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Choosing to Do Better

Updated: May 17, 2023

“Our knowledge of parenting techniques, like all intellectual knowledge and learning, is a function of the cognitive left side of the brain, while who the parent is — what face she turns toward the child — is at any given moment determined largely by forceful emotional mechanisms governed in the right hemisphere. A struggle between hemispheres is an unequal battle. Once our deepest emotions are stirred — as they so easily are in our interaction with our children — intellect and understanding are quickly subdued.” Gabor Mate, Scattered Minds

I am halfway through reading this then-ground-breaking book, specifically about Attention Deficit Disorder and generally about how we all learn…how our brain changes over time through social, and environmental interactions. This selected paragraph is representative of many in the book, enlightening me about how my brain really works and how subconsciously perceived emotional information dominates cognitive learning and processing.

I work with many families in which a common lament is “Why can’t he just think like a normal person”, or “Why is he just too lazy to go get a job?” or “I told her I love her. Why doesn’t she believe me?” I’m finding answers to those kinds of questions in Scattered Minds.

And having read this, this morning I realized something. Until recently, I had thought that my venture into psychotherapy was all about healing wounds incurred in my childhood. As if I wanted to right the wrongs of my father. A new thought came to me today. It might be true or it might not…and it’s inconsequential. What does matter is that I chose this path to become the kind of dad—the kind of father, the kind of man— that I needed as a child.

My mom was a teacher. And like her, I like to pass what I have learned on to others. I don’t know anything more important than learning how to live relationally well. I appreciate everyone with whom I’ve crossed paths along this learning and teaching journey. As we each choose to do better we improve our own lives, and the lives of everyone around us.

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