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, July 25, 2019

Sleep on it: Tapping the Creative Subconscious through Your “Other Hand”

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” -Thomas Edison

When we have to make an important decision, we often use the term, “I’ll sleep on it.” That phrase implies that something will come to us in the sleep state. We’ll wake up with “the answer.” Should I accept this job? Should I move to that house? Should I invest in this business?

History is full of inventions and discoveries that happened in the sleep state. Whether they are “requested,” as Edison recommends, or not, we know that the sleep state gives rise to dreams, images, guidance and even groundbreaking discoveries. Kekule’s discovery of the benzene ring in chemistry (think gasoline) is only one example of a scientific breakthrough that came forth in the sleep state. He literally dreamed the pattern that showed him the formula. It’s no wonder. The visual nature of dreams lends itself to the right-brain process of imagery and pattern recognition.

Dreaming taps heavily into right-brain experiencing. All the functions that the right brain excels in are active in the dream state. Dreams are visual and sometimes very physical (as in dreams of falling, flying, drowning). We don’t even need to know how to do some of the things we do in dreams. I dreamt of skiing once, although I had never skied and I still haven’t. But I can describe to you exactly how it feels to ski down a slope covered with new fallen snow. I did it in a dream.

We all know how emotional dreams can be, especially nightmares. We might wake up shaking with fear after a scary dream, weeping after a sad one, or overjoyed by a blissful dream. We wake up feeling that it “really” happened. A bad dream can cause us to “wake up on the wrong side of the bed" in the morning. We all know what that old saying means. If we don’t recall the dream, we may be grumpy all day and not know why.

Some dreams tap into our natural intuitive abilities to the point of being psychic previews of what's to come. We all have had or heard about “precognitive dreams.” Something the dreamer could not possibly have known on the conscious level actually happens in real life. I once dreamed a doctor of mine was at a party given in her honor and was threatened with death by shadowy figures trying to crash the party. I went to the door and told them to go away and they did. Then she appeared with her long silver hair cut very short. Her appearance surprised me. She had always had long hair worn in a bun and said she would never cut it short. Three days later a mutual friend called to tell me the Doctor had a stroke while out of town on vacation with friends on the weekend. The doctors had to cut her hair for doing brain tests. When I saw her a few days later I knew in advance exactly what her new haircut looked like. I’d seen it in my dream.

Sometimes our nocturnal journeys in the sleep state bring spiritual insight. Holy beings, gurus or advisors might appear with a message, guidance or comfort for the soul. In the last chapter of The Power of You Other Hand, I describe dreams I had in which gurus appeared with powerful messages for me. In one, a guru appeared and was slowly replaced with me as a blissful baby (as I actually appeared in Baptismal photos). I understood from that dream that my Inner Child work had to be the center of my healing work as a therapist and teacher. My Inner Child would lead me. I introduced this guidance from a dream in a chapter in The Power of You Other Hand, entitled Recovery of the Inner Child. That chapter later evolved into a whole book, my bestseller Recovery of Your Inner Child.

Drawing and writing with the non-dominant hand can greatly enhance your exploration of guidance from the dream state. Here are some techniques for remembering and exploring dreams using your non-dominant hand for drawing and writing. When doing dream work, always have a journal or notebook and colored pens next to your bed.

• First of all, follow Edison’s advice. Before going to sleep, ask your Creative Subconscious to send you a message, some inspiration, or the answer to a problem. With your dominant hand write down the project, issue or problem you want help with. Note: If you have trouble recalling your dreams, ask your Creative Subconscious to come through when you wake up. It might take a few days, so be patient.

• As soon as you wake up, keep your eyes closed and go over in your mind any images, words or actions you recall from your dreams. You don’t need to remember every detail. Isolated images, words or actions will be enough.

 From The Creative Journal, Swallow/Ohio U, 2015
• Open your eyes. Do not engage in activity or conversation with anyone. No texting, phone calls or chatting with others. With your non-dominant hand draw any images you recall. If it was an auditory dream and you can’t recall visual images or physical actions to draw, then go directly to the next step.

Using your dominant hand, jot down your first impressions of the dream (dream fragments, if that is all you can recall).

• Do a written dialogue with each visual image in your dream. (If there were a lot of them and you don’t have time, do more dialogues later on.) Start with the first or most powerful image. With your dominant hand, ask questions of the image. Who or what is it? How does it feel? Why? Why has it appeared in your dream. What does it want from you? Finally, what does it want for you? A gift? A lesson? Your non-dominant hand writes the answers (speaking for the image in your dream).

Harvest the wisdom of your Creative Unconscious. Sweet dreams!

Order The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari Press 2019) at Amazon.com

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Grief Work Using the Non-Dominant Hand

This week’s guest blogger, Elva Villarreal, is a practitioner of Creative Journal Expressive Arts and Visioning® Coaching. After teaching school for many years she became a workshop leader, coach and facilitator of cancer support groups for H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Emotionally), held at McAllen Public Library in McAllen, Texas. After her mother’s death, Elva wrote a book entitled I Am Here, illustrated by artist and CJEA colleague, Lisa Brown. Elva works with professional caregivers, therapists and counselors, and includes non-dominant hand journaling in her workshops.

Grief Work Using the Non-Dominant Hand

I often introduce workshops with movement to Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms recordings. I usually use selections in which Gabrielle narrates body parts for inspiring spontaneous movement. She also has music covering many moods and allowing for physical expression of feelings. There are no dance steps or instruction in how to move. All movement is improvised in response to the music. We follow this with Dancing on Paper, in which participants scribble out feelings to music with their non-dominant hand using whatever colors feel right to them.

Then I read my book and have the group journal about someone they miss. It could be a loss through death or other kind of separation. They use their non-dominant hand to draw the person. Using their dominant hand, they write the qualities of that person which they love and miss. Then on another sheet, through the non-dominant hand, the other person writes them a letter. Participants then partner up to read each other’s letter to one another.

When working with professional caregivers, I start my workshop with a presentation of concepts of healing through art and writing, and the technique of using the non-dominant hand. I often get left brain questions and discussions about clients such as: "What are the steps to get a client to access the right brain?” “What if a client doesn’t know which color he should choose or what he should draw, and he keeps asking questions for reassurance?” etc., etc. I am able to quiet them down when they do the exercises. That’s when I often see a flood of tears!

Caregivers often have personal losses as well as the deaths of patients or residents in care facilities with whom they have been working. They need the opportunity to process their grief. It is helpful to do this collectively in a group. They also express their grief about other things in their lives such as a recent cancer diagnosis of a loved one, early loss of a parent, “empty nest syndrome,” stress, and a need for peace and balance in life.

These workshops for therapists and counselors highlight the fact that professional caregivers also experience tough things in their personal lives. They too have a need for processing feelings and nurturing themselves. I am reminded of the series of workshops offered by Creative Journal Expressive Arts instructors Vicki Muir and Marsha Nelson for therapists in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I joined this CJEA team to present five days of workshops to different groups of therapists. I also had the privilege of leading a children’s workshop, with Vicki doing a drumming activity at a Children’s Grief Center, while Marsha worked with their parents. We were able to show professionals dealing with their own losses from the hurricane how to care for others while taking care of themselves.

Elva Villarreal

“Use of the non-dominant hand for drawing and writing opens up buried feelings and allows them to be released from the body onto paper. The wisdom and comfort that result provide a powerful support during the grieving process. Furthermore, a practice of journaling during a period of grief is extremely helpful. Grief knows no timetable, so journaling can be done anytime feelings of sadness or missing a loved one come up.” –Lucia Capacchione

Order The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari Press 2019) at Amazon.com

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Giving a Voice to Art

Our guest blogger this week is Suzette Morrow, art teacher at Coast Union High School and Santa Lucia Middle School in Cambria, California. She is also a graduate of Creative Journal Expressive Arts and Visioning® Coach Training. Suzette is currently working on a Masters Degree in Fine Art and has been using her non-dominant hand in explorations of artwork that has been emerging for a student show. As you will see, journaling is part of her creative process. The brown and white sculptures below are accompanied with a journal entry written with both hands. The sculptures speak with her non-dominant hand.

Giving a Voice to Art

These sculptures were what showed up one by one in my art making without knowing why. I sat down and drew them first. Then I used Lucia's method of journaling with them asking them why they were there. I was so surprised by how dominant the inner critic was in my unconscious. 

Suzette giving a voice to her art through journaling with her non-dominant hand
About a month ago and 30 sculptures later, they started getting smaller. Now they are pill size and I plan to put them into a glass jar for the first round of shows for my MFA. This will be to get critiques and feedback on my process, so it is the source as well as the product. 
 The Many Faces of the Inner Critic
These are my inner critic pieces. They are getting smaller, but still persistent. These are part of my show.

Suzette Morrow
Follow Suzette on Instagram @suzettemorrow
Order The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari Press 2019) at Amazon.com

Thursday, July 4, 2019

You Can’t Give from an Empty Cup

Non-dominant drawing and journaling is being used for training healthcare professionals with great results. This post illustrates the value of in-service support using these methods. Contributed by Dr. Marsha Nelson, she is also co-founder and supervisor of my Creative Journal Expressive Arts Certification Training Program.

You Can’t Give from an Empty Cup

I have been using the Creative Journal Expressive Arts (CJEA) methods for over 27 years for myself and others. During the past two years I have had the honor of introducing Dr. Lucia Capacchione’s methods to a group of dedicated caregivers at a memory care facility in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. These dedicated caregivers tend to their patient’s needs lovingly and with an extreme amount of patience. This is all well and good, but wait, who offers these caregivers any compassion? As Dr. Capacchione makes abundantly clear, “You can’t give from an empty cup.” The administration of this memory care facility has been VERY supportive of their staff members by inviting me to offer the CJEA tools with their compassionate care-giving staff members.

I have created a caregiver’s stress release program which uses the CJEA activities of clay, mask-making, collage, Dancing on Paper (using markers to scribble their stress out to music), journaling using both the dominant and non-dominant hands and movement activities. Currently, I offer the staff 1 to 1 ½ hours worth of self-care activities quarterly per year. I present Dr. Capacchione’s pioneering technique of using the non-dominant hand to draw and then journal with the drawing using both the dominant and non-dominant hands.

I create a topic for each visit to the memory care facility. I talk about the topic for at least 5 to 6 minutes. It could be the topic of grieving the loss of a patient or loved one. First step is to have them draw a picture of how they felt when they learned one of their patients had died. This is followed by a conversation with the drawing to see what it has to say to them. I guide them to write four basic questions with their dominant hand. The answers are written with the non-dominant hand, speaking as the drawing. For participants whose first language is other than English, I always invite them to write in their mother tongue. The human brain is hardwired to the sound of our mother’s or early caregiver’s voice, and our childhood emotion-laden memories are often encoded in our first language. For this reason the language we first heard is important when expressing emotions through journaling.

The four basic questions I share with the participants are as follows:
  • Who or what are you?
  • How do you feel?
  • Why do you feel this way?
  • What do you have to say to me?
  • Optional - Is there anything else you would like for me to know?
The caregivers find the act of using their non-dominant hand to be relaxing and insightful as well as fun. I often hear comments such as, “This drawing is better than when I use my dominant hand!” or “I can’t believe this information I have received by using my non-dominant hand!” During my latest visit, the accountant in the office next door to the workshop room shared with me, “I see our employees going into your workshops looking stressed and when they leave they look happy and they are smiling.”

Coaching these employees in balancing their stress with self-nurturing will help them feel better by keeping them emotionally and physically healthy. Here are some responses to an evaluation form question about whether or not other employers had offered them self-nurturing tools:

"NO, never has a company cared about how I feel or has offered any self-care tools.”
“Typically we are only offered training in patient care.”

In addition, another staff member commented as follows: “What you are offering to me is helping me become more aware and understanding of myself as a caregiver.” Dr. Capacchione stresses, “Giving from an empty cup is like poisoning the chicken soup.” When are companies going to wake up to the fact that compassion comes with a price tag? The few hours that this company has donated to their employee’s mental health certainly will help with employee retention and less sick days due to being overly stressed. Undoubtedly this will also lead to higher quality care for the residents.

I look forward to my next visit to California and working with a great staff of caregivers who value our CJEA tools.

Marsha Nelson, PhD
CJEA & Visioning® Training Supervisor
956.802.9993 cell/text
Order The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari Press 2019) at Amazon.com