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, June 27, 2019

Finding Your Heart's Desire

Finding your true Heart’s Desire in life is not always as simple as it seems. We often make decisions from our left, logical brain, putting practicality before passion. We can actually have both if we learn to listen to our hearts. We can do this through accessing our right brain by writing with our non-dominant hand.

I teach my clients and students what I call The Heart’s Desire Practice. This is a practice done every day for all the seemingly insignificant choices we make, like what to wear, what to eat, what route to take to any destination, and so on throughout the day. Before making these ordinary choices, I suggest they ask themselves: What is my true heart's desire about this? Not what others are doing, not what is expected of them, not what they think they should do. This means letting go of old automatic default settings and allowing themselves to behave differently. I think of this as Heart's Desire Aerobics.

What does your heart really say about the seemingly insignificant choices or decisions all day long? If you do a daily Heart's Desire Practice, you will be exercising another set of heart "muscles," the ones that have to do with an emotionally healthy heart. This is a heart that "talks" to us when we stop to listen. In this daily Heart’s Desire Practice we prepare ourselves for the big decisions in life: career, residence, relationships, and more. I also extend this practice into journaling.

My heart writes to me with my non-dominant hand (accessing my right brain emotional and intuitive centers). I just let it talk to me about my life. I might even ask it to draw a picture of itself. Using the non-dominant hand (the one you don’t normally write with) for drawing and writing is a great way to get out of the default setting and try new ways of doing things. Yes, it’s slow and awkward, but it definitely shakes things up. More importantly it accesses the right brain creative and intuitive centers where breakthrough thinking happens.

Another way to listen to your Heart’s Desire is through vision boards and "bucket lists." I have written an entire book about integrating vision boards with journaling that features the non-dominant hand. It is entitled Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams. In the Visioning® method, we create magazine photo collages on large vision boards or in a journal. Picturing scenes, objects, and people expressing feelings and engaged in activities we enjoy is a way to allow the heart to speak to us.

These collages usually reveal parts of our personality wanting more expression. For instance, a photo of a "woman in red" spoke to me through my non-dominant hand. She told me that she is here to give me more vitality, courage and fun. She also wanted me to dress in brighter colors. If I've been working too hard, an image of a woman luxuriating in a bubble bath might speak to me through non-dominant hand journal writing, advising me to slow down, relax and restore my energy. Both of these women reflect parts of myself that have been dormant. If these parts have been ignored, discounted or given a back seat to other more responsible, “worker bee” parts, they will speak out sooner or later. They might cause low energy or illness in order to get my attention. Why not listen to them before such symptoms set in? They are all speaking from my heart.

Creating collages of nocturnal dreams can also illuminate our true heart’s desires and reveal parts of us needing more expression. The same journal techniques described above can be applied to dream work. Picturing the images in the dream and allowing them to speak, especially the parts that seem foreign or strange can open us to renewal. Like tiny sprouts emerging out of the earth in early spring, these dream images from the unconscious are often telling us about something new that wants to be born in us.

How do we know that parts of ourselves have been left out? We usually see symptoms: low energy, boredom, feeling we are in a rut, crankiness, irritability, burnout, physical pain, headaches, and even depression. Any of these may be signaling a need to listen to our Heart’s Desire.


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Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Non-Dominant Hand in Recovery Work

I first became aware of the potential for using writing and drawing with the non-dominant hand for recovery from a student in one of my Creative Journal classes. After class one evening, one of the students thanked me profusely for the journal class and how beneficial it was in her recovery in AL anon. As the wife of an alcoholic she was working on her own co-dependency and had been struggling with the 4th Step in the 12-Step program. She’d been struggling to write her personal inventory for a long time, but felt blocked from actually doing it. Her Inner Critic would then beat her up for not following through with her 4th Step assignment. She frowned as she described her plight.

Then her face broke into a huge smile as she talked about things had changed since taking my journal class. After doing my process in which we answer back to the Inner Critic, allowing the sassy Inner Brat to write with the non-dominant hand, she was able to do her inventory much to the amazement of her sponsor. Her victory over the critic was a great achievement. Answering back to the critic not only freed her to write her inventory but she started creating short stories about her childhood and teen years. She had found her Inner Writer. She later went on to teach writing to seniors and incorporated the block buster journal prompts from The Power of Your Other Hand to liberate her students had internal critics that were stopping them from writing.

Answering Back to the Inner Critic

If you are blocked about something in your life or struggling with a fear of failure, try the following prompt. Get out some 8 1/2” X 11” paper and a pen or set of colored markers.

List all of the self-critical statements you hear in your head using the second person, such as: “You aren’t smart enough to start your own business.” “Who do you think you are trying to go back to school at your age.” “Why are you taking this music class, you know you don’t have any talent.” “Making art is a waste of time. Get busy doing something more practical and profitable.”

Use your dominant hand to write your own version of these negative statements. Be sure to use the word “you” and not “I.” That way you won’t identify with these destructive beliefs and will be able to put them at arms distance. After you’ve written a page of put downs, put the pen in your non-dominant hand and answer back to the critic. Tell it off in no uncertain terms. Let your Inner Brat come out, express your anger about being put down 24-7 by this Inner Critic. Don’t concern yourself with spelling, grammar or penmanship. Just let the words fly onto the page. It may feel awkward and slow, but hand in there and keep writing. After you feel finished, read the words you wrote with your non-dominant hand.

Contacting Our Higher Power in Recovery

Over the years I have heard many reports from individuals in 12-Step programs that my books and workshops also helped them break through a block to writing their 4th Step inventory. Just as important was their discovery of a personal connection with their Higher Power that speaks to them through their non-dominant hand. They were able to tap into inner guidance and intuition that they never knew existed.

My most memorable experience of accessing our Higher Power through non-dominant handwriting happened at a weekend retreat I was leading for ninety-five women in recovery from alcoholism. The women had spent two days engrossed in Creative Journal and Inner Child work and sharing their innermost feelings and experiences. As the weekend was wrapping up I suggested they do a dialogue with their Higher Power. Using their dominant hand they wrote down a problem or challenge they were facing. They then wrote a request for help from their Higher Power. This was followed by allowing their Higher Power to write a response using their non-dominant hand. Since we had already done the prompt in which they answered back to their Inner Critic, I urged them to not worry about grammar, spelling or penmanship as it would be their Inner Critic who would judge these aspects of their writing.

After completing this final journal exercise, the women were then invited to share what they had written, on a strictly voluntary basis. Many of them chose to come up to the microphone and read what their Higher Power had told them. With clarity and heart-felt expression their words poured out from their hearts. They all agreed that this dialogue had made the experience of their Higher Power personal and tangible. The words sounded like ancient wisdom from scripture. There was a depth of compassion and loving-kindness in these journal entries that was profoundly moving. As more women shared the messages from their Higher Power there were more and more tears among those listening. The common insight shared by all in the final evaluations was that our Higher Power resides within us and can speak to us personally. They commented on how the Higher Power seemed to speak in one voice through all their writings. The wisdom in the words that came through the non-dominant hand were described as “loving,” “healing,” and “comforting.”


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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Everything Can Be Fixed

The following post was contributed by Lay Peng Tan who is currently in training to become a Certified Creative Journal Expressive Arts instructor and coach. In the process of working with my methods she discovered an Inner Artist who had been buried for some years. Here is a story about her most recent adventures in allowing her artist self to emerge and express fully.

Everything Can Be Fixed

“There is no need to cry, everything can be fixed!” There was this little boy perched on the stool staring at me as I took my place next to his, in front of my canvas at the local Muse Paintbar.

Since completing the Recovery of Your Inner Child series by Lucia Capacchione, I have rediscovered my inner artist. By now, I am a regular at the Paintbar. For someone who had hidden paintbrushes more than thirty years ago, to become an ‘undercover artist’, I consider myself doing quite well if I look at my collection accumulated in less than a year and the progress I have made.

Indeed, there is no need to cry. After learning the Creative Journaling techniques in Lucia’s books, life did become more manageable. There was a time when I thought being able to cry was a luxury: after I lost my dad, was assaulted, lost my opportunity to go to medical school all in a few months, I remembered walking around like there is ‘nobody inside.’ That went on for many years. New age techniques e.g. crystal, shamanic and equestrian therapies enabled me to cope at work and get back to normal life. Deep down, I had a longing to be like ‘normal’ people. I was unable to tap into my feelings or distant memories. I had become a version of the Grinch, who has a heart “two sizes too small.”

Whether my heart was held prisoner, buried or stolen, I had no idea. All I knew was: joy has also fled from my life. I had thought that being ‘emotional’ was the ill. It was when I learnt Lucia’s techniques that I fully appreciated the notion that it is not about hoping for no rain, but to be able to continue and take joy walking in the heavy downpours of life.

Who does not want the life skills?

I had thought that after all those lost years, art and I are not fated to be together. I was pleasantly surprised that far from having the critic voices in most art classes I attended as a child, in Lucia’s sessions and books, there are techniques to deal with these critics dressed up as well-meaning individuals, including myself.

I also really enjoy putting my feelings down on paper. And guess what? I even found my heart in one of the exercises in her book, The Well-Being Journal, page 37, "The Body Parts Speak."

By using my non-dominant hand to dialog with my dominant hand, I was amazed at what I got to uncover within. This helped me make necessary changes:

Dominant Hand: You seem to be very unhappy?

Non-Dominant Hand to represent the Heart: You bet I am. Yes, I am sad and pissed off at the same time. I am sadness. You always let anger steal the show and that makes me upset.

Dominant Hand: What are you sad about?

Non-Dominant Hand: I am sad because you do not always do the things you said you want to do.

Dominant Hand: Like what?

Non-Dominant Hand: Like writing down the proposal for staff training. Like making time to draw. Like taking me out to play more. Like eating healthier. Like drinking more water. Like stop doing so many unimportant things.

The Grinch’s happy ending and parting words, “To kindness and love, the things we need most," sure resonate with me. Having rediscovered my inner artist, “There is no need to cry, everything can be fixed!” has become a favorite affirmation of mine.

Being in the CJEA (Creative Journal Expressive Arts) community amidst many artists, I found my own heart was not much different from theirs: I learned to see the beauty in everything around us, the good, the bad, and with the knowing that spilling paint is just an opportunity to allow another form to emerge from the canvas. Most of all, I like putting my feelings on paper so they haunt me no more.

Lay Peng Tan



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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Science Catches Up with Mapping Emotions in the Body

When my first book The Creative Journal was first published in 1980, I introduced my method of mapping emotions that get stuck in the body. In the first edition of The Power of Your Other Hand (1988) I devoted an entire chapter to this technique entitled “Finding the Healer Within.” Body mapping is done by creating a simple outline of the body and (using the non-dominant hand) coloring in the physical sensations that are speaking to us at the time. This is followed with a right-hand left-hand dialogue with each body part that has been colored in. The dominant hand asks questions and the non-dominant hand speaks for the body part. The choice of colors used in the body map is very personal and intuitive – there is no right or wrong way to do this. The written dialogues that result are profoundly insightful and usually lead to a decrease in symptoms and often to a complete healing. Many of my readers have reported amazing results using this technique. The detailed instructions appear in Chapter Six of The Power of Your Other Hand along with examples from the journals of my clients and students.

I’m happy to report that in recent years scientific studies have proven the physiological reality of what happens when emotions get stored in the body. The work of Dr. Candace Pert in her book Molecules of Emotions, led the way in scientific investigation of how emotions affect our health when they are not accepted and expressed. We all use terms like I had butterflies in my stomach, She’s a pain in the neck, This job gives me a headache, I’m shouldering too much responsibility, My stomach was tied up in knots, etc.

More recently, Riitta Hari, co-author of a 2014 Finish study on the bodily locations of emotion wrote, “We have obtained solid evidence that shows the body is involved in all types of cognitive and emotional functions. In other words, the human mind is strongly embodied.” Our brains are not disconnected from our bodies. Our emotions actually live in our bodies. Those common expressions as mentioned above have now been verified by science with new imaging techniques.

Embodied emotions have been mapped by neuroscientist Lauri Nummenmaa and co-authors Riitta Hari, Enrico Glerean, and Jari K. Hietanen. They did studies involving more than 1,000 participants in three experiments. These included having people rate how much they experience each feeling in their body vs. in their mind, how good each one feels, and how much they can control it. Participants were also asked to sort their feelings, producing five clusters: positive feelings, negative feelings, cognitive processes, somatic (or bodily) states and illnesses, and homeostatic states (bodily functions). They then made careful distinctions between emotional states, thinking and sensations.

On a computer, the study participants colored blank outlines of the human body, in response to a question about where they felt specific feelings. The researchers used stories, video, and pictures to provoke emotional responses, which registered onscreen as warmer or cooler colors.

Using imaging technology, scientists observed that similar families of emotions tended to cluster in similar places in the body. Anger, fear, and disgust tended to concentrate in the upper body, around the organs and muscles that most react to such feelings. Surprisingly, the so-called positive emotions of gratefulness and togetherness and the so-called negative emotions of guilt and despair all looked remarkably similar, with feelings mapped primarily in the heart, followed by the head and stomach. Mania and exhaustion, another two opposing emotions, were both felt all over the body.

The researchers controlled for differences in figurative expressions (i.e. “heartache”) across two languages, Swedish and Finnish. They also make reference to other mind-body theories, such as using somatosensory feedback to trigger conscious emotional experiences and the idea that we understand others’ emotions by simulating them in our own bodies. Read the full, and fully illustrated, study results in “Bodily Maps of Emotions,” published by the National Academy of Sciences.

Body mapping resources in Lucia’s books:
The Power of Your Other Hand
Hello, This is Your Body Talking
Drawing Your Stress Away
The Art of Emotional Healing
The Creative Journal
The Picture of Health 
(audio) – available only at luciac.com

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