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In last week’s blog, we discussed one method of journaling through anger, a method referred to as “morning pages” by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. For this week, we will focus on a second method of journaling, which involves writing with your non-dominant hand (the hand with which you rarely write). This method is described in detail in Lucia Capacchione’s book, The Power of Your Other Hand.

Writing with Your Non-Dominant Hand

Since childhood, just about all of us became comfortable writing with one hand over the other. Sure, a few of us became ambidextrous and could write comfortably with both of their hands, but most of us learned to write with either our right hand or our left. My non-ambidextrous friends—I have a secret. It is a secret I learned while reading Capacchione’s book, one that changed my life, and I believe it will change yours too.

Are you ready for it? Here it is….

Your non-dominant hand has more wisdom, guidance, healing power, and connection to creativity than you ever thought possible. It offers a direct source to your authentic emotions, your inner child, and (for those of you who are spiritually-oriented) a higher, spiritual power.

So, how does this process work?

It’s pretty simple, actually. The next time you feel angry, hurt, or upset, simply grab a sheet of paper, a pencil, colorful pens, markers, and crayons. Starting with your dominant hand, write out a question to your non-dominant hand. The question could be something like the following: “Hi there. How are you feeling right now?” or “Do you want to share what you’re angry about?”

Whatever question you ask, make sure to let your non-dominant hand know that whatever she or he has to say is entirely acceptable. If you promise your non-dominant hand that you will not judge any part of it, then it will feel safe enough to freely express itself. Once you’ve made this agreement between your hands, allow your non-dominant hand to respond to the question posed by your dominant hand.

When you write with your non-dominant hand, your writing will most likely look like a kindergartener’s writing—let it be so! You’ll be amazed by what your non-dominant hand has to say through writing. Hidden emotions, higher wisdom, deeper hurts and wounds…..any and all of these may appear. Consider letting your non-dominant hand write with the medium of its choice; if it wants crayons, pass them over! If it wants markers, go for it! Simply go with the flow of your hands, and let a conversation between both hand ensue. You may even notice the voices change from hand to hand. For example, your non-dominant hand may have started out as the voice of an angry child, but transformed into the voice of a wise sage by the end of the dialogue. That’s perfectly okay! The purpose of this journaling exercise is not to “get it right,” but to let the creative flow guide you toward a place of greater understanding, acceptance, and healing of all parts of yourself. Most of all, enjoy the process—this can be quite fun!

People talk a lot these days about the benefits of journaling. They say that journaling can be highly effective for helping people process their emotions. Seems easy enough, right? Well, simply writing your feelings down on paper can be effective, but to get the most out of the journaling experience, consider experimenting with different methods. In this blog post, we will focus on one particular journaling method, called Morning Pages.

Morning Pages

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and many other fabulous books, offers a powerful way to express your feelings through what she named “Morning Pages.” The way it works is simple. In the morning, when you wake up, the very first thing you do is sit down at your desk with pen and paper in hand, and you write. NON STOP. Until you’ve completed four pages.

What?!?! Four pages?!? Why so many? The reason is this: during the first couple of pages or so, you’re practically vomiting all the garbage in your mind onto paper (yes, vomiting!). All the negative thoughts and emotions, misunderstandings, irrational beliefs, complaints, and hurts you carry around with you…they’re usually the first to come up and out on paper. So let it rip!

The trick is to KEEP GOING—by letting it all out, you give yourself the space to get beyond the negativity, and toward the truth.

But don’t stop yet! Once you’ve expressed that part of yourself, you can finally get to the heart of the matter and find out what it is you really want and need. As you keep writing, you may start to feel a shift in your energy. Perhaps you feel a sense of relief, a greater connection to love and joy, or maybe even an insight about yourself and your life. Whatever it may be, the important thing to note is that you keep writing until the negative charge has dissipated. When you experience yourself residing in either a neutral or a positive place, then you know that you’re done journaling.

Congratulate yourself!

Imagine yourself hiking along a meandering dirt path with a friend on a breezy day, enjoying casual conversation as well as the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the wind upon your skin. In the midst of your serenity, your eyes briefly dart upward and ahead, and (gulp) that’s when you see it: a huge monolith, standing tall and proud, casting a giant shadow across the ground. You feel a chill run down the back of your neck, all the way down your spine, because you realize, “This is the rock I’m going to climb.”

Now, most of you reading this post are most likely not rock climbers, but I’m sure you can imagine how attempting to climb a seemingly insurmountable rock is a lot like attempting to accomplish anything in your life that seems overwhelming, stressful, and even impossible at times. As a climber of some scary rocks myself, I assure you—just about anything in life is possible, even conquerable. The trick is learning how to manage your fears and stress, which are nothing short of illusions.

Since I started rock climbing, I’ve learned 3 major lessons about how to move through stress and fear, lessons which I believe apply to every day life situations, such as: writing an essay, completing a work project, planning a vacation, or decorating your living space.

Lesson #1: Take it one step at a time. I know you’ve heard that before, and it’s become quite cliche, but seriously—literally take your goal and focus on one little itty bitty step at a time. If I kept staring at the top of the rock I was climbing, lamenting how far away I was from the end goal, I would most likely not reach the top very quickly, or not even at all. However, if I decide to only focus on the handholds and footholds right in front of me, no more than 5 feet above my head, then I’m sure to stay present with the task at hand. It is here, in the NOW, that I feel centered, focused, and relaxed, as opposed to fearful and stressed out.

Lesson #2: You can do more than you think you can. Yes, another cliche, but oh so true! When I began climbing at the gym, I would only climb pink and yellow colored routes. Why? Pinks and yellows were considered to be the easy routes, and I believe I could only climb at the easy level. Luckily, fellow climbers would often encourage me to climb a green route, a blue route, and sometimes (dare I say) even an orange! Well, guess what? I was able to climb an orange route, simply because I tried. This victory helped me realize that the seemingly unconquerable tasks are sometimes more conquerable than we think—we just have to be willing to try, even if it means making a fool of ourselves.

Lesson #3: Your biggest falls are your greatest triumphs. How can that be so? Your falls provide the greatest opportunity for learning and growth. In addition, they free you from your fear of falling (and failing). Once you experience falling, you no longer fear it, because you know what it’s like. In my own experience, I attempted to climb a route outside that was slightly beyond my capability at the time. I was scared to climb it, but I did it anyway. I climbed the first three quarters of the rock gracefully, but by the last quarter, I was feeling tired and shaky. I tried to hang on for dear life, but I couldn’t fight the inevitable, so I finally let myself fall (a good 20 feet, mind you). Surprisingly, all I could feel was a sense of exhilaration—I fell, and I didn’t die!! Not only that, but it was actually kind of fun, and I realized that falling wasn’t so bad after all. SO, when you are working toward a goal, and feel the terror of falling creeping in…remind yourself that falling itself can be its own success, as it has the potential to free your from your fear of it.

Stress and fear can be an everyday part of our lives. But, I assure you—when we take these lessons and apply them to the goals we create for ourselves, we can learn to manage our stress and our fears, and become the most empowered, strong, and centered versions of ourselves.

“Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to.”
—Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger

Many of us believe that anger is a bad thing. We’re told various messages about the negative aspects of anger, such as:
“Let go of your anger. Just move on.”
“Your anger will only end up hurting you.
“Anger is detrimental to your health.”

While these messages are generally true, it is not always so easy to simply “let it go.” If it were, we’d all be walking around, as enlightened and as happy as the Buddha!

However, by reframing anger and looking at it in a new way, we can see the hidden benefits of this powerful emotion and the events that trigger our own inner anger.

Let’s start with an example. Imagine you are waiting in line at the grocery store, and someone tries to cut in front of you. Immediately, you may feel that old, familiar feeling of anger rise up inside yourself. Maybe you want to yell at the person and tell him/her to go to the back of the line. Or maybe you want to push that person away. Whatever the reaction, it’s clear and simple: you feel TRIGGERED.

So what’s the benefit of being triggered, you might wonder? How can this possibly be a good thing???

Well, here it is—any time we feel triggered or upset by something that happens outside of ourselves, no matter how small the event may seem, it is simply a spiritual opportunity for us to heal an old wound that has yet to be healed.

What this means is that some time in our past, we developed some misbelief or misunderstanding about life (ex: “People always try to take advantage of me”). This belief has become so ingrained in our consciousness over the years that we actually re-create situations in our lives that reinforce this negative belief. Thus, if our misunderstanding is that people will try to take advantage of us, we will look for evidence of people doing this to us, and when it inevitably happens, we will likely feel angry and upset.

According to spiritual psychological principles, as taught by faculty at The University of Santa Monica, each time we feel triggered, we are actually being given an incredible opportunity to look inside ourselves and heal a part of ourselves that needs to be healed, once and for all. Keep in mind, we must be fully ready and willing to do the inner work necessary to heal the situation; however, once ready and willing to change, we can reframe our outdated belief system, forgive ourselves, and choose behaviors that allow for more love and joy in our lives.