I’m no salesman, but if I were, I would sell people on the amazing benefits of two-handed writing. Not a dime would change hands, so the benefits would all belong to those of you willing to give this unconventional technique a try. I’ve been teaching two-handed writing to my psychotherapy clients for 28 years, helping them change and/or heal their minds, but the benefits reach much further than self-healing.
My own introduction to two-handed writing came from reading a book aptly titled ThePowerofYourOtherHand(1988, 2019), by art therapist Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D. In short order, this simple technique began transforming both the personal and professional sides of my life. Two-handed writing is just what it sounds like: you take two pens (markers or pencils) and begin a written dialogue between your left and right hands. It’s like journaling on steroids.
Two-handed writing is effective for several reasons that may or may not make sense to you. But as I tell my clients, care less about understanding why it works and more about the fact that it just does. Perhaps you already know that the brain has two hemispheres, the right and left, connected by a bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. Your left hemisphere controls the right side of your body, and your right hemisphere controls the left side. When you dialogue with two hands, your left and right hemispheres begin communicating with one another directly through your corpus callosum, and this bi-brain exercise is one of the reasons the technique works.
The benefits of inter-hemispheric communication is analogous to having two parents with different skill sets working together to manage all the demands of family life. One parent might be more adept at understanding
and managing emotions, while the other might excel at managing the children’s behavior. One might be good at logical reasoning, and the other better at thinking creatively. One might have more knowledge, and the other better intuition. When they combine their diverse assets, their family will benefit more than other families in the neighborhood who either don’t communicate or argue when they do. Collaborative dialogues between different minds is an enormous asset under any circumstance, and that is precisely what two-handed writing provides.
The human brain is wired for an astonishing range of capabilities: logical reasoning, creative thinking, analyzing, intuiting, organizing, beautifying, inventing, socializing, communicating, learning—and the list goes on. Over the course of evolution, the two hemispheres developed in ways to specialize in different capabilities. But not everyone’s hemispheres are identical. Although there are common differences regarding the specializations of each hemisphere, there are variations in how their skills are distributed. It’s even possible for talents to migrate from the damaged hemisphere to the other with certain brain injuries. Whatever the case, the most effective way for the mind to work is by having the two hemispheres collaborate like the best of partners. Some examples will help.
One of the most valuable inner dialogues you can have is between your rational mind and your emotional heart. So many communication problems occur because people’s heads and hearts are not in sync with one another. Two-handed writing dialogues help integrate the reasoning of the head with the unique emotional needs of the heart.
Heart-to-heart conversations are valuable dialogues for comforting distressing emotions. If you don’t have anyone readily available to have a heart-to-heart with, your two hands can serve this function just as well—and possibly better—than having a dialogue with anyone else. This works by having one hand perform the role of the nurturer, while the other is the one needing to be nurtured.
You can have dialogues with specific parts of your mind, too. For example, most people have an inner voice that berates them with harsh criticism and perfectionistic expectations. Two-handed writing can be used to have more constructive dialogues with the inner Judge in order to help tame its excesses. It’s akin to teaching a hot-headed coach to become more like a supportive teacher.
In addition to connecting the two hemispheres, two-handed writing provides a shortcut to the subconscious mind. Something that many people don’t realize about their subconscious is that it’s populated by a range of subpersonalities that each serve different values and functions. Psychologists have come a long way since Freud introduced us to the id, ego, and superego, one of the first classifications of intrapsychic subpersonalities. Today there is a popular therapeutic school called Internal Family Systems (IFS), developed by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., that describes a larger cast of characters in the psyche. Even Hollywood has caught on; in the Pixar movie InsideOut, the drama of an 11-year-old girl in crisis is seen played out among her subpersonalities: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. Two-handed writing makes it easy to communicate with any emotion or subpersonality in the mind and even enables them to communicate directly with one another.
These amazing claims about two-handed writing are hard to believe until they are actually experienced. If you’re curious to learn more about how to do it, there are several books that will help you get started. In addition to ThePowerofYourOtherHand, Capacchione’s RecoveryofYourInnerChild (1991) is also outstanding. Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius(2014), by William Donius, highlights the use of two-handed writing
Whenever you need to come up with new ideas or solutions to a problem, brainstorming with others is a great way to do it. But once again, you can do this using two-handed writing. You’ll be surprised at the information that will emerge from your subconscious awareness.
If you’re wanting to grow in your personal life, career, creativity, relationships, or to heal your inner wounds, two-handed writing is an amazingly powerful tool, providing you with a nurturer, teacher, wise person, creative thinker, therapist, problem-solver, and best friend, all within the reach of your two hands. Check it out.
for empowering career and personal growth. My forthcoming book, Whole Mind Healing: A New Path for Changing Your Life by Healing Your Mind (Summer 2019), teaches readers how to use two-handed writing to heal their minds and hearts.