Understanding The Right Side Of Your Brain

Dr. Robert Melillo

When it comes to left brain versus right brain, the right brain holds the big picture view of the world. It is great at seeing the whole, but not necessarily the parts. It sees the forest, so to speak, but can’t see the trees. The right brain is also in charge of moving the big muscles, leading it to control your posture and gait. It is also the spatial side of the brain. It allows a body to feel itself in space by controlling both balance and what is known as proprioception: the  ability to know where the body is relative to gravity and in relationship to itself and others. 

The brain’s nonverbal communicator also happens to be its right side. It reads and interprets body posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, and understands what a person is thinking or feeling. Nonverbal communication is the foundation of socialization; therefore, the right brain is the social brain. Because it is nonverbal,  it learns subconsciously or subliminally. A child doesn’t always realize they are learning—after all, everything is a new learning experience to an infant and toddler—but this does not make it less important. Nonverbal ability is the foundation of verbal communication that will develop later on via the left side of the brain. The right side of the brain is the more emotional side. It helps a person feel their own emotions and also read emotions in others. This is what we call emotional intelligence, or EQ. And, through this, this side of the brain becomes the more empathetic side of the brain. Once a person can read emotions in themself, they will start to develop the ability to read the same emotions in other people through nonverbal communication.

The  right  brain also  operates the  sensory controls,  so it senses and feels the whole body. This is because the right side borders the part of the brain known as the insula cortex, in which a person feels the internal sensations from the gut, heart, and lungs that allow them to feel emotion. The right brain is also very attuned to the sense of smell and taste– responsible for determining if a smell is good, and therefore the person  or object is good, or bad, meaning the person or object should be avoided. It also handles receiving information from the auditory system.

The right brain is responsible for our self-awareness or our sense of self. It is governed by what is known as avoidance behavior, so it is the cautious brain. It is the part of the brain that keeps a child safe. Before the curious left brain can approach something, the right brain has to give its consent that it is safe. Being in charge of avoidance makes the right brain the keeper of negative emotions, such as fear, anger, and disgust. And because  the right brain is so cautious and sensory, it is responsible for attention. It controls impulses. It will stop a child from doing something, especially when socially inappropriate. The right brain likes new or novel situations or locations and hates to do the same thing over and over. Routine bores it easily. The right hemisphere helps to control the immune system. It inhibits it and prevents it from overreacting, so it doesn’t turn on its own protective antibodies. The right hemisphere also controls most life-supporting automatic reactions, like digestion and the controls that regulates heartbeat.