BOOK REVIEW by Lynda Monk: "The Power of Your Other Hand"

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The Power of Your Other Hand: Unlock Creativity and Inner Wisdom through the Right Side of Your Brain by Lucia Capacchione

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As coaches, we know that our work is, in part, about helping our clients tap into their own inner wisdom. And Lucia Capacchione's The Power of Your Other Hand is about just that.

A lifelong journal writer, I'm fascinated by how writing with our non-dominant hand might offer something of value to our creativity—and help us access our inner wisdom.

Recently, for example, I was working with one client who was trying to decide if now is the right time to retire. I suggested that she write this question down with her dominant hand and then answer it by writing her response with the other hand.

Through this process she discovered that she's craving more time to play in her life and that she longs for less pressure and responsibility. She has created a one-year transition plan and will retire in 2021.

Personal discovery of a powerful technique

This book starts with Capacchione's personal experience of discovering the power of writing with her non-dominant hand. Many years ago, she was suffering from a life-threatening illness that she later learned was collagen disease. She writes, "Collagen is the connective tissue in the body; the glue, so to speak. I had literally 'come unglued.'"

Doctors were baffled by her illness. In desperation, she stopped taking medication and turned her attention to keeping a journal to heal from within. Her journal writing helped her tap into her inner child, and she began journaling to heal early childhood wounds.

She began instinctively to dialogue with this inner child part of herself, letting this part write with her non-dominant hand. She heard a voice within say, "I want you to use your left hand for this."

What emerged was a message in childish block capitals: "GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO LET MY CHILD OUT AND FEEL MY FEELINGS AND SAY I'M O.K.!!"

Capacchione describes coming home to herself through the process of writing with the non-dominant hand, and reclaiming her own creativity and feelings of aliveness.

The history, culture and neuroscience of "handedness"

Capacchione explores the idea of the right hand having the 'upper hand', in that it has been seen as the preferred 'handedness' throughout history.

She offers biological and cultural theories, as well as points of view from anthropologists and historians that fostered right-handedness in preference to left-handedness. There was a noted moral judgment in favour of the right hand.

The book also discusses neuroscience and the different hemispheres of the brain, as well as the polarities associated with references to the right and left.

After Capacchione published the first edition of The Power of Your Other Hand, she met with Dr. Valerie Hunt, former head of kinesiology research at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). This was in 1989. According to Dr. Hunt (p. 176), "when we are writing with our non-dominant hand, non-writing hand, we are required to use both sides of the brain. The words are coming from the language centers, but the content and emotional tone is coming from the nonverbal side of the brain."

Practical exercises

My favourite part of this book is the many writing activities. A few examples:

  • With your non-dominant hand, write your name. Then write how it feels to be writing with this hand. Now switch to your dominant hand and write your reaction to what you wrote. How did it feel? How does it look? What other thoughts or feelings do you have?
  • Use both hands to have a written dialogue with someone whom you are in active conflict with or from whom you are estranged. Write your voice with your dominant hand. Write the other person's voice with your non-dominant hand.
  • Draw an object with your dominant hand, and then draw it with your other hand. Reflect on how it felt to draw with both hands: Which was easier to do? How do the pictures compare?

You may find that writing with your dominant vs. your non-dominant hand brings up many contrasting feelings:

  • Controlled vs. awkward
  • Intellect vs. emotional
  • Conscious vs. unconscious
  • Polite vs. unruly
  • Critical vs. poetic
  • Stiff vs. spontaneous

The best way to get a feel for the power of writing with the other hand is to try it for yourself!

Therapeutic benefits

To me, the most fascinating part of the book is the many benefits reported from writing with the other hand. For example, Capacchione says that writing with her other hand led her to her Inner Self or God Within, as she calls it. This is a source of love, peace and wisdom that she describes as our human birthright, which we can contact directly through writing with our other hand.

People also report feeling more childlike when they write with their non-dominant hand. Capacchione says: "Writing or drawing with the other hand allows feelings to come safely to the surface to be acknowledged and accepted."

Some of the other possible benefits of writing with the other hand include the ability to:

  • Increase creativity
  • Process difficult emotions
  • Access greater self-awareness
  • Expand perspectives and points of view
  • Change negative attitudes or beliefs about yourself
  • Heal childhood wounds
  • Find the artist within (chapter 5), including uncovering hidden artistic abilities
  • Find the healer within (chapter 6)
  • Recover the Inner Child (chapter 7)
  • Form deeper connections with self, others and a higher power or God energy (chapter 9 is called "The Hand of God Within")
  • Channel the deep inner wisdom of your True Self

Wrap-up

I invite you to consider how you might introduce writing with the other hand in your transformational work with clients.

Questions for you to consider:

  • How could you introduce writing with the other hand into your coaching work?
  • What client situations might benefit from trying this writing approach?
  • How might you use The Power of Your Other Hand as part of your own growth and self-awareness as a coach?

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Lynda Monk Headshot

Contributing Author:

Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing. Lynda regularly writes, speaks, and teaches about the transformational and healing power of writing. She is the co-author of Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection (2014), and co-editor of Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Therapists, and Clients: A Complete Guide to the Benefits of Personal Writing (2021). You can find her FREE gift for coaches here: Gratitude Journaling for Coaches & Clients Workbook.

Learn more about Lynda here >>

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