Thank you for visiting. Here you will find posts based on my book The Power of Your Other Hand: Unlocking creativity and inner wisdom through the right side of your brain (new edition, 2019 Conari Press), featuring excerpts from the book, success stories from readers and students, my own experiences, and drawing and writing prompts using this technique. Enjoy!
~Lucia Capacchione, Phd, ATR

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Giving Your Inner Child a Voice

I'm pleased to introduce this week's guest blogger Marlena Tanner, a dietitian working with individuals recovering from eating disorders. She is trained in my Creative Journal Expressive Arts methods and applies very effectively with her clients.

The Inner Child Sasses Back
by Marlena Tanner

As a dietitian, I can only write so many meal plans and provide so much education on nutrition and metabolism. While planning and education are helpful, they don’t shift deep, core beliefs about value. It’s difficult to follow a meal plan or engage in self-care when you can’t stand yourself. When my clients are baffled by their inability to follow through, I often ask, “how would you treat someone who you hate? Would you take good care of them?”

So, how do you shift from self-loathing to unconditional, self-love?

My lovely psychotherapist co-workers are specialized in helping clients do that inner work—and I’m so grateful for them. They help guide people through discovery of the origin of self-hatred, towards better understanding. Sometimes it’s as simple as undiagnosed depression that turns anger inwards. Through support and guidance, I learned that I’m neither worth hating or being afraid of. I am worth loving. And you are, too.

In therapy, you can identify cognitive distortions that drive your emotions and behaviors. You can learn the tools necessary to start thinking and acting differently. Throughout my journey, I gained additional, practical tools from my teacher Dr. Lucia Capacchione, founder of Creative Journal Expressive Arts (CJEA). In particular, these tools helped me combat the inner critic. One simple exercise I often do with my clients is to let the eating disorder (ED) voice or critic rant for two minutes on paper and say whatever nastiness it wants to say. 

Then I instruct them to switch hands and use their non-dominant hand to “sass back” on paper for another two minutes. I ask them to tap into their inner “brat” and just let it rip. Really blast that critic out of the water. It’s a simple but effective practice that can make reframing these negative thoughts easier. It’s also a way to tap into different parts of self so that we can connect the inner child to the inner nurturing and protective parents, for example.

Marlena Tanner, RD, CEDRD-S
Lead Program Dietitian-Supervisor
Central Coast Treatment Center
508 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Ph (805) 591-0712 Fax (805) 594-1460



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Thursday, April 18, 2019

An Artist's Cancer Journey: James's Story

I recently received this very touching letter from James Broehl, an artist who lives in Mexico. He shares how he has used his non-dominant hand while recovering from cancer affecting the right side of his body. Here is James's experience, including a sample of his pre-cancer art using the dominant hand, and art using the non-dominant hand while recovering from cancer.

Hello Lucia,

I was drawn to your book The Power of Your Other Hand as I have begun doing art again, with my left hand now. Last May, after a year plus of coughing, a tumor pushed up under my right lymph area. I have been an artist for the last 20 years seriously, as a creative process. This physical condition cut off the main nerve of my right arm and hand, and it went limp. After going to stage four, the cancer traveled to seven body parts. Fortunately, I went to the Dana Farber Cancer Center (DFCC) in Boston where they diagnosed my cancer as ALK (non smokers lung cancer) which is rare. Only 1% of cancers are of this type. The DFCC had a recovery medicine which went to all areas, including brain and spine and I shot back up in 2 weeks. So fast it was disorienting. They said the nerves would grow back, but would take a year in my right hand. The medicine would kill or contain the cancer.

Being a proactive character, one day I noticed my left hand writing my name with perfect script. I had not even requested this. I thought, why don’t I try painting left handed? I have been doing this now for 8 months. At first you see new things, new slightly awkward styles. I liked what I saw. With my left (non-dominant) hand, I seemed more free to express than I had after 20 years of art school and practice with the right (dominant) hand. I still continue with my left hand, because the pincer grasp of my right hand is still the last to come.

There is no way for me to express what it is like to discover a new part of oneself and accept it fully. Lately I gave a talk at an art forum putting up similar images done with left and right hands and I allowed observers to make comments. Most liked the new left-handed art, some said it was more childlike, free. What was amazing also is I encountered a new personality in myself, a more benevolent one. Somehow the use of left-handed painting had tapped into an area of my right brain where I became more compassionate.

As the right hand forges back I try to keep the positive things I saw about myself and life going. I have not yet tried right hand painting, but soon I hope painting will be a shared dialogue, as you mention in your book. I’m at page 81 now.

We take for granted the use of arm and hand as well as the whole body. So many muscles and commands take place instantly. Also, when you go to near death and return it makes you appreciate every moment. I now want to live and learn where my creativity and curiosity take me. Thanks for being curious yourself and writing this book. The power of body/brain is amazing.

If you have any questions that you are curious about please send them to me.

James Broehl
Ajijic, Mexico / Boston

The non-dominant hand is waiting patiently for a chance to be dominant, and it expresses a different creativity. I believe the functions are different for each side of the brain. At first it's hard to accept, as one is very critical of the new hand. But with time it goes more quickly where you want to go; I believe into uncharted expression. —James Broehl

Right Hand 2017 - pre-cancer
Left Hand 2019 - recovering from cancer
Right Hand 2017 - pre-cancer
Left Hand 2019 - recovering from cancer
Right Hand 2017 - pre-cancer
Left Hand 2019 - recovering from cancer


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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Inner Healing: Jill's Story

A student of mine who started a deep inner healing process through dialogues with a physical discomfort is Jill. As a child, Jill wanted to become an actress when she grew up. But emotionally she wasn't able to follow through with her childhood dream and take it into adulthood. Instead she did what was expected of her: got married and had children. As she puts it, she became "Mrs. Somebody" and "Somebody's Mother."

After years of taking care of everyone else while ignoring her dream, Jill took a stand. She started seeing a therapist and also took one of my weekend journal workshops, where she discovered the healing power of her Inner Child through a right/left-hand dialogue. "It was a major breakthrough in my life," she recounts. Her first dialogue was a conversation with her headache. As she wrote, she soon contacted the Little Girl within who had been silenced for so many years.

(italics: non-dominant hand)

Who are you?

Your head.

How do you feel?

I feel pressure.

Why do you feel this—Are you saying pressure or pleasure?

Pleasure creates pressure.

Do you feel guilty when you are too happy?

I feel scared that something will happen so if I hurt it can't happen.

You hurt a little now. Would you like to tell me why?

Brain feels nice feeling nice is bad.

No, it is not nice to feel bad. It is not bad to feel nice. Who told you that?

Mommy said don't like your body it is naughty to love yourself.

Mommy was wrong about that. Anyhow she is not around anymore.

Yes she is in me I am her in your head.

Can I do something to help you so you won't hurt?

Yes you can tell me not to be afraid.

There is nothing to be afraid of. I will help you. I will take care of you. But I get angry sometimes.

If you are angry Mommy won't like you.

If Mommy doesn't like me because I get angry, then she doesn't understand. We can't control someone who doesn't understand.

It is OK to be angry but we need to find a way to express is that doesn't hurt you.

I am afraid.

What are you afraid of? Can I help you?

I want to be free.

What would you do if you were free?

I would hit and bite and scream.

Maybe we can go into a room by ourselves and do this. Would you like that?


Are there other ways you can express yourself without really hurting anyone else?

I want to dance.

Years ago we used to play music and dance when we were alone—would you like that?

Yes I don't care how I look. You care how I look. You make trouble for me. You tell me I am clumsy. I want to be graceful but I am scared and scarred.

You have scars from the freeway accident. Is that why? Does all this go that far back?

Everybody always said use your head. I scarred myself to get attention because I am special and I wanted you to know me.

Were the migraine headaches a way of getting attention, then, too?

You wouldn't use me so I had to remind you. I want to think and feel together. You are Libra the balance. I am unbalanced you have to balance me.

How can I do that?

You must love me and respect me. I feel and think too, not just thinking.

Are you saying that I didn't consider your feelings enough?

You want to be a thinking head only feel somewhere else. Not right. Head does think and feel both. You say feel is bad so I feel bad.

If you believe feeling is good, would you feel good?

That is not exactly right.

What would make you feel good? I notice you hurt now.

That's right I hurt. Let me cry. Daddy never let me cry. I know Daddy isn't here any more but you sometimes carry him around. I want to cry when I'm sad.

I will let you cry when you're sad. I will try not to worry what people think or say. I will love you even if you hurt.

That's right. I only hurt to get your attention. I love you and want to work for you but you need to listen to what I'm feeling. I will give you warning signs. Tune in. Listen.

I feel more relaxed now. I will try to work with you.

Don't try. We already have too much trying. Just be you and I'll be me and now what someone else wants. Just let me flow in to the stream that is the bloodstream and I will be in natural rhythm if you don't disturb it. You pick on me too much. Leave me be and let me flow the way I am supposed to. Goodbye.

In this dialogue, Jill (the adult) became a Wise Counselor and Nurturing Parent to her own Inner Child, who was "trapped" in her headache. She discovered that she had played victim all her life. Actually, her Inner Child was the victim and by repressing its existence she had unwittingly perpetuated her own limitations. She decided to stop being a victim, started paying attention to her own goals and following through with them. Jill studied acting, became a professional, and has appeared on television. It all started with a headache, but it led to making her dreams come true.

(Chapter 6, The Power of Your Other Hand)


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Thursday, April 4, 2019

A Life Changing Experience: Brad's Story

Since I began teaching and lecturing on the subject of writing with the other hand, ... I have met some individuals who were forced by circumstances to write with their non-dominant hand. A broken arm or wrist, a stroke, or some other sudden injury or illness led to a temporary or permanent switch to the other hand. Many of these individuals experienced deep inner changes, opened undeveloped dimensions of their personalities, and uncovered buried talents. Brad is a case in point. An attractive and energetic young man, Brad was in his early 20s when I interviewed him. He discovered a whole new world because of an accident, forcing him to write with his other hand. Here is Brad's story:

As a young child I wrote stories and had a large imaginary world to play in. My neighborhood appeared to be a boundless garden of adventure, mystery, danger, and fun . . . . .

I had an obsession for games and a terrible fear of losing or being rejected. As a young boy I ran away from my first baseball game crying because I had run the wrong direction around the bases. At an early age I was made to realize that if I wanted to play men's games I had to learn the rules and pay attention to detail. I saw that a man's world is very critical. Judgments are made with large consideration to the end goal, and the means are carefully restricted to the straightest line toward the goal.

So I set out to learn the rules, and I learned them better than anyone else, to the point of being able to tell my coaches when they had made mistakes before they recognized them. I learned to direct all my anger and desires toward the goal: winning.

I lost sight of my fluid, youthful world as I grew up and became more and more rigid in body and spirit. I tried to take on the outer appearances and inflexible standard of a winner. I was quarterback and team captain at school, a leader on the field, a sacrificer of my body. I could throw a football 75 yards at age 15. I pitched on the baseball team and developed a keen jump shot and hook in basketball. My right arm spent long days reaching, throwing, and extending. I did little reading but did well in school, especially in math and sciences. My language skills were poor. I always worked hardest in this area and received my worst grades in English and foreign languages. At 15 I had many male friends in high school and almost no female friends. In those days I preferred a good dirt-ball game to a date.

It is still very vivid in my memory, the day I fell to the floor on the basketball court of my high school with a pain so strong in my right shoulder and arm that somehow I knew instantly my dreams were shattered. I knew I would never play professional football as I so fervently desired. In fact, later I found out that I would never be able to throw any kind of ball again.

A week later I sat at my final examination in English with a dislocated right arm. I was very angry because the teacher was forcing me to write my essay with my left hand. My right arm was tightly bound to my body and totally immobile. I had been confident I would get off without writing any essay that day, which would have been fine with me. Soon I found out that if I didn't write one I could fail the class. I spent almost three hours completely absorbed in my new and arduous task. I found myself using all the pent-up anger and frustration as fuel to write a very long, barely legible and somewhat sarcastic essay. By the time I turned my paper in I had forgotten how enraged I had been or that so much time had passed. Taking charge of my emotions had required great effort.

Afterwards I felt vulnerable, exhausted, and close to tears. Yet I wouldn't dare let these feelings out. I couldn't ride my bike so I walked home three miles. My shoes came untied many times but I got great satisfaction out of tying them with my left hand. At home I became completely fanatical about keeping my life's routines as normal as possible with the use of only my left arm. I cooked, wrote papers, made telephone calls, drove a car, and performed personal hygiene with my left hand. Every little detail became intensified, important, difficult, and exciting. Everything in my life became a challenge which was solely designed to teach me a lesson: that I could do something which I had thought I couldn't do. This in turn gave me new self-confidence and opened a previously unknown world to me.

I received a "C" grade on my English essay. I hadn't given enough, the teacher seemed to be saying, but that essay was the beginning of a major transformation in my life. I couldn't use my right arm for six weeks, and just after getting the cast off I injured it again. During this time I became totally focused on reading and writing. The more I read the more my child-like curiosity surfaced. My visual imagination overflowed in long and insightful reports, essays and poetry. My grades in English went from "C" to "A."

As my inner life expanded, so did my friends and surroundings. During the recuperation I was separated from my jock friends who, it turned out, were not very good friends after all. So I had to create new friendships, most of them with women. I found I could talk to them more easily about my new feelings. And I fell in love for the first time.

Along with these changes, I also wanted to move out of the city. I really felt the need to get in touch with the natural rhythms and patterns of life, with my body and spirit. So I went to live in the woods until I entered college to study another physical discipline: dance.

Brad opened up to his own creativity and entered the arts world when he turned a catastrophe into a golden opportunity. He went on to become a performing dancer and instructor of Contact Improvisation, a new movement form. His unique style combines fluidity and strength: power that expresses a balance he has attained between the active and receptive aspects of his personality. Brad attributes the beginning of this major life change to the day he dislocated his arm and was forced to use his other hand.

Words have continued to be an important outlet for Brad, who later studied acting. As he told me: "When I started focusing on acting, I found myself writing in mirror images with my left hand. It was spontaneous and completely unexpected. I feel it has stretched my awareness in exciting ways."

(excerpted from Chapter 4, The Power of Your Other Hand)


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