Welcome!

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

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Cancer, Faith, and Kindergarten Art: Pat Clark’s Journey Through Cancer

In August of 2015, my dear friend and colleague in our Creative Journal Expressive Arts community, was diagnosed with stage four cancer (lymphoma). When I heard the news I was in shock. I’d lost a friend to lymphoma years before and knew her condition was considered incurable. But Pat is a warrior woman and she took cancer on with all the tools she had: her faith in God, her two-handed journal techniques from CJEA training, a pile of old faded construction paper, scissors and glue. She also had a wonderful support system in family and friends and treatment at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, where she lives.

After a career in broadcast journalism, raising a family, and serving as a Presbyterian minister for over two decades, Pat entered a new chapter in her life. She embarked on a journey through cancer leading to her book, Feeling the Shift: Cancer, Faith, and Kindergarten Art.

Her deeply moving story of a courageous, creative and faith-filled approach to this dreaded disease started in her own journal and expanded as entries in an online support community for people dealing with cancer. I was honored to be part of her support team at Caring Bridge, and was moved by each posting, which included writings and drawings done with her non-dominant hand and bold, child-like collages expressing her feelings and challenges with cancer and chemotherapy. We were allowed to witness what it’s like to live with cancer, from the inside out.

Like most people, Pat felt she was no artist. As she says in her book, “My artistic skills stopped developing after I marched out of preschool at 4 years of age because a teacher criticized my choice of colors for an art project.” It’s a too-familiar story of how we get cheated out of our natural birthright as inherently expressive, creative beings. While still working as a minister Pat had done expressive arts training with me, which she admits changed her life. She knew the power of “getting it all out on paper” and showed others how to do that. It became another form of her ministry. She helped others give themselves permission to express their innermost feelings and wishes. Yet Pat still had an Art Critic living in her own head. As she says in her book, “The work is crude, but gentle, and if I can silence the powerful inner critic that lives within me, it becomes valuable and healing.”

Drawing of body with cancer
She had taken classes with Lisa Brown, an accomplished collage artist, art teacher and instructor of Creative Journal Expressive Arts methods. Pat couldn’t go out to buy art materials due to her immune system being severely compromised, so she made do with old faded construction paper lying around the house, left overs from her days of raising young children.

About her Tree of Life collage, Pat wrote that she was “surrounded by love on all sides, held securely and protected where the loving God alone is enough, my source and my strength.” She later described this collage to me as a form of prayer. Her faith and her art were coming together. She knew then that God was at work in her behalf and the energy had shifted within her body. God worked through her friends as well. Art paper started appearing at her door and in her mail box. She began receiving the supplies she needed to continue her journaling and "kindergarten art."

Tree of Life collage
Pat underwent chemotherapy at MD Anderson in Houston, where she lives, enduring all the challenges, physical pain, and emotions that such an ordeal brings with it. On the Caring Bridge posts (and later in her book), she gave us an inside glimpse of what it’s like to be diagnosed and treated for a condition that is considered terminal. In facing death, Pat’s two-handed journaling, her “kindergarten art” and her connection with God all combined to teach her a lesson about life: How to live in the eye of the hurricane and not be swept away by it. How to not be a victim, but to find serenity and inner peace in the midst of chaos.

Eye of the Hurricane
I personally felt the shift when Pat shared on Caring Bridge a written dialogue with her Inner Critic. As I read her non-dominant hand confrontation with the voice of self-put downs, I literally felt a shift in my gut. It was physical, tangible. The words came to me: There it is. Pat just beat cancer. She stood up to the critic. She’s not taking this lying down. I was so sure of it that I wrote to Pat and shared my reaction to her post. She later told me she was really shaken after doing that dialogue.

She did, indeed, beat cancer. However, it came back a couple of years later. This time cancer had a lesson to teach her about boundaries, saying Yes to herself and No to others. She entered chemotherapy again and resumed her journal work. Her journaling revealed that she had gone back to life as usual after the first round of treatment, and had abandoned her creative expression. She had to learn to say No to things that interfered with her inner life, creative self and inner knowing. The message was that she could not live without creative expression. Pat got the message.

She asserted herself with doctors, following her gut and body wisdom, and discontinued the second round of treatment. In the face of everyone else’s opinions, professionals and family alike, she persisted in listening to her inner guidance. Her first oncologist had himself died of cancer. The second oncologist informed her that there was no research showing what would happen if a second round of chemo was discontinued. She stood strong. “Then I’ll be the first case study,” she told him. That was two years ago and Pat is cancer-free. She continues her inner work through journaling, prayer and self-care. And she has a new ministry: a truly precious guide to cancer from the inside out in the form of her book.

For those of us who have lost a loved one to cancer or any terminal illness, or anyone diagnosed with one, this book is a treasure. Pat succeeded in what she set out to do. She shows us how to find peace and serenity in the eye of the hurricane. And, hey, come to think of it. You don’t have to have cancer to need this book. We all face hurricanes of confusion, doubt, chaos in daily life. Thank you, Pat, for this powerful road map.

Lucia
www.luciac.com
www.visioningcoach.org
Order The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari Press 2019) at Amazon.com

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Benjamin Franklin on the “Other Hand”

While on a recent book tour in Silicon Valley, I spoke at the Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park, hosted by Kensington Place of Redwood City Memory Care. As I left the building I encountered a life size statue of Franklin on a bench near the entrance. My friends took a photo of me “meeting” Ben. He had a lot to say about the “other hand.” You’ll find out how he felt about the non-dominant hand later in this post.

In Chapter 2 of The Power of Your Other Hand, entitled “The Upper Hand and the Other Hand,” I discuss the historical prejudice against the left and everything associated with it. This prejudice of the majority (“righties”) against the minority (“lefties”) runs throughout history. In fact every language, except Hopi and Classical Chinese, have words for left that also mean clumsy, handicapped, weak, paralyzed, left-over, stupid, crooked, malicious, deceitful, evil, etc. You get the idea. Gauche means left in French, but English-speaking folks use it as a put-down. Gawky, meaning awkward, even looks like a mispronunciation of the word gauche. In Italian, sinistra means left. Change a letter or two and it becomes sinister in English. Mancini, another Italian word for left, is also used to mean maimed, defective, stupid.

The acquisition of literacy all over the world has been accompanied by the mandate that “the right hand is the correct hand for writing.” That was true in our American schools at one time, but over the years things have changed. Generally, lefties are allowed to be lefties. What happens at home is another matter. Some parents might still be imposing right-handedness, especially if they came here from a culture that is prejudiced again the left hand.

Of course technology has brought ambidexterity to writing. We all “write” with both hands — on computer keyboards. “Thumb writing” for texting is another whole topic I won’t go into, but notice that people do use both thumbs.

I began introducing people to their unschooled, non-writing hand in 1974 when I was in graduate school researching and developing my methods. Over the years I have met fewer and fewer people who are “switch-overs” (lefties forced to become right-handed for writing and drawing). Now they are usually over 70 and went to school when kids got ridiculed, slapped, or punished in some way for the audacity of writing with their natural (left) hand. There is a section in The Power of Your Other Hand on switchovers and the emotional damage this practice caused. Based on my research into more recent science on the physiology of trauma, I now believe being forcibly switched over caused severe neurological damage as well.

While dining with a man from India recently, I was told that children there must do their school work with their right hands. Left-handedness is not acceptable when it comes to writing or drawing. I’ve heard this about a lot of other countries as well, especially in Asia and the Middle East. Over the years, students and workshop attendees have told me they were made fun of, beaten, given a dunce hat to wear, had their left hand tied to the desk chair, and in the worst case, one had the left hand broken by a teacher. This happened in Pearl Harbor in a military school during WW2. The boy, now a man, held his hand out to show me the scars. The teacher slammed his hand with a wooden 2 x 4 because he persisted in writing with his left hand. I gasped! But he then grinned and told me the rest of the story. Fortunately, when this military family returned to the US mainland, his new teacher allowed him to use his natural hand. He actually chuckled while telling me that he had maintained his left-handedness for writing throughout his life in spite of this early injury to body and soul.

Benjamin Franklin

If you think this topic of the prejudice against the left hand is a new one, think again. Benjamin Franklin, statesman, philosopher, author and inventor was a proponent of education for both hands. As a believer in training for ambidexterity, including writing with both hands, here’s a letter he penned, that appears in Chapter 2 of The Power of You Other Hand. It was written on behalf of his “other hand.”

A Petition To Those Who Have The Superintendency of Education

I address myself to all the friends of youth, and conjure them to direct their compassionate regard to my unhappy fate, in order to remove the prejudices of which I am the victim. There are twin sisters of us; and the eyes of man do not more resemble, nor are capable of being on better terms with each other than my sister and myself, were it not for the partiality of our parents, who made the most injurious distinction between us.


From my infancy I have been led to consider my sister as a being of more educated rank. I was suffered to grow up without the least instruction, while nothing was spared in her education. She had masters to teach her writing, drawing, music, and other accomplishments, but if by chance I touched a pencil, a pen, or needle I was bitterly rebuked; and more than once I have been beaten for being awkward and wanting a graceful manner.

Must not the regret of our parents be excessive, at having placed so great a difference between sisters who are so perfectly equal? Alas! We must perish from distress; for it would not be in my power even to scrawl a suppliant petition for relief…

Condescend, sir, to make my parents sensible of the injustice of an exclusive tenderness, and of the necessity of distributing their care and affection among all their children equally. I am, with profound respect, Sirs,
Your obedient servant,
THE LEFT HAND