************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Images and Tools

A Brief Reprieve

For more than a week after Father’s Day, 2008, I had the longest string of good days I had experienced in years. We got two puppies, that week, I spent a lot of time with my children, and I felt generally happy and full of energy. My journal entries were all positive and incredulous, with an underlying fear that the fall would come.

Back to Work

The big drop in mood did indeed come, and a rush of reactive, memory-induced anxiety came along with it. I say memory-induced not because I remembered something specific, but because I was aware that the feelings I was experiencing were not about anything that was currently happening in my life. I knew that they were driven by things from my past.

This understanding was, in itself, a big step in the right direction. In the past I had always viewed my moodswings as something beyond my control - something that happened to me sometimes, often out-of-the-blue, for no apparent reason. Understanding that these mood swings were caused by something felt like hope because it meant I might be able to find the cause and be in control of my life in a whole new way.

One tool I've used a number of times to help me figure out what part of my past is triggering my present anxiety is “Alternate Hand Writing”. Briefly, the idea is to talk to the part-of-self that is being triggered, whether it is a dissociated part or just a set of memories from the past.

With the dominant hand (for me this is my right hand), I ask questions. The questions are directed at the triggered part-of-self as if this was a separate person. With the non-dominant hand (my left hand) I answer the questions.

Every time I've tried this, I would have a nagging doubt in the back of my mind as to whether any answer to my questions would come. I needn't have worried. Almost always, the answer popped into my head soon after I switched the pen to my left hand. It felt almost mystical or magical, the answers almost seeming to write themselves.

This is a tool anyone can use, any time. It can help you identify what you're feeling and why. I've included examples in my memoir, "Through the Tiger's Door".


  1. The alternate hand writing is an interesting concept. Your art is lovely.

  2. I can't take credit for the concept of Alternate Hand Writing. It was suggested by my therapist and I suspect it was not her original idea, either.

    It really has worked very well for me.

  3. Like Tricia I find the alternate hand writing really interesting. This is something I'd like to try.

  4. If you do try it, I'd really love to hear how it worked for you. It's worked well for me, but I am quite curious how it works for others.

  5. Hi Shen:

    Thanks for the kind comments. I find this very fascinating. I will have to come back and re-read when I'm not so tired.

    RE: There is a followers thingy at the bottom of the blog somewhere.

  6. Thank you for sharing so completely, leaving almost nothing behind.

    I never dissociate to the point of forgetting what I did. Though recently, I've started to completely forget events, but it's only short periods, like not remembering ever adding salt to the soup, but knowing the salt is there because I can taste it. I assume it is just aging.

    However, I do waste a lot of time daydreaming--entire days.

    When I was reading your left-right hand conversation, it stroke a cord. My heart beat fast, and I stared to tear up. It seems like I do suffer some level of dissociation and that I do need to get in touch with deeper parts of myself.


  7. Dear one I just wanted to respond to what you posted on my blog:

    "I've been trying to understand how to forgive, how to let go, how to go on as if it never happened..."

    Dear one, I struggle with this too. I think we need to keep in mind that what has happened to us, is a fact, but then forgive in time. But, never deny that we did experience what we did.

  8. Unrepentent, I'm glad if anything I said is helpful to you. I understand how hard it is to identify or understand or admit to self or others what is really going on with dissociation. On some levels, everyone dissociates. It was a long time before I admitted to myself that what I was experience was different from what others were - even when it should have been obvious.

    I wish you luck and peace on your journey.

    Just be real, thank you for reading, understand and for the insights on forgiveness. Even that word is still somewhat uncomfortable for me, but I am approaching a place where I can see it as a possibility.

    Love reading your blog.

  9. the alternate hand writing is amazing. i hadn't heard of this before. i'm so glad you have found another tool that is helping you understand and connect to the different parts of yourself.

    the lapses in memory sound very scary. i can understand your fear.

    i do not know personally what you are going through, as i have never been dissociative in this way.

    but i wonder if as you integrate, it will be not as scary as it might seem to be, but more like finally all the pieces of a puzzle together and being able to see the whole image. because it is all you, right? it's just different parts of you that have become disconnected in order to protect yourself.

    i like to think that our psyche knows what's best for us. it knew how to protect us in the first place, that's how we dissociated. and i think our minds choose to reveal themselves to us as we become strong enough to be able to handle the reintegration of traumatic memories, and so perhaps too with parts of the self that were split off.

    i would think the important thing to do would be to not force yourself. to do what you can to ensure that you feel safe and protected. but i think it sounds like you do a very good job of that already. :)

    my best wishes to you and all the parts of you, as you work through this time, getting more in touch, increasing the communication between the parts. ((safe hugs))

  10. The alternate handwriting gives a context for self-reflection. I like it. I will try it some. Though... a bit scary.

    There are so many things you said in your post that are so important. You could just, if you wanted, tease out the answer to the question: "When you are out, I don’t exist" and make a whole post about that. I do like reading your posts and I am happy with however you decide to post. But I do have a suggestion. I wonder if it would help you, in addition to what you currently do, to make focused posts centered around a single key idea. I say that because I think you may learn more. It's only an idea. You can take it or leave it.

    Couple other comments:

    The bipolar shift. I wouldn't immediately normalize it as that. In many ways you don't validate your experience. At least that's how it comes across. For example, you say you feel connected to the inner core and things around you, but then you just discount it by saying "probably just lack of sleep". Regardless of the cause, your experience is genuine. People strive to experience connections like this. You are lucky you have. With time, you may be able to experience them without it being caused by lack of sleep. Do you see my point?

    You are doing great, Shen. Keep up the good work.


  11. Oh, and congratulations for having the "longest streak of good days" in years. This is something to be proud of! Paul.

  12. Mountainmama - I love the Alternate Hand Writing. It has worked well for me several times, now.

    As I am integrating, I am finding the concept less scary. I am speaking here of things that happened about a year ago.. (see dates of journals/emails) so I am further along in the process than the post indicates. I am writing it in this way because I think I can see what I've gone through better from this perspective than I could in the past.

    Some of my posts are from the present, and when they are not I have them dated - just to avoid confusion. Either way, it's all me and I am so glad to have your input and support.

    Paul, You are exactly right about it being a "context for self-reflection." Sometimes it is so hard to just look within and figure out what is bothering me, what is triggering a certain set of emotions. I think this is a way to clear away everything else and focus only on one part of what is going on inside... sort of a strainer in the soup, pulling out the things that need to be removed.

    I know what you are saying about staying with one key point. It is so hard! I am pulling out sections about a week at a time, and there seem to be a multitude of things going on any given day. I feel like these things are connected in some way, and I hope that as I go bqck and reread these, later, I will be able to find those connections.

    Thank you for pointing out and validating my experience about feeling connected. You are not the first to tell me that I do this. I do tend to wash over things, exactly as you describe, so it is invaluable to have you point it out to me here.

  13. oh i didn't notice the dates at all. that's great you look back to past writings to reflect on your progress and seek further insight and connections. :)


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