Book Review: “My Stroke of Insight”Posted January 8, 2016
“My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey”
By Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. (2006)
This book has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years and I decided to read it over the holidays. Currently, I am drawn to books written by scientifically educated people who are accessing their intuitive abilities. I was pleasantly surprised by this delightful, educational and well-written autobiography.
Jill pursued neuroanatomy because one of her older brothers was diagnosed as schizophrenic. After her Ph.D., she became an active member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and worked with the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center / McLean Hospital. In December of 1996, she experienced a debilitating stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. She was left unable to walk, talk, read, or write and had minimal long-term memory recall.
With only her right hemisphere functioning, she felt at one with the universe and tranquil euphoria. Her left hemisphere, our ego based, critical hemisphere, had been taken off-line. She realized that only her and her brain were responsible for how she felt. She chose to focus on her peace of heart and mind. After eight years of support from family and friends, perseverance, and consciously re-configuring her brain, she has regained full cognitive and functional ability.
Personally, I enjoyed her description of how the different hemispheres of the brain interact. It helped me realize the physiological reasons as to why each one of us is responsible for how we perceive our experiences. It takes less than ninety seconds for an automatic emotional response (e.g., fight or flight) to ensue. Past that point, we are making a choice as to whether we stay with the unhappy emotion or move back into the joy of the present moment. I thought about this ninety second window frequently over the holidays and did manage to adjust my attitude.
“My Stroke of Insight” is highly recommended for anyone with a friend or family member who has suffered a stroke or has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Understanding the reactions and knowing that some of the damage may be reversible is invaluable.
A quick synopsis of Jill’s “My Stroke of Insight” is also available in a TED talk version.