EP #162

Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters that Drive Our Life with Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor

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In this episode, Molly Watts reflects on her journey with alcohol, from overcoming family abuse to adopting a mindful approach as an alcohol minimalist, even amidst enjoying Super Bowl festivities. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist who underwent brain rebuilding post-stroke, shares insights into whole brain living and the influence of brain modules on emotions and decision-making. Through anecdotes and discussions, they explore how understanding brain characters can lead to deeper self-awareness, aiding in managing emotions and relationships, and challenging patterns like alcohol dependence. With a focus on neuroplasticity and nurturing brain health, they advocate for embracing emotions and fostering personal growth for a more fulfilling life. Through concepts like the brain huddle, they offer practical strategies for integrating various aspects of the brain, promoting inner peace and well-being.

Molly Watts: Welcome to the Alcohol Minimalist podcast. I’m your host, Molly Watts. If you want to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, you’re in the right place. This podcast explores the strategies I use to overcome a lifetime of family alcohol abuse, more than 30 years of anxiety and worry about my own drinking, and what felt like an unbreakable daily drinking habit. Becoming an alcohol minimalist means removing excess alcohol from your life so it doesn’t remove you from life.

It means being able to take alcohol or leave it without feeling deprived. It means to live peacefully, being able to enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty and without needing to finish the bottle. With science on our side, we’ll shatter your past patterns and eliminate your excuses. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible. I’m here to help you do it.

Let’s start now. Well, hello and welcome or welcome back to the Alcohol Minimalist podcast. With me, your host Molly Watts coming to you from it’s a pretty groovy Oregon right now. I got to tell you, I am I am digging the weather vibes around Oregon this February, mostly dry. It’s been mostly dry, mostly sunny.

We have a little bit of rain here and there, but some days that are really like, up near 60 degrees already early February, yes, please. If you haven’t made it to Oregon, I say it all the time. But if you have never ventured out to the Pacific Northwest, I wouldn’t highly recommend coming right now during February. I’d wait until the summertime, but you really have to make a plan to come out and see us because it really is a spectacular part of the country. How are you doing?

How is your February going? I have a little confession to make. How did the Super Bowl go for you? The Super Bowl was great for me, by the way. I have no, that’s not a statement about the chiefs or the 49ers.

I just wanted a good game. Got one. I just heard that it was the 7th longest football game in NFL history. I mean, an overtime was on the 2nd overtime in super bowl history and it was really by and large, a really great game. I was disappointed.

There was an injury for the 49ers just because I didn’t, I was hoping that we could avoid all that, but it was a good game. And I had exactly one beer during the entire time. I enjoyed it, and I drink nonalcoholic beers, had some fun food, and enjoyed time with my family. It was just a really great event for me, a really great day. How about you?

Because I had such a great time on the weekend and watching the Super Bowl, I have to be honest. I did not do enough work on my podcast episode that I was supposed to be dropping this coming Wednesday on 14th on Valentine’s Day. I was supposed to be doing the last alcohol core belief. I’ve got 5 alcohol core beliefs, alcohol core belief number 5 was supposed to be dropping here on Valentine’s day. Instead, I am going to share with you a conversation that I had that I absolutely loved having and something I’m really excited to share with you.

We will go back and revisit and go back and finish Alcohol Core Beliefs next Wednesday. I will spend a better amount of time getting prepared for that because I just wasn’t happy with what I was finished with when I got it done and was getting ready to record. I just wasn’t done yet, and I knew it. And I didn’t have enough time because of the weekend. And because I had a lot of I was enjoying myself just being fully transparent.

Right? So I took that time to do that. It was a special event. And because I didn’t apply myself appropriately, evidently, in other parts of the of the week, I am not ready with alcohol core beliefs number 5, but we’ll be there next week. So this week, you get to hear from doctor Jill Bolte Taylor.

Now do you know who that is? Doctor Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard trained and published neuroanatomist. Her research is specialized in understanding how our brain creates our perception of reality. And she has been interested in that subject, which she talks about a little bit in our in our conversation because her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She became a neuroanatomist so that she could understand and better help people that had mental health disorders.

As irony would have it, this is from her website. In 1996, at the age of 37, doctor Jill Bolte Taylor experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain, and she basically had a stroke, a rare form of stroke. She could not talk, walk, read, write, or recall any of her life, and it took her 8 years to completely rebuild her brain. She did a TED Talk in 2008, and that TED Talk called based on her book, My Stroke of Insight, was the 1st TED talk to ever go viral. And really overnight, both Ted and doctor Jill became world famous.

And that TED talk has been viewed well over 27,500,000 times, which I will link it in the show notes. She that year in 2008, she became one of time’s most 100 most influential people in the world, and she was also a premier guest on Oprah’s soul series. So to say that I was ecstatic to talk to doctor Jo Bolte Taylor about the brain would be an understatement. She, in 2021, published a new book called Whole Brain Living, the anatomy of choice and the four characters that drive our life. And that’s really what I wanted to talk to her about because whole brain living and how I talk about different parts of the brain are really, intertwined.

I think that you are going to get so much out of this conversation. Again, I was just thrilled that she was willing to take the time and willing to be on the show. An incredible person, incredible. If you’ve ever touted whether neuroplasticity is real, I think you’re going to understand just how real it is after hearing from doctor Jill Bolte Taylor. Without further ado, here is my conversation.

Good morning, doctor Jill. Thank you so much for being here on the Alcohol Minimalist podcast. I’m just honored to get to talk to you and share a little bit more about the beautiful, brilliant human brain because I know you and I agree that it’s a really wonderful thing.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: It well, first of all, it’s great to be with you, Molly, and, boy, isn’t it great to have a brain, especially when it’s working well.

Molly Watts: Yeah. I I know, and I know that many people in my audience may not be as familiar as I am with who you are and your story. So can you just take me back quickly to 1996 and what happened? And and, actually, beef even before then, what you were doing because your life and what you were working on is kind of, amazing that that ended up what happening with your the rest of your life.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Yeah. I was the right girl in the right place with the right credentials to have a major stroke. Oh, wow. Yeah. So, I I grew up to study the brain because I have a brother diagnosed with the brain disorder schizophrenia.

And he’s only 18 months older than I was, so I am. So, you know, all we know as children is that we’re the same or we’re different. And I realized that he and I were very different, and so I tuned into, you know, body language, facial language, just what am I as a biological creature, and how can 2 of us have the exact same experience but walk away talking about it completely differently? So, because of my relationship with my brother, I became fascinated with the human brain. And so I grew up to be a neuroanatomist, and I’m a cellular neuroanatomist, so I think about the brain as cells in circuit with one another.

And I was teaching and performing research at Harvard Medical School, and I was teaching neuroanatomy. So I think in terms of cells and circuits, as well as gross anatomy, which is cellular anatomy of the whole body. And I woke up on December 10, 1996, and I was experiencing a major hemorrhage in the left half of my own brain. And over the course of 4 hours through the eyes of a neuroscientist, I got to watch my own circuitry go offline by group of cell by group of cells, ability by ability. And after 4 hours, I could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of my life.

I became a complete infant in a woman’s body, and I had a major hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of my brain. So, the physicians obviously rescued my my life, saved my life, and nobody had any idea how I would recover. And, two and a half weeks after that, I had major craniotomy surgery where they removed a blood clot the size of a golf ball. And they said, go home and recover. We have no idea what you’ll get back, how much you’ll get back, but good luck with that.

And it took 8 years, but I, after 8 years, I had completely rebuilt my left brain using what my right brain knew about cells and circuits and what was going on in that left hemisphere, but it it took 8 years. And and then, I was back to teaching, neuroanatomy and gross anatomy at the at the medical school level. And, and then I wrote a book, My Stroke of Insight, and and all life changed after that.

Molly Watts: Yeah. That was a pretty monumental, monumental thing that the I mean, monumental all of it. Exactly. All of it’s pretty monumental. Amazing that you survived.

Amazing. And and, you know, so I here around here, we talk I talk about neuroplasticity with people, and, I would say you obviously believe that neuroplasticity is pretty real because, you don’t you don’t rebuild a brain over 8 years without, neuroplasticity. Right. In 2008, you then, after your book or was it before the book or after that you gave your TED Talk?

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: I had I I self published the book in 2006. In 2008, I gave, my TED Talk, and it was the first TED Talk to to explode into the universe. So Ted and I got famous together around the world. That was exciting. Oprah found out about the TED Talk, and then, she she invited me on to both her program and her webcast.

And then I was I was chosen as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world because they were sitting in the audience of TED. And so that that triune, that trifecta just really blasted me and the the book out to the world. Yeah. And and it was, you know, it was a remarkable experience for me personally. I say the tsunami of energy that hit me at that point was as powerful, the tsunami of energy that that shifted me with the stroke.

Molly Watts: Yeah. I can’t I mean yeah. It’s it’s unbelievable. The whole thing is so incredible, so fantastic. And you and so that’s I mean, and that’s and folks, I’ll link it in the show notes.

You can go watch the TED Talk. It’s amazing in and of itself. And, I mean, you could’ve stopped right there and really, you know, had a pretty incredible, experience with life. Right? I mean, let’s let’s yeah.

And you have continued to to study the brain. You’ve continued to refine kind of that experience that you had during the rebuilding of your brain, and you then went on to write this book that we wanna talk about today, which is Whole Brain Living. So tell me a little bit about that journey from my stroke of insight into Whole Brain Living.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Yeah. So, after, you know, all that happened to my life, I traveled the world. I was keynote speaking everywhere about the brain and the beauty of the brain, blah blah. And, but but I realized that people had a because of that TED talk in the book material, they had a reverence for me. People I mean, first of all, it breaks down all personal boundaries because we become as big as the universe in the TED talk.

But there was a real level of reverence for me, and and I didn’t need that. I that wasn’t what that wasn’t my goal. My goal was that we had a reverence for ourselves because I wanted people to realize we all are this miracle of life, and we all have this left hemisphere and this right hemisphere and this capacity. We’re just this wonder. And and so it was a miss, and I kept thinking to myself, how do I communicate that to people?

How do how do I really give what I gained? And and, you know, when you lose a left hemisphere, you lose all language. There’s no language in the experience of the right hemisphere. Instead, there’s the experience of this big picture. Everything is a collective whole.

Well, how do you use words to describe that which has no language? Right? As soon as I say red, we all have a different shade of red flashing to our brain. Right? The that’s the power of language.

But it’s still a miss for the red I’m trying to communicate because because red is a vibrant energetic experience. Now, you know so any so, I realized I was actually keynoting somewhere, and I said, you know, I love presenting about the brain, especially in this day and age. Because in the 9 eighties nineties when I was in school, and doing my research, I talked about the brain, but everybody kinda, like, looked down. It was like, oh my god. Talk about the brain.

It’s gonna go over my head. Too much information. But now people love it, and people know the language. They know about the hippocampus and about the amygdala. But the fact of the matter is we have 2 amygdala and 2 hippocampi.

And it there was an audible gasp in the room, and I thought that’s it. People think we have one emotional system. And because we have one emotional system, all of our emotions are just flopping around in soup. And when we experience emotional conflict, we don’t have any way of fixing that because it’s all in one thing, and we we have to pick. And it’s like, no.

We have 2 different emotional systems. And because we have 2 different emotional systems, we can get to know the the the each of those very well and put them in conversation with one another, but they have different values. And because they have different values, they’re going to want different things. And so we have conflict, and and that was it. And then and so once I realized that, I I wrote whole brain living, the anatomy of choice, the anatomy of choice, and the 4 characters, that support our lives, that drive our lives.

So so by getting to differentiate our 2 emotional personalities, characters, and our 2 thinking characters, then all of a sudden, we start to make sense to ourselves because it’s like, oh, yeah. That’s my right emotional value structure and personality. Oh, that’s my left thinking personality structure and skill set. And and then once you know these four parts of yourself at this level, then you can bring them all together in what I call a BRAIN huddle, BRAIN. It’s an acronym, of course, the BRAIN.

And and have these four parts of ourselves actually communicate instantaneously with one another so that we never experience conflict again. And, boy, when you don’t have conflict, what do you have? You have peace. Yeah. And you project peace into the world, and you live a peaceful life, and you hang out with peaceful people.

And I

Molly Watts: it’s love it’s it’s wonderful, and and, you know, one of the reasons that that this book resonated with me, things that you talked about resonated with me is because I describe here on Alcohol Minimalist, my relationship with alcohol as being peaceful. And one of the things that and and and the reason that’s important is because just like you said, when you don’t have conflict anymore, when you are at peace with what you’re you know, it’s a pretty good thing. Right? Yeah. And I have always, you know, I’ve I’ve jokingly laughingly now because I’ve kind of always prided myself on being, you know, a smart person and an educated person.

And I definitely when I decided to change my relationship with I and I was just like many people just that you just described thinking I I thought I understood from an organizational standpoint, which is different than the anatomical structure. Right? But from an organizational standpoint, I understood the logical prefrontal cortex, the emotional limbic center, and then the reptilian brain. So I I understood it that way, which is which helped me.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Which is all true.

Molly Watts: Yeah. Which is all true and helped me understand myself better. Right? Which I think is at the core too of what you talk about. Because once we understand ourselves better, once we understand these parts of our brain better, we have more agency in determining what it is.

And I talk a lot about, I didn’t really realize at that time, even it took me, you know, until I was middle age to figure out that I had a lot of agency in actually creating the experience that I was having in my life. Right? And I really think at the at the root, that’s what whole brain living is all about. It’s being able to understand the different parts that you so that you can you can create when I say create, I mean, you are living a life that you are looking at each part of your brain, understanding how it’s integrated with whatever you’re experiencing and choosing then. Right?

Which part of it you’re gonna we’re you’re going to allow to be there or not not allow to be there, but to express itself at that point.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Yeah. Who do I wanna be? I have the power to choose moment by moment who and how I wanna be in the world. What do I choose?

Molly Watts: Right. And I think that’s what’s so what I loved about it so much because and and like I said, this is really just a deeper dive of things that I think that I understood. But understanding the four parts of the brain, that was it’s a lot. This the book is it’s there’s a lot there, and it takes me it took me, you know, going through it a couple of times, and I really appreciated, PS. I’ll just give a plug to this.

The fact that you put in cheat sheets and things to ask, you know, to to make to kind of dummy it down for the rest of us because we’re not all neuroanatomists.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: I I I wanted people to you know, the the brain can be a very, you know, we can I can teach a course in it? Right? And it’s like, that’s not what this book is about. This book is about about, how do these 4 modules of cells, the 2 emotional cells in the right and left hemisphere. And and and, fundamentally, the right and the left hemisphere are different.

Molly Watts: Right.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: And the right hemisphere if the right hemisphere is right here, right now with no past, no future, and no ego center that says, I, Joe Bolte Taylor, am an individual, and I exist. Right? In the absence of that, then what do I have? Because I’m having a completely different experience, a different perception. And there are routines in my life that allow me to have that part of me open up naturally.

And for most people, it’s gonna be like, what does it feel like when you’re standing on a mountain top And you feel your heart expand, and you feel your eyes just bringing all this glory, and you just you just feel like you’re this tiny little tiny little, you know, tiny little speck in this big picture of the universe. What what is that feeling without the negative judgment that I’m nothing but a tiny little speck?

Molly Watts: Right. Yeah.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Without that negative judgment. Just the wonder of life that I exist at all here. And I you know, a lot of people feel the same thing when they’re standing on the beach and they’re looking at the horizon, and and and it’s like, wow. You know, I’m a part of this energetic relationship with this ball called Earth that’s spinning through space, and, wow, you know, I’m I’m life. And just that wonder, and that’s actually wired into a part of our brain, and we can train ourselves to know, well, how do I how do I have more of that?

How do I set myself up to have more of that? What do I what what is countering me having that experience? How do I what what is dominating inside of my own brain, the cells in my brain that allow me to have more of that that feeling or that experience. Because everything we do, every ability we have is because we have brain cells that are performing that function. So as I’m speaking, if I’m speaking, then those cells are inhibiting the portion of my brain that has no language.

Mhmm. And the portion of my brain that has no language has no value for language. It has its own experience. And when I’m doing that, I mean, I can zone myself out into, you know, the trees and the woods and the movement of a leaf that’s fluttering in the breeze, and automatically my language slows and eventually disappears. Because because if I’m being that, I’m not talking about it.

Mhmm. You know what I mean? So different parts of the brain are competing for the microphone in how am I expressing myself in the world. And if I’m choosing if I don’t like how it feels to be me and I want to, change that. I have the capacity to be any of these four parts of me, and one of them doesn’t feel very well.

So part of them is the pain from my past, and that’s actually in the circuitry of the left hemisphere emotional tissue. So so if I’m hooked into the pain from my past and I wanna get out of the pain from my past, well, what are my choices? How do I do that? Well, I personally do that by going to the art space. Even if I’m just cleaning it up or sweeping the space, I’m allowing that part of me that is creative and open to come online and take over the dominance, where’s the energy in my brain.

Or I’ll go to the office and I’ll start doing taxes because it’s an intellectual process, 1 +1 equals 2. I don’t have any emotion about that. I do have emotion about taxes, but I don’t have any emotion about math or making phone calls or those kinds of things, which is a different part of my brain. Or many people may go into prayer or into meditation in order to feel the higher level of of, expansiveness and openness. So we have these different, essentially, realms that we can live in inside of our brain.

But if we get caught in that, the pain from our past, then oftentimes, that’s a good time to say, well, I’m going to take a mind altering drug in order to not feel what I’m feeling. And alcohol is currently available everywhere for that. So it’s easy to say, you know, I wanna have a drink.

Molly Watts: Yeah. I’m so glad you brought that. I was just gonna go there, and that’s exactly what we talk about here is that that’s people people, you know, they try to they many people do want to think that, oh, I just drink wine because I like the taste or I just like this. But at the end of the day, we are all drinking because we’re trying to solve for some sort of emotion. And very often, it is something that is linked to our past, and that’s what I love about this framework, this idea of having different parts of our brain because we are we do have incredible agency.

Right? I always say I always say every thought isn’t right. Every thought is optional. Right? It’s optional.

You get to choose whether or not whether or not That’s true.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Yeah. Exactly. True. I mean, there’s so much stuff our brain says to us that simply is not true. Right.

And if we choose to believe everything our brain says, well, we’re deceiving ourselves.

Molly Watts: Right. And and I always I always I encourage people to ask ask your brain the question, what else is true. Right? Because if we ask what else is true, then it’s gonna open up hopefully into and just as you so beautifully put, we get to we can direct it into different areas of our brain that actually solve, you know, that actually comfort and soothe for that feeling. Right?

That feeling that we’re trying to escape with alcohol, we we have the power to do that with our own beautiful, brilliant human brains. And it’s a it’s a much more sustainable and healthier option for everyone. Right? Yeah.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Well and and, you know, the interesting thing is that our brain is an addiction machine. It is designed to create habitual thinking and emotional patterns. So it is designed to addict to anything if we like it. And so the question is, what are you allowing yourself to become to become addicted to? And and my experience with alcohol is, first, I don’t like the taste of alcohol.

I do like the taste of beer, but I don’t like the feeling that I get. I don’t I there’s a weight. And I love the elegance of wine. I wish I really liked to drink wine because there’s there’s it it’s part of our social culture to have a glass of wine. Isn’t that a lovely thing?

It’s like, but I don’t like the feeling that I get. And so I would rather have clarity in my in my brain than have the elegance of that glass of wine. The same thing with smoking. I well, our whole culture was socially addicted to cigarettes because of the Marlboro man among others. Right?

It was it was the look. It was the feel. It was the experience. It was like, well, okay. So those are all criteria that are real and we need to consider, but the question is, how do I wanna feel?

And I personally wanna feel. I wanna be able to have a sense of joy in any moment of my life, and I cannot do that if I am inducing a different experience through chemistry, through myself where I then become dependent on the chemistry.

Molly Watts: Yeah. So I I love that you brought that up too because one of the things I talk about is being able to allow a feeling to be there. And I actually, quoted you in my book about the about the 92nd rule because oftentimes, we we give a lot of credence as humans to our feelings. Right? We we say, we’re not gonna do something because I don’t feel like it, and we and we’re many people are very, reluctant to experience feelings of grief or sadness or, you know, we wanna avoid negative emotions.

Right? This is what we’re kind of people Right. Have this concept of I don’t wanna I don’t wanna have to feel that. Right? Perfect.

I believe that you and I would agree that it’s it’s in that it’s actually being able to ex articulate that, to be able to feel the vibration in your body, to be able to understand what that feeling actually feels like. And then you realize, you know what? It only perpetuates itself if I continue to think about it. And that’s how you know? So tell me about the 92nd rule and about about feelings.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Well, first of all, you know, the the concept that if I feel it, it’s a feeling. It’s not just a feeling, it’s cells. That’s all it is. You know, when I get angry, I’m running my anger circuit. It’s just a bunch of cells running a bunch of energy.

Well, isn’t that an interesting way of looking at my sadness or at my anger or at my my grief? Personally, you know, and then these are the privileges of being a biological creature. I mean, I look at my emotions as a negative thing I I wanna avoid, so I’m going to drink or do something else in order to avoid my feelings, oh, I am so not that girl. I want to feel my feelings because if I allow a feeling, let’s say let’s say the wave of grief. Grief is this delicious total envelopment of of this feeling of loss and isolation and and just it’s it’s overwhelming.

It’s so powerful. It takes the whole body down to the floor, and we weep and we wail, and it hits us in these waves, and it’s like, wow. It’s so powerful. And I, as a living being, I get to experience this. And it’s part it’s it’s a beautiful, delicious part of being human.

But these emotions, they only last 90 seconds. From the moment, I think the thought that stimulates the emotional circuit and then it dumps whatever that that emotional chemistry is into my bloodstream, It floods through me, and then it flushes out of me in less than 90 seconds. So if you’re going to be taken over by a wave of grief, go there, be there, own that, have that, enjoy that. They’ll be gone in less than 90 seconds. And the thing about emotions is they’re like, you know, they’re like energy in a pipe, water in a pipe.

And if you let that flow, then it goes through you, and then it’ll be a bigger window of time before you get the next wave. And if anyone has experienced, you know, the grief of the loss of someone, or or even a pet, whatever, if you give yourself to that grief and let it flow in the beginning, there’s a lot of these waves and you get hit, you get hit, you get hit, you get hit, you get hit, but, eventually, if you really let it happen, then there’s less time there’s more time between. And, it was funny when my mother passed away, it was like I’d have these waves and it was like like, it’s so beautiful. But what saddened me was that I knew it would be so long now before the next wave would hit because I was healing that, you know, fear or something. Emotions, are a voice inside of us that’s saying I need to be heard.

And if we allow that to be heard, then we realize, you know, let it be and then feel that and then express that inside of yourself, and you’ll see things heal. We’re we are designed to heal. And if we interrupt the flow of our emotions, oh, I don’t wanna. Every, you know, every time I think of that person, I get angry and it’s like, so what? Get angry.

It doesn’t mean you’re gonna call them up. Don’t do something stupid behaviorally. Right? Don’t go after them. Don’t hit the wall.

Don’t hurt yourself. Just be angry. It’s like, wow. This is cell circuitry. That person, every time I think of them, it’s an automatic trigger to my anger circuit, and I run an anger loop for 90 seconds.

Well, rant and rave and do your thing. Just keep it to yourself. Right? Be careful of what you’re doing as output. But but so often then it’s like, well, I don’t wanna feel my anger.

I don’t wanna feel my pain. I’ve had people actually say to me, I just wanna be angry all the time because when I’m angry, I know who I am. And it’s like, well, you’re no one circuitry of yourself. Right? Because it’s just one group of cells.

And and when we realize that we’re this this magnificent collection of cells, And in that part of ourselves, these different circuits of deep emotion, it’s beautiful. We are biologically programmed to have this pain so we can reflect upon it and heal it and then move on. It’s not meant to be a lifestyle. It’s meant to be learning. And if we induce if we bring in drugs and alcohol to avoid those feelings, then it becomes a lifestyle.

Yeah. And that’s not what it’s supposed to be because then we don’t learn from it.

Molly Watts: Hey, everyone. Just a quick break to talk with you about Sunnyside. Now you’ve heard me mention Sunnyside many times before. You’ve heard me talk with Nick and Ian, the founders of Sunnyside. And I just want to share with you why I am so passionate about this company.

They are way more than just a drink tracking app. They are really about helping people create a mindful relationship with alcohol, and they stand for a life that is about having more, not less. Right? There are more rested mornings, more days when you’re feeling your absolute best, when you have more energy and positivity. Sunnyside is not there to tell you to never go out, to never drink, but they are there to help you enjoy your life and to wake up and be ready to be your shining best.

It is not an all or nothing approach. It is friendly, it is approachable, and it is absolutely judgment free. They want to be a solution that fits into your unique lifestyle. And I think that’s exactly what they’ve created. You can register for a free 15 day trial.

Go to www.sunnyside dotco/minimalist to get started. That’s www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to try Sunnyside today. Here you are. You’re a Harvard trained neuroanatom anatomist. I didn’t even know neuroanatomist was a thing.

I’ve always said neuroscientist, but then I I learned a new, new vocabulary word when when studying you. And, you know, but I say all the time, we are all absolutely, as humans, Oh my gosh. The puppy. We are all absolutely 100% capable of allowing and learning how to be, you know, to how to accept our emotions. Right?

How to how to live because a lot of times, people fear these emotions. Right? They don’t wanna have to deal with it because they don’t think they can handle it. And it’s not some I mean, once you really break it down, it’s like, no. This is it’s just a part of your brain.

Your brain is is you know? And when you understand that and when you realize it, then you also like you I like I say, you have agency to determine, you know, the grief is going to come the grief is coming because you’re continue you you think or or the waves of grief come because we we we rethink about things. We re we re we restart the cycle. Right? And as we begin to as we continue to heal less and less, we’re we’re thinking about the the the the sad parts and more and more as at least for me and my experience with my father’s passing, the the further I’ve gotten away from it, the more instead of the the grief feelings that come, I’m it’s the warm, you know, the the the pleasant, the positive memories, all the good things.

Right? And I think that’s a natural part of the healing process too. But I think it’s really important that people understand this type of, you know, this is what makes being a human so totally cool. It Right. Yeah.

Is our ability to have metacognition, to actually think about our thinking, to be able to understand our brains. And it’s it’s what I I mean, you know, it’s what separates us in terms of why we’re not just another primate.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Right. Yeah. Yeah. And and all of that, I agree with a 100%, and at the same time, I want to, enunciate clearly Yes. That trauma Mhmm.

Is real. Mhmm. And I understand how if my emotional trauma is so profound Yeah. So profoundly horrible that I cannot hold that space for myself Mhmm. Because I could not hold that space for myself.

And, whether that was, an abuse or or whatever that was. If alcohol has become my escape from that Mhmm. Under always being understanding with oneself. I have done what I needed to do in order to hold the space for myself. Yet if I am now in a pattern of alcoholism or using alcohol or other drugs to, to to as my pattern of how I respond to this, consider other options.

Molly Watts: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Reaching out for for therapy. And not all therapists are designed to manage deep, deep emotional trauma. And and what I have have found is that that those, those who have been through incredible trauma of their own and found their way out of addiction, and into their own healing, Oftentimes, there’s just a level of understanding in people who have been there and done that Mhmm. Who are really good at helping. So so just considering your options.

You know, I don’t wanna say in any way make a negative judgment on the the use or the abuse of alcohol or drugs. Yeah. But because we’re all doing the best we can. I truly believe that. And we have whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it for your own reasons of doing it.

I just want you to consider that you do have an agency and a a level of freedom. You do have other options. And, you know, helping others identify the tools other tools they can use in order to help themselves find, less of a dependency on the external, for me is is always a good thing. But that’s, of course, to respect why why you have chosen made the choices you’ve made to this point.

Molly Watts: Right. 100% agreed. And I don’t I talk about that in my work as well about, you know, we’re really separate. This this the the podcast that I or the audience that I talk to are people that do not, identify as someone who has substance abuse out, you know, disorder or anybody that has a big capital t trauma. Right?

If you are if you are somebody that’s not able to that isn’t able to do life, like, you know, isn’t or or if trauma is impacting you in such a way that you’re really just not able to have a a the typical you know, you’re not able to work, you’re not able to get out of bed, you’re not able to that kind of thing. That’s we’re not that that requires, as you noted, a specific help and probably somebody that has a very specific training with trauma. And but and that being said, after you after you address trauma, right, You’re still gonna come back. We all have this beautiful, brilliant human brain

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Yep.

Molly Watts: That is really the the thing that helps you know, that is we all have it, and we all have the capacity to have agency over our lives to some you know? And and we can do that once we’re healed, if we have that healing.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: And and isn’t that the beauty of the neuroplasticity? You know? Yes. Where it all began is that, you know, the beauty of of the brain is that in order for me to learn, I I have to have neuroplasticity because, otherwise, I can’t learn anything because it the brain knows everything that it knows. It’s connected as it’s connected, and that’s all it can be.

But if I’m going to introduce something new to it, even if it’s like mathematics, mathematics is a is a abstract language of symbolism. And so I have to be able to to if I know how to read, which is also an abstract language of symbolism, then I understand an a, and an a sounds like or whatever. And and then and and then it becomes a building block in the bigger picture of a word, in the bigger picture of a sentence, and the bigger picture of meaning. So so if I’m to learn anything new, the neurons have to rearrange themselves and make new associations, and that’s all neuroplasticity is, is the ability of brain cells to rearrange which other cells they’re communicating with and grow. And the beauty of the brain cells is that they wanna grow.

They thrive when they’re growing. In fact, cells that are not connected in a network, they’ll actually pretty much shrivel up in a little ball and die. They just, you know, you’re not using me. I don’t need to be here, which is part of the problem with as we age in our society, we tend to simplify our lives where really we ought to be challenging our brains more Mhmm. More than the crossword puzzle.

Yeah. You know, I my mother, she would say, oh, you know, I’m working the crossword puzzle. I said, well, that group of cells is very healthy. What about the other one? You know?

What about these other things you could be doing? So, but that’s what neuroplasticity is, and and it does get sedated in with alcohol. The neurons tend to bring their dendrites in, bring up as fewer, so we begin to think more rigidly. So if you have a relationship with somebody, a significant person in your life who is an active alcoholic, then they’re thinking differently because of this pruning back of the dendrites in their their their brain system. And, and so teaching them something new, they may resist because it’s hard work.

It’s hard work to learn, especially if it’s an act of, alcoholism because otherwise, you know, I’m not growing new dendrites, and it’s more of a struggle to to learn. But as we age and we start watching people’s brains change across time, seriously looking at happy hour, and the impact of a regular happy hour, on the brain. How long what how intense that happy hour is, how long that happy hour lasts, when that hour the happy hour begins. And and and but even if it’s just a normal dementia, I mean, if we are all kind of progressively decreasing the number of dendritic connections in our brains and simplifying our lives, And then we have different groups of cells that are dying and tangles and webs and and, you know, blocks between different neurons communicating, we’re going to the output of our life is, complete replication of what’s going on inside of our lives. So so so this brain is this beautiful, beautiful thing, and getting to know our brain, nurturing our brain, sharing our brain with other people, getting to know their brain, and trying to really how do I how do I live a healthy life?

I only have x amount of time on this planet, and and I wanna be conscious for it. I wanna be as as aware and alert and capable as I can for as long as I can.

Molly Watts: Right. Which is why, you know, I just we just came out of dryuary and then taking for many people around here, they were taking a full 31 days alcohol free, which, you know, for a lot of people is a big is is just accomplishing that is a huge thing for me. Even 5 years ago, putting together 31 days alcohol free would have been a big a big accomplishment. Now it’s something that’s just a part of what I do. And taking and it’s all in in in effort to have a healthier brain.

Right? I mean, we have to have a healthy brain to be able to talk about neuroplasticity and to be able to really keep living our very becoming the very best versions of ourselves that we can be. Oh. I wanna share I wanna make sure that we share that BRAIN acronym with people and talk about the huddle and talk a little bit about the 4 parts of the heat of the BRAIN. And so it it so let’s talk about the the 4 the 4 characters and then what a brain huddle is for folks.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Okay. So, right brain, left brain. Left brain has left thinking, that’s character 1. That this is just the way I name it. It’s completely random.

It just makes sense to label them this way. So I call the left thinking brain tissue character 1, and this is our rational, organized, analytical, 1 +1equals2capacity. It likes to control. It likes to create order. It likes it it’s just the boss.

Right? So so we all have this part. It’s our a type personality. Usually, for me, my I call it Helen, Helen wheels. She gets it done.

And she’s she’s gonna show up on a podcast. She’s gonna control time. She’s gonna be punctual. Get me here on time. She’s gonna put on a clean shirt.

She’s gonna put on my glasses. She’ll put in earrings. This is the only part part of me that ever wears earrings. I couldn’t find them today. Helen’s upset.

You know, but it’s this we all have this part of who we are. You look in in the drawers of a character one primary profile, and and everything’s orderly. Right? The these this is the part of us that picks everything up or does the dishes at night before we go to bed. So that’s that’s character 1, structured, organized, left thinking.

The left emotional tissue, it’s also about me, the individual, me and mine, and my pain from my past and my pain projected into the future. So this is this is also the beauty. So this is my my anger, my sadness, my grief, my my my me me me, all my deep emotions. But at the same time, the beauty of this tissue and the reason why we have these emotions is because these emotions are waving a big red flag saying, alarm, alarm, alert, alert. We got a problem here.

We need to think about it. Right? We need to fix it. And so it screams, and it screams in all these different kinds of emotions. But these these cells are the cells that imagine this.

Our right brain exists in the present moment right here, right here. Now that’s all we have is the present moment experience. But these cells have the capacity to step out of the present moment and compare all the data coming in about the present moment to our past experience. So anything that I have experienced in my past, if something is coming in, let’s say somebody walks into the room and that person reminds me in my past of somebody who was dangerous to me or somebody I loved. So my automatic response now in my character too is to say that’s danger.

Alarm, alarm, alert, alert. I need to push it away. It’s a threat. Right? So we’re wired for that kind of a threat so that we’re not reinventing the wheel in every present moment.

We actually can learn from our past emotional experiences. So we have to have this tissue. It’s precious. It’s beautiful. It’s designed to save our lives, but it’s it’s the way it feels in our body is generally horrible because it’s waving the flag.

Danger. Danger. Alarm. Alarm. Alert.

Alert. And then on top of that, we have that character one thinking tissue that can come down and and regulate. Oh, but that’s not the same person who who hurt so and so. They just look like that person. So it’s okay.

We can calm ourselves down. So we can use the different parts of our brain to interact with one another and to to help as a whole brain person using all these tools that we get. So character 2 is the pain from the past and our ability to experience threat and and to know and to protect ourselves. Character 34 are in the right hemisphere, and the right hemisphere is right here, right now, and it’s not about me, the individual. It’s about me being character 3 is the experience of life in the present moment.

So what does it feel like right here, right now? The air that I’m experiencing, it’s it’s at about 68, 69. It’s a little cool, keeps me alert and perky. You know, it’s it’s, it’s muggy. It’s kinda wet and damp outside, so I kinda feel that humidity in the air.

But, you know, how do my clothes feel against my body? How does the glasses feel on my nose? The experience of the present moment, what does it feel like when I dive into the water and I feel the pressure of the water against my body and the temperature of the water and just the wetness of the water with the experience of the present moment? And then character 4 is the right thinking tissue, and that tissue has no judgment of right and wrong and good or bad because that’s all over in the left hemisphere character 1. And then if so it’s just open and connected to everything.

I feel a sense of of deep euphoria, and and and it it’s beautiful. There’s this natural peaceful love inside of the essence of me. So I we all have all 4 of these parts of our brain, and we can get to know and differentiate each of these character profiles, not just in ourselves, but in others. And what that means is that in every relationship, there’s 8 of us. You know?

We thought it was hard enough there was you and me. Yeah. But there’s 4 of you and there’s 4 of me. And it might turn out our character ones get along really well because we work really well together. But it might be that your little character too scares me, and so your little character too brings out my little character too.

And then it’s 2 tap for 2, and it’s like there’s never gonna be a resolution there. Or you might come in in your pain and my it stimulates my character 4, which is loving and supportive, and I can just kinda wrap my 4 around you, your little character 2, and then your character 2 feels held and loved. And after that 90 seconds or run that loop a few times, and you’ll feel better because I can actually be compact compassionate and empathic for you. And then our little character threes can go out and play together. You know?

I mean, I mean, that’s the beauty of knowing and differentiating these different parts of who we are.

Molly Watts: So I and I love, I mean, again and and folks in this book, and we’ll link it in the show notes as well, you go in deep into each of the characters, also help people understand and and create, there’s questions so that you can kind of identify these parts of your brain. Right? Because it do you think it’s a fair assessment that a lot of people are just, like, feel like they’re out of touch or don’t even recognize different parts of your brain. Like, you know, they cannot feel like okay.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Oh, absolutely. Well, I think that I think it’s like a hand. You know? If I just have a hand, I can do some things with my hand. And I know I have a hand.

Well, most people know they have a brain. But as soon but as soon as with your hand you have digits, all of a sudden you have a whole new relationship with that hand. Same things for differentiating the different parts of your own brain. As soon as you can differentiate the different parts of your own brain and you realize you can bring them into communication with one another and you can solve all conflict because now you understand your different motivations for different things, then, wow, all of a sudden, you experience an overall sense of peace because it’s like, I am in control of me. You know?

Now I might not recognize all 4 of those characters in me, but I’m looking at my partner thinking, oh, yeah. I know all 4 of those characters in you. Right? Or in your children or in your parents. Right?

Because we’re they’re behavioral, so they come out as behavioral character profiles. So, but once I know them inside of me and I differentiate in me and I learn the brain huddle in that communication, everything changes in how I present myself into the world. Because now if you come in and you’re in your little character too and you’re upset and you’re blaming me because you’re upset, I can just kinda look at you as my little character 4 and say, she’s in her little character 2. She just needs some love. Or I can come at you with my character too and and you can off we go.

Right? So as long as I take responsibility for what’s what I’m doing, then you’re the dance. If you come in and you’re your little character too, and usually you trigger my character too, and we do this wonderful delicious dance of fighting. You know? Who doesn’t wanna do that?

Right? We all do as well. Right? But if you come in and I don’t respond as a character too anymore, and I come in lovey land, say, I understand. I understand, you know, but I’m not giving you the character too, then you’re gonna change your dance.

You’re either gonna walk out and go find somebody else to fall pick a fight with, or you’re gonna settle down and feel loved and feel supported and be glad that we can actually have a nice evening together.

Molly Watts: Yeah. So you mentioned the brain huddle, so let’s talk about it. So this and and, you know, this is one of these things. It’s a skill just like anything else. Right?

It’s a it’s a learnable, framework that you can do and a thing that you can employ. And if you get, you know once you begin to recognize these 4 different areas of your brain and you practice a brain huddle during the quiet moments of the day. I think you talk about that in the book, like learning how to do it before we’re in, you know, distressed times, but just practicing. And once you practice it, if you you know, when you get used to it, you’re like, okay. This really is a way of becoming a better version of us.

So tell me about BRAIN, the acronym.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: So BRAIN, the acronym. So this is when if I’m feeling any conflict or I’m feeling any distress or I’m feeling like somebody else is gonna try to bring conflict into my life, if I’m having some kind of awareness, and I encourage people to do it 20 times a day when there is no conflict

Molly Watts: Right.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: So you can train all parts of your brain to call the huddle. Mhmm. So it’s called the brain huddle. Why a huddle? Because the these are the 4 characters of my brain.

It’s my brain team. What do teams do they huddle? So, b stands for breath. Breath. Why breath?

Breath brings your mind to the present moment. We don’t breathe in the past. We don’t breathe in the future. We breathe right here and now. And we want the goal is to bring all 4 touch base with all 4 characters in communication with one another in the huddle so that they’re in conversation and they’re making a decision among themselves.

The character 1 controlling part just doesn’t come in and dictate. The character 2 emotional part doesn’t just come in and erupt. The character 3 just doesn’t run off and be irresponsible. The character 4 part, which is blissing out is like, not always. Always great to have it there, but, okay, what are we doing?

So be breath. Bring your mind to the present moment. R is recognize which of the 4 characters were you, who called the huddle. So character 1 is organized and disciplined. Put it on your clock.

Every hour on the hour, let your clock ping, and it’s like, okay. We’re gonna call for a huddle. Which character am I being right now? Well, if I’m yelling at my partner, I know I’m in my character too. Right?

If I’m if I’m in the office and I’m just doing my thing, I’m in my one. If I’m off in the woods or I’m playing, I’m in my 3. And if I’m in prayer or meditation or feeling peaceful, just be in love in the world, I know I’m in my character 4. So b, breath. Come to the present moment.

R, recognize which character called the huddle. Which one was I beam? A, appreciate regardless of which one called the huddle, there’s 4 of us in here. There’s always 4 of us in here. Just appreciate them, and they like that.

It’s like, oh, yeah. Whole brain. Whole brain. Everybody wake up. I is in choir, which of us do I wanna be right now?

Well, my character 3 wants to go play with my dog out in the woods right now, but it’s not appropriate. So in my inquiry, it’s like, okay. I’m gonna stay in my character one. I’m gonna stay here. I’m gonna finish my podcast conversation with you, and I’m going to do that.

So inquire, which one do I wanna be in this moment? And then n stands for navigate. We have to navigate moment by moment. If all of a sudden my house started shaking because I’m in an earthquake, I’d say, sorry. Gotta go.

Right? Move into the emergency of the present moment. So so that’s the brain huddle. B, breath to the present moment, recognize which one called the huddle. A, appreciate there’s 4 of us always.

Where are you? Come on in. Tag them in. I inquire who who do we wanna be right now? And then and as navigate, you know, moment by moment by moment.

And when you do that and you’re open to that open conversation between the four parts of you, they get to know one another very well. They learn how to do a huddle very quickly. And then it’s like, okay. You know, I don’t have to be in conflict. It’s like, yeah, my character 3 would really like to go out and play, but I’ve got something I need to do before my next interview.

So it’s like my character 3 and character 1 have to negotiate time. And so so my character 1 can say, okay. We’ve got 20 minutes. You got 10 minutes to go play with the dog, but then you’ve got to be back in here so we can do what we need to do. And it’s like, okay.

I get my 10 minutes, and I get I get to do what I’m supposed to do instead of constantly feeling I never get to do what I wanna do. I’m always unhappy. I’m I’m I’m, disappointed. All these negative things. It’s like, no.

I don’t have to be that. I can be that. And when I’m being that, I need to figure that out because it’s bringing my attention to it. But I have three parts of my brain that are very, very healthy. Three parts of our brain are very healthy.

There’s only one part of our brain that keeps wanting the red flag of of of I’m I’m underwater here. I need your attention. And then what do I do with that?

Molly Watts: I love that. One of the things that I I am wanna share as we wrap up is just this whole notion, everybody. You know? You’re never too old. You’re it’s never too late.

You’re never too far in whatever you’ve been doing with your life to make a change and to be able to learn this these skills about becoming a better version of you. And really, it when I say better, I don’t mean like that, you know, we’re all we’re all wonderful where you are. But to be to be at peace and to really understand that you have this capacity to have the the circumstance and I say that all the time. The circumstances of your life don’t have to change for you to be at peace. It’s it’s how you it’s it’s your brain that needs to change.

You and how you are interfacing with the world. That’s what needs to change for you to be at peace. It isn’t, you know, it isn’t external. It’s internal. And this is really what what Whole Brain Living is all about.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Yep. Exactly.

Molly Watts: Well, doctor Jill Bolte Taylor, thank you so so much, bottom of my heart, for being here today. I cannot wait to share this with my audience, and I can’t wait for more of them to go buy this book and to read it and to or and or to listen to it. I think you talked about that. Of course, it’s an audiobook too because for some people, that’s the best. I’ve I’ve I have it in both.

I have it in in written and in audio because I I learn both ways, and it helps, I think, personally. But

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: It sounds just like me.

Molly Watts: It does sound just like you.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Yeah. Because

Molly Watts: it is you. So that is so awesome. I, again, just appreciate you taking the time.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Thank you, Molly. And, you know, just thank you for the work you’re doing and for inviting me into, to your your audience. And, it’s import I just think, you know, we have this beautiful brain, and we all have the capacity to look at it and to kinda ask the question, who do I wanna be? Who do I wanna be in a moment? And who do I wanna be?

Kinda it’s easier to answer that if I know who I am. And to know that I am these 4 different ways of being, And I can really exercise all of those, and turn myself into a joyful being because I think, ultimately, the more joy we all feel, we project that into the world and then the more joyful and peaceful our planet will be. And that’s certainly, my hope and dream.

Molly Watts: That is phenomenal. Yeah. Again, thank you so much, and I just appreciate you. Thank you.

Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor: Thank you, Molly. Thank you.

Molly Watts: Hey. Thanks for listening to The Alcohol Minimalist Podcast. Pick something you learned from this week’s episode and put it into action. Changing your drinking habits and creating a peaceful relationship with alcohol is 100% possible. You can stop worrying, stop feeling guilty about over drinking, and become someone who desires alcohol less.

I work with people in 3 ways. You can learn about them over at www.mollywatts.com/workwithme, or better yet, reach out to me directly. It’s molly@mollywatts.com. We’ll jump on a call and discuss what’s best for you. This podcast is really just beginning of our conversation.

Let’s keep it going.