Try one or more of these exercises to get a clearer picture of the aspects of yourself you see as most important: Imagine that your brain is transplanted into a very sexy young body, then an overweight, middle aged body, an eighteen year old, and, finally, a healthy, well-maintained 65-year-old body of the opposite sex--and that the racial or ethnic background of each host body is different from yours. How to you feel about your imaginary looks? Social contacts? Wardrobe? Family relationships? Now see yourself in the body of a bed-ridden quadriplegic, and then in the body of an olympic athlete, in the body of someone who angers easily, or who doesn't respond emotionally. How do your attitudes change in each situation? Which of your basic characteristics are most important and helpful and which get in the way? How is the central you consistent? Different?
I asked a 40 year old male to imagine being a female and his first response was, "I'll have big boobs won't I?" I asked, would he be sexually "easy and loose" or more prudent. Would he view his new self as a professional, a potential mother, nurturing or hustling?
Millie, an attractive 35 year old mother of two, said she would rather be dead than be in a hairy, man's body, with a penis. "I like my soft skin and I wouldn't be me without my body," she asserted.
Jane liked the idea of being in a man's body. "It would be the best of all world's," she smiled, adding mischievously, "I could do the things men do that women can't."
What part of your body would you change that might affect your happiness or give you a more positive attitude towards life? How would your interaction with the world and your perception of it be different as a result. There's a lot to consider in understanding how your brain and your body mesh to produce the individual you.
One Brain, Two Views of Life
''If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't,'' wrote scientist Lyall Watson, in Lifetides. When we discuss the brain's functions, we tend to over-simply. This is particularly true in studying the specific functions of each side of the brain. Research clearly proves there are right brain/left brain differences, though they do overlap substantially. And the dominance of one or the other side in you has much to do with who you are.
Each side of the brain processes information in a different way. The right side tends to be more visual and pattern seeking, perceiving the whole forest rather than the individual trees. Some studies suggest that this right side of the brain also tends to process more of our negative emotions. The left brain controls muscles on the right side of the body and face, and vice-versa. The left brain tends to process experience in a more linear, step-by-step, analytical way, using words and numbers, rather than the right brain's images.
If you seem to get stuck on details, or repeat the same negative statements to yourself over and over again, you may be stuck in a left brain mode of functioning. On the other hand, if you tend to take one small bit of information and see in it some giant negative pattern that keeps you from acting, you may be stuck in a right brain mode.
Of course, the ideal is to loosen up and get both sides of your brain working together doing a trans-cerebral dance to maximize your own efficiency and your enjoyment in life. One way to do that is to exercise your powers of metaphoric thinking, because such thinking forces the two hemispheres of the brain to interact. The practical and the spiritual (or imaginative) aspects of your mind collaborate.
How to Get Your Brain Together
When philosopher Joseph Joubert says, ''Life is woven wind,'' he doesn't expect the statement to be taken literally. He means that life is changeable, temporary and has many possibilities for different patterns, just as the wind has. Of course, you might take a different meaning from his words, and that would be okay too. A metaphor suggests an idea; it does not intend the literal meaning of the words used in it.
The beauty of metaphoric thinking, perceiving and communicating is that they draw from the resources of both sides of the brain for a single purpose. This connects with more memories, forcing them closer to consciousness, bringing up clumps of memories into manageable strands which add meaning. The process facilitates your insight, vision and understanding. Philosophers and poets use images from nature as metaphors to help us to better understand the human experience. Quotation books classified by subject are really metaphor dictionaries. Try exploring one at your library or bookstore.
As an exercise in metaphoric thinking, apply the idea of a body of water--a lake, river, ocean, or stream--to your life and behavior. Think of a flowing stream as the stream of life, the rapids in it as times of adversity or of excitement. Play with images and interpretations of whirlpools, fast currents, tides, beaches, overhanging cliffs, bridges, cold depths, ice, fog--stretch your imagination. Metaphors can help you clear foggy ideas and wash away fears (clear, foggy and wash-away are water metaphor examples.)
In their book, Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff, Ph.D. and Mark Johnson, Ph.D. tell us that what we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor. They note that we all use common metaphors like ''up'' for healthy, successful and happy (high spirits, rising success, higher control, and ''down'' for sickness, failure, and death (feeling low, down in the dumps, suffer a drop in popularity). Other concepts that get common metaphors include near-far, front-back, center-edge, on-off, in-out.
Literally, these describe spatial, or physical facts, but used metaphorically they describe feelings and abstract ideas. People fall into the habit of using specific patterns of metaphor that reflect their own pattern of filtering. Think about the way you complain. Do you reflexively use the same category of metaphors in your thoughts and speech (''I'm lost.'' ''I'm a dishrag.'' ''I'm going down.'' ''I'm out of it.") These can weaken you and may be automatically causing you to perceive the world in a way that steals your most pleasurable possibilities.