so much more power over what’s going on inside of our heads than we have thus far been taught. And I think that whole brain living is one way that people can really find more peace. And I truly believe the more peaceful the more time we spend running peace circuitry inside of our brain, then the more peace we project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be. Totally believe that.
Rick: Yeah, I think you’re right. OK, so thanks. This has really been fun. As I knew it would be. I’ll be linking to your website, of course, and your books and everything. And people can and you’ve given out your email address. So I hope hopefully people won’t get showered with emails. But, you know.
Jill: Yeah. Thank you, Rick. I’m so appreciative. I am such, I love the variety of this conversation that you bring from all these different avenues. And, it’s just a pleasure. Thank you.
Rick: Yeah. It’s kind of the way my mind works. I’m just kind of insatiable interest in all things spiritual and even, however remotely related and all things. I mean, just everything is fascinating. Life is a trip.
Jill: It is a trip. Thank you.
Rick: Great. Well, thanks, Jill. So let’s see. Next week, I have a fellow named Jeff Carrera. And the week after that, Chris Neubauer, whom you mentioned, who is also a brain scientist. And so there’s an upcoming interviews page on BatGap.com, where if you feel like it, you can see what we’ve got scheduled. And there’s a little icon at the right side of every interview, which will enable you to set up a calendar reminder in Gmail or Outlook or whatever your email system is so that you can be reminded of the live interview in case you’d like to join us live and send in questions and stuff. So thanks for listening or watching. Thanks a lot, Jill. Hope to meet you in person someday.
Jill: Thank you, dear.
Rick: Yeah. Talk to you all later.
Jill: Bye bye, everybody.