Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Left handed experimentation, making the dominant go quiet for a bit.

A  few weeks back I had a left handed day.  I needed to give my creative side a bit of a boost.  Some thoughts had been colliding in my head but looping. They weren't wrong, they just weren't going anywhere. It started out as a normal day, became a left handed day and then a left handed themed few days. It was worth the effort.

I wanted to give the right hand side of my brain some deliberate dominant time. The right hand side of the brain seems to be the place activated when engaged in creative, artistic, musical and lateral thinking. To quote from the great virtual hivemind demi-god Wikipedia,

"While functions are lateralized, these are only a tendency. The trend across the many individuals may also vary significantly as to how any specific function is implemented."

The right hand side of the brain controls the left hand (usually) . The left hand side of the brain is associated with  linear thinking and apparently rational ;-) thought. There is a lot of stuff out there to read and understand about effects, tendencies and variations with the wiring of the brain. I was watching what happened with me, and hoping that a shift such as this would encourage other shifts. That was my test. There is some suggestion/thesis that the right hand brain has a more direct access to the unconscious too, which I am curious about.

I am naturally right handed, but luckily not overwhelmingly so.  My left hand takes a supporting role.  Noticing which hand operates for preference and then reversing it has an interesting effect on how you think, what you think and what you do,. It also affects the speed at which you do things.  This is pretty obvious, of course it will!

But think - what else can happen when you do things slowly?

I had intended to have a left handed day, but even though I declared it out loud it took a while before my hands believed this. So as I reached for the kettle, the fridge, my pen  and the animals, I'd have to stop and remember to reach for it with my other hand. Just the mere fact of noticing how much you rely on one part over another was salutary. I started out believing I wasn't overwhelmingly right handed, by the end of the day, I'd reconsidered that thought. So everything I did became less automatic and more considered. This was in part what I wanted but really only the first stage.

I changed nothing when driving.

I really started noticing what happens when your left and right hand play clearly complementary roles in a normal task, like peeling fruit, unravelling something, sorting through coins.  I noted  that for some tasks not only did I have to consider what things had to happen, but in the reversing, sometimes they had to happen in a different way. That sets up some odd sensations generally: an awareness and concentration that isn't normally present. It is learning in a way that you don't normally get to experience as an adult very often. It's quite exhilarating

I knew this already hence my decision to experiment in this way. A few years back, I had to learn to sit up, stand up and walk all over again. This was a fascinating and exhausting experience.
This set my thoughts flying beyond what I was doing.  I routinely anthropormorphise things; so my right hand thumb became the confident leader who wanted to take control and the left hand thumb was in a supporting role. Just trying to swap around which thumb does what and expecting it to happen does not work. The right hand goes out and does stuff, the left hand stays at home,  but is essentially there to support when the right hand needs it. This sounds bizarre, as I read those words - but if you test it out and watch your hands and fingers you may see what I mean.

Some tasks just couldn't be accomplished by a straight swap of physical movements, some things had to be done in different ways. Playing with that, doing things radically differently or just in a nuanced way, it was pretty easy for me to make a leap to what happens in organisations when there is a leadership shift. When someone who previously had a supportive role, who had a sense of how things should be, because they had been part of it for a while and then when in a leading role realised that everything they had understood needs to be re - examined in light of both the new requirements AND the new perpective.  Similarly when watching my right hand adjust to a supporting role and the muscular temptation of it to just take control - when a leader has to step into a different place and watch a new leader do things.  This proved to be a very rich seam of thought for me. This also seems to apply in families too, watching as people take control and responsibility for their lives - or attempt to.

Try tying up shoe laces, or a knot of string the other way around. Don't use a mirror, do it as if the other way around Would be the way you do it normally . Peeling potatoes...found myself going very slowly there :-)
I extended this over a weekend in the end and watched what happened walking the dog, putting on his lead, his harness etc.

I was blackberry picking during this time too and this proved for me to be one of the most worthwhile bits of the experiment. The simple act of holding the bag for the berries in my right hand and doing the picking using my left hand, led to a concentration, focus AND at the same time width of general thinking about STUFF I need to think about that was rich and rewarding and just a little bit mad. ( well a lot mad!)  I also noticed useful changes in my peripheral vision.

I also swapped which hand I wrote with and this had an effect on how I recorded my thoughts and plans. The context of my thoughts was the same but the way I approached the context shifted in a very useful and complementary way.

All in all it was worthwhile, weird and normal at the same time and it accomplished the thought shift I thought it would.

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