I’ve discovered that having a high functioning intellect, brimming with intelligence is not necessarily a benefit in the recovery world.
Our brain is divided into two hemispheres. Left and right. Our left brain is linear, logical and likes to think (a lot!) Our right brain is abstract, creative and emotional. The right brain is also what connects us to other humans.
If we have developmental trauma, the right side of the brain does not function as effectively as the left. And there is difficulty having true intimacy and connection in relationships as well as being able to regulate the emotions effectively. Developmental trauma (which is also known as lacking secure attachment) comes from not getting unconditional love, security and safety as a baby and toddler. Secure attachment leads us to having what is known as the 3 R’s (relationality, regulation of affect and resilience).
Lacking secure attachment creates the perfect breeding ground for an overdeveloped left brain which can be highly logical, intelligent, and tend to overthink everything. So, if we’re lacking the ability to relate well, regulate our emotions and we also tend to over think and intellectualize, it’s likely that we’ll develop generalized anxiety as well as depression. Allan Schore, a leader in neuropsychology states “the security of the attachment bond is the primary defense against psychopathology.”
This is why it seldom works for someone to recover on their own. Reading books and having strong discipline are not going to help the right brain. Fortunately, the brain has neuroplasticity which means we can change our brain function and heal our life. Intense treatment and 12 step meetings are the perfect salve to the under-utilized right brain that is in need of healing and connection. Talking, listening, empathizing, being heard, and ultimately being vulnerable and emotionally available are where the deep healing occurs in recovery. However, as alcoholics and addicts our natural tendency is to withdraw and isolate and this is the last thing we need. Human connection and compassion are paramount in the healing process. We need compassion from others as well as ourselves. These are things we have to retrain the brain to do and to accept.
Relational connection, creativity, spirituality and abstract thinking all live in the right side of the brain. These aspects are critical for true recovery to occur. Adding in healthy, whole food and physical exercise provide solid support for holistic healing to occur.