“The Right Brain and the Unconscious” by Rhawn Joseph

This book deserves to be much better known. Its basic premise is that the notion of the unconscious can best be understood in terms of neuroscience – specifically, though the idea that the right hemisphere of the brain supplies a primarily visual, non-verbal form of consciousness that provides an alternative route to emotional memories suppressed in response to trauma. As such, Joseph rescues the notion of the unconscious, and along with it aspects of psychodynamic therapy (Freud, Jung), in a plausible way.

It’s become popular to kick back against the simplistic division of right and left brain, to the point where it almost seems to deny the distinction altogether – which is obviously wrong. So, taking the point that brain organisation is complex and multifaceted, and that not everything is neatly divisible in terms of location, I think we can still gain something of value by considering brain function as modular – that is, in terms of different functions of consciousness and sentience as being fulfilled by different developments of the physical brain that have occurred through evolution. And this is what Joseph does, convincingly laying out how our instincts, emotions, perceptions, thoughts and feelings have a neurological basis, and how the job of the modern psychodynamic therapist is to integrate these.

A fascinating, insightful read, and as I say, deserving to be better known.

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Gareth Southwell is a philosopher, writer and illustrator from the UK. He is the author of the near-future sci-fi novel MUNKi, which concerns robots, the hunt for the Technological Singularity, and people swearing in Welsh.

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