Whole Brain Living – Jill Bolte Taylor Book Summary

Whole Brain Living – Jill Bolte Taylor | Free Book Summary

Whole Brain Living – Jill Bolte Taylor

This Book is about getting accidentally enlightened and how different the world is when you are not you, but the entire universe.


When my left thinking network went off-line, a specific part of my personality, a character that I had known for decades as my ego-self, also disappeared.

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 It was not as though I was missing a memory that I simply could not put my finger on; it was more like that memory (and I myself) had never existed at all.

It’s a bit disconcerting to think that who we are is completely manufactured by a small group of cells in our left brain, and that we can lose ourselves at any moment, but that is exactly how fragile our ego identities are.

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The Hero’s Journey Call

The Hero leaves behind the rational, ego-based consciousness that processes the reality of the external world (left brain); shed the rational, ego-based individuality; must be willing to let go of possessions and worldly knowledge; lays down the justice-demanding judgment of the dominating left brain.

The Hero enters into the realm of the unconscious (right brain) and embodies the merciful characteristics of the compassionate right brain; battles the fear of death and all the other left-brain monsters; gains the insights of his heroic quest while enveloped in the wisdom of his euphoric right brain.


The hero must either return home or share hard-won whole-brain knowledge; returning home, the hero is different now, aware of both conscious and unconscious characters and their conflicting values.

How the Brain Works

Reptilian Brain (Brain Stem): Instinctual survival; fundamental activities (breathing, heartbeat); regulating body temperature; managing our balance; processes pain, aggression, pleasure, and our drive to mate

Mammalian Brain (Emotional Limbic System Tissue): Modify and refine well-organized data from the brain stem by streaming it through the filter of emotion; make an automatic threat assessment based on how something feels.

Human Brain: Directly modifies and refines the underlying emotional limbic tissue of our left-brain and right-brain.

The Four Characters

We each have four distinctive groups of cells, divided between our two brain hemispheres, that generate four consistent and predictable personalities.

Character 1: Left-Brain Thinking (Serial Processor)

  • Verbal, thinks in language, thinks linearly, past/future based, analytical, focused on details, seeks differences, judgmental, punctual, individual, concise/precise, fixed, focus on the individual(ego), busy, conscious and biased towards structure and order.
  • Competitive: compete when challenged and fight for what it believes in.
  • Respects Authority: obeys rules.

Character 2: Left-Brain Emotional

Constricted, rigid, cautious, fear-based, stern, loves conditionally, doubts, bullies, righteous, manipulates, deceives, tried and true.

  • Compares present vs past memories.
  • Deepest emotions.
  • Emotional volatility and reactivity.
  • Happiness: the natural underlying circuitry of happiness (or lack thereof).
  • Stress: part of our stress circuitry; pessimistically sees the glass as half empty.

Character 3: Right-Brain Emotional

Expansive, open, experiential, risk-taking, fearless, friendly, kind, empathic, loves unconditionally, forgiving, trusts, supports, grateful, playful, joyful, goes with the flow, awe-inspired, curious, creative/innovative, collective, sharing, equality, contextual, style, hopeful.

  • Focuses on the present moment.
  • Interconnected with the universal flow.
  • Always exists at the level of the flow of the universe.
  • Big picture, present moment threats.
  • Experiential.

Character 4: Right-Brain Thinking (Parallel Processor)

Nonverbal, thinks in pictures, thinks experientially, present moment-based, kinesthetic/body, looks holistically at the big picture, seeks similarities, compassionate, lost in the flow of time, collective, flexible/resilient, open to possibilities, focus on WE, available, unconscious, fluid/flow, aware, expansive, accepting, authentic, generous of spirit, clarity, intention, vulnerability.

Awareness: aware; awareness that we are safe regardless of our physical circumstance

Openness: open; expansive; as big as the universe.

We Can Choose What We Want To Be

At any given moment, there are three things going on in our brain: think thoughts, feel emotions, and run physiological responses to what we are thinking and feeling. Each of these activities is completely dependent on the health and well-being of the cells that are performing those functions.

We have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be.

Nurturing Our Four Characters

When we know, understand, and nurture our own Four Characters, their relationships with one another, and their collective power within us, we promote our own cognitive, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness.

The better we understand the various groups of cells inside of our brain, how they are organized, and what it feels like to run each of those different cellular circuits, the more power we have to purposefully choose which of those neural networks we want to run.

The Human Evolution

Humanity exists in an ongoing state of evolution:

First, we actively integrate the newly added-on tissue of our left thinking brain (Character 1) with the tissue of the underlying left emotional brain tissue (Character 2), and then we are integrating the new tissue in our right thinking brain with the brain tissue in between (Character 3 and 4).


Finally, we will evolve into whole-brain living, and consciously direct our own development as part of that evolution.

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