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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