The "Whole Brain," the "Whole Person" and Exploring Talent

by Dean Pappas

PART I: Wholeness and Consciousness

Roger Sperry's research (Nobel Prize in Physiology, 1981) demonstrated functional specialization of the two hemispheres of the human brain, and forever changed popular and scientific conceptions of human sensory, emotive, and thought processes. As Sperry's work became well-known, the popular cliche evolved of a world populated by either left- or right-brained people (commonly called analytical, visual, or concrete thinkers versus intuitive, spatial, or emotive thinkers). But as Robert Root-Bernstein (2005) points out, popular mythology distorted Sperry's original research by creating an unnecessary wall between the two. The key point of Sperry's research that tended to be overlooked was that the human brain produces what Root-Bernstein calls "whole brain thinkers," or in Sperry's words, humans who are "ambicerebral." That is, that the human mind is geared toward wholeness, which ideally is manifest in a successful integration of both right and left hemispheres. Sperry, himself, was a vivid example of a "whole brain thinker," balancing his scientific and analytical career with a productive artistic and intuitive "right-brained" life (Root-Bernstein, 2005).

Coupling Carl Rogers (1979) conceptions of self-actualizing tendencies, whereby he claims that there is a movement toward constructive fulfillment of human inherent possibilities, with Sperry's physiological research provides a framework for defining and optimizing the human potential in a holistic fashion, particularly when counseling clients in terms of life or career goals. According to Rogers, the most impressive fact about the individual human seems to be the directional tendency toward wholeness (Boeree, 1998/2006). Whether with regards to career development, or optimizing other aspects of one's life, satisfaction and motivation would appear to be spurred on by inherent actualizing tendencies. These include: feeling accepted or prized through positive regard by self and others, securing a basic trust of self, and the tendency to never give up striving which Rogers refers to as "becoming" (Rogers, 1979). Rogers notes that as humans, we tend to always be "up to something," always energized toward actualization, involving not only the maintenance but also the enhancement of our lives. Rogers' framework provides a fruitful foundation for positivistic counseling.

Rogers' (1979) belief that our awareness, in the form of consciousness, plays an important part enhancing our lives is supported by Jaynes' theory of mental imaging (1986). Jaynes postulates that a major function of the evolution of consciousness is the creation of a mental image of ourselves in action, as a third-person observer, in essence watching ourselves behave. This "tiny peak of awareness...topping a vast pyramid of nonconscious organismic functioning," as Rogers calls it (p. 103) can be made concrete, in pictorial form, and thus provides the conceptual foundation of art therapy. What is sought pictorially is useful information in terms of the client's self-perception and a holistic sense of what are the client's ultimate goals (Arnheim, 1971).

As a career development professional searches for ways to provide insight into core motives and desires of the client, techniques that access nonverbal centers of the client's thinking (through drawing or other art-related exercises) are rich in pictorial imagery, and provide a method for the sensory, intuitive mind to team up cooperatively with analytical, logical one. Coordinating right- and left-brain processes through visual exercises allows the client not only to experience a holistic expression, but also gives the client a concrete, lasting image that can be altered, enhanced or redefined to fit long-term career planning.

In Part II of this article, specific exercises designed by art therapist Lucia Capacchione are offered as examples of the type of exercises that are available. The first step of any journey is defining the starting point, a process well-suited to art therapy exercises and visual, pictorial thinking (as described by Arnheim, 1971). Capacchione has written two pertinent books providing a wide variety of exercises geared toward exploring one's creative talents, career enhancement, and professional drives and aspirations: "Putting Your Talent to Work"(1996) coauthored with Peggy Van Pelt, and "Visioning" (2000).


Arnheim, R. (1971). Visual thinking. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Boeree, C. G. (1998/2006). Carl Rogers: 1902-1987. Retrieved April 12, 2006, from http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/rogers.html

Capacchione, L., & Van Pelt, P. (1996). Putting your talent to work. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.

Capacchione, L. (2000). Visioning. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.
Jaynes, J. (1986). Consciousness and the voices of the mind. Canadian Psychology, 27(2), 128-148. Retrieved April 10, 2006, from http://www.julianjaynes.org/pdf/jaynes_mind.pdf

Meissner, W. W. (2006). The mind-brain relation and neuroscientific foundations: II. Neurobehavioral integrations. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 70 (2) 102-124. Retrieved September 4, 2006, from Academic Search Premier database.

Rogers, C. R. (1979). The foundations of the person-centered approach. Education, 100(2), 98-107. Retrieved September 7, 2006, from Academic Search Premier database.

Root-Bernstein, R. (2005). ArtScience: The essential connection. Leonardo, 38(3), 225-226. Retrieved September 4, 2006, from Academic Search Premier database.

Dean Pappas (M.A. in Art Therapy, California State University, Los Angeles) lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He works primarily with at-risk adolescents, providing therapy, coaching and life-skills training, including a focus on career and long-term life goals. He also provides coaching through artmaking processes to assist families focus on family goals as a unit. He can be reached at d28pappas@msn.com.

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