The orbital frontal cortex, which is the cortex just behind the eye sockets, reaches maturity between eighteen to twenty-four months of age. The right OBFC receives feeling information on the right side of the brain, and helps code it; it also helps control feelings and, above all, is involved in retrieving feeling information and integrating it with the left OBFC. This is a big job. Thanks to the right OBFC, we can know what we feel, and feel what we know; if only it will inform the left prefrontal cortex about what it knows and feels.
The right OBFC receives feeling information from below, from preverbal memories, and then provides a high level coding system that labels the feeling. What is important about the OBFC is that it has representations from the depths of the brain. In this way, we can make a connection between the awareness, and what happened to us even before birth. That is consciousness/awareness.
The right OBFC provides a map of our internal environment. Most early abuse and lack of love can be found coded there. If we want to regain conscious-awareness – full consciousness – we need to use the OBFC map to scan the non-verbal brain, the right limbic area and brainstem, to retrieve the most remote, ancient memories. Notice that I did not say “awareness,” which is left brain. Conscious-awareness is right-left brain working in harmony. We can be very aware and completely unconscious. We can be experts in politics or even psychology, and still not know what is inside of us. In fact, our hyper-alert awareness on the left can be motivated by the need to stay unconscious of the right. We can use he left prefrontal area awareness to dampen the amygdala/limbic areas and keep ourselves unconscious. I have cited earlier how in meditation the left OBFC becomes more active as the amygdala is less active. In some respects this is what happens in cognitive therapy; the left frontal area is stripped away from the right and treated as an independent entity. Thus, their efforts involve readjusting the left front brain to the neglect of other cerebral areas. Luckily or not, it is eminently adjustable and malleable. Ideas can be twisted and turned in so many ways; they can be “adjusted” so that we are convinced that we are feeling good when we are not. Thinking we feel good and really feeling good, involving the feeling centers of
the brain are two different things.
The right OBFC contains a model of what happened to us early in life. If we did not have a very strong emotional relationships with our parents early in life, the right hemisphere imprints will become a template for adult life that may cause constant broken relationships in adult life. We are victims of that template and then wonder what’s wrong with us when we cannot sustain an emotional rapport with someone. In that sense, it is more than a model; it is a fixed frame within which we operate. That frame is encased in biochemical chains, every bit as strong as links of steel. I have called this frame, the prototype (discussed elsewhere). The meaning is the same: lifelong patterns of behavior are organized very early in life, in pre-birth, birth and infancy experiences. The meaning is available to the right OBFC but not to the left. The patterns set up early in life become a guide for how we act in the future; for our adult compulsions and phobias as well as physical symptoms. That is why when we retrieve those early experiences with the right OBFC we can make immediate connections between our current symptom-- migraine, high blood pressure--and those early imprints. With the reliving the symptoms disappear, and we understand why. We carry around “broken relationships” inside of us all of our lives. We then develop a friendship with someone that soon breaks off, and it becomes a mystery as to why: the template. The template, as I have stated, involves all manner of biochemical processes. Thus, we may carry around very low oxytocin levels which helps determine how warm and close we can be to others. The brain’s neurochemistry, the levels of stress hormones and other activating chemicals, are all under right brain control. When these are altered they influence how we relate to others and to ourselves. In brief, we are rendered a different personality.