Left Brain, Right Brain: Mainstream Healthcare and its Alternatives? Hmmm….

Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

I’ve had some more thoughts on the topic of “proving” to the mainstream community that the disciplines I’ve knit into a practice, works.

Firstly, it can be seen as a right brain vs left brain sort of thing.  The left brain wants to categorize and quantify, to put in boxes, to have PROOF! That you can touch. It takes care of the familiar, the known. Whereas, the right brain craves the new and novel.  It deals with relationships and things OUTSIDE the box, in between boxes, then asks what is a box. It specializes in the hazy and compares, rather than quantifies.

Both approaches are equally needed, equally valid, equally valuable.  Dr. Iain McGilchrist is the author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World  and The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World.  He makes a strong case for modern society’s overvaluing of the left brain — “STEM-brain” — is harming our society. It’s the left-brain’s need to quantify, into the known, that has mainstream medicine (and a lot of society) assuming that if there aren’t double-blind, placebo-controlled studies for everything, it must be fringe medicine.  Quackery. Flakey. Snake-oil.

The left brain is the mechanistic, the robotic. But even robotic world is questing to show that it can venture into the right-brain world, with self-awareness and feelings.

Into the human world, into humanity itself. Humans are not limited to the mechanistic, to the world of technology.  Love and anger, dislike and joy, are hard to quantify, difficult to categorize, put into numbers, and manipulate, the way you can a gall bladder on an X Ray or with a surgeon’s scalpel, or stimulate with a chemical.

But just as a poorly performing gall bladder can cause us trouble, so can our emotions from a less-than optimally wired brain. Are we taking the world in accurately, or do we have a distorted view here, and a hypersensitive listening ability there? Is there a blind spot when it comes to a situation or talent?That’s part of our humanity, difficult to measure and manage.

How can we ascertain whether something is true quackery or a novel but effective approach?

The left-brained view is that one must quantify, through studies they’re familiar with, or it’s worthy of scorn and ridicule. Nonsense.  But the right brained view can, because it has a broad focus, evaluate both the worth of the left-brained approach, and see potential in different, novel ideas. If, as Dr. McGilchrist, a psychiatrist, neuroscience researcher, and philosopher — an Ex-English professor too — is correct, society is overvaluing the left-brained view to the detriment of the right-brained view.  We’re in essence narrowing our options.

But it doesn’t address how we EVALUATE efficacy. I don’t want snake oil medicine any more than the pharmacist, surgeon, or radiologist.

One method is the “ABABA” method.  Condition A exists; you apply intervention B and evaluate.  Is there a change?  Remove intervention B; does Condition A reassert itself?  Back and forth, so you can make certain that B actually causes the change.  This works well for pharmaceuticals, for instance.  One has ADHD.  Apply Ritalin or Adderall.  Evaluate, remove medication, re-evaluate. Re-medicate, etc, until you’re sure that it’s the medication making the difference.

But what if the intervention fundamentally CHANGES, in addressing the cause of “A”?  What if it solves the problem?  You can dry a flooded basement  —voila! Dry floor!  But what if you found the leak from the sink above that, and tightened the connections there?  You can’t repeat, because it has solved the problem.

We can still measure from this point of view, however.  How many times did a child require administrative attention in a given week?  Whether a trip to the principal’s office, or call home to a parent, to time spent with the school counselor, room clear, etc — lots of things we can measure!  Apply the intervention — medication, developmental movement — and see what happens.  We can therefore identify whether the intervention is successful. REMOVE the intervention and see what happens. If it’s medication for behavior, chances are that the behavior will recur.  But if you’ve done movement directed at the sub/unconscious nervous system, chances are that if it does recur, it will be lessened in some way.  Continued exercise should reduce that further, and may even drop it out.

There’s an issue with all of this: the person, and those around him, are less likely to be aware of the changes, because the new behavior and capabilities are now part of their self-definition.  Rather than “I do this because of my diagnosis/limitation,” their definition now includes their new capabilities.