Some problems are practical and solved gradually over time, some conceptual and solved 'suddenly' by definition. Many are a combination of both. Whatever the type, how questions eventually get answered or problems get solved depends more on how problems are posed, questions framed and on the tools we're using, rather than the questions or problems in themselves. Problems or questions aren't the major difficulty, which is, when problems are overwhelming and seemingly intractable and questions seem unanswerable. At this stage the hole we find ourselves in grows deeper and darker. With sufficient insight we call for help, and if we're lucky someone will hear.

If we're unlucky outside help also fails. Does this mean the question is unanswerable, the problem genuinely unsolvable or does it mean the wrong tools are being used. Optimists assume the problem is deeper than it seems and that other tools are needed. (To jump ahead of the 'story' read brief details about some of the cases).

To establish whether problems really are intractable we first need to see which of the following statement we can accept as indisputable facts:


  1. infants don't learn how to do what they do by listening to then following instructions
  2. infants do learn by acting on and with objects
  3. among the 'objects' that infants act with are other acting agents
  4. other agents have their own ways of acting and interacting
  5. driven by an insatiable curiosity infants' principal tools are mimicry and repetition
  6. brains are malleable throughout life, able to break old connections and make new ones
  7. adults live by doing, enduring and enjoying (or avoiding)
  8. children and adults often experience confusion
  9. confusion is an emotional and mental state, with social and physical aspects
  10. confusion is either worked through or avoided
  11. our dogmatic, reasonable or utter sceptical attitude determines what answers we accept
  12. there'll always be a debate over whether nature or nurture is responsible for our problems
  13. vested interests will often determine what we're prepared to acknowledge
  14. not all facts constitute evidence for or against a given matter
  15. no one can please everyone all the time

Well, how many?

If you're OK with opening cans of worms, read on! 

A core problem

What's left when common-sense and trying to do the right thing, the right way, at the right time, in the right order and in the right place, doesn't give the answer or solve the problem? Well, it isn't obvious but how about examining the bio-logic of what it means to be 'alright', right' or 'not right'?

The rationale is simple. Early in child development the brain has to learn how to interpret the utterance "right", which they'll later discover has four overlapping orthographical representations: right, write, wright and rite.

  • right-----opposite of left
  • wright---indicating craftsmanship as in: arkwright ... kenwright ... playwright, and of course Mr Wright
  • rite--------as in ritual
  • write -----with a pen in the hand 'thinking' on paper- and its variants

But how does a brain know which right should be used when? Complicating the picture is the fact that some are born naturally right(handed) while others are born naturally left (handed). For right handers there is harmony between being bio-logical right and culturally right (if one is acting correctly). For left handers the position is different; they can be culturally right while acting left. This sets the scene for the the hegemony of the 'right' to operate. One consequence is the potential for a mis-match between the way the body orients itself (say, right) and the brain is organized (say left). This leads to a core body-mind problem, that can be labelled latent / converted handedness.

Framing tools or labels?

One of the principal reasons why some questions remain unanswered and problems remain unsolved is because we're more concerned with the right label for the 'problem'. We fail to ask which 'right' tools- metaphorical and literal we should be using:

  • 4-sided pyramid
    represents a faceted model of the individual, where the physical, emotional, social and intellectual aspects of individuals are not regarded and treated as separate entities which may or may not intereact with each other for better or worse. The pyramid represents an integral entity which is either in harmony with itself and the world or it is not.
  • Ice-berg
    represents the fact that the problems we 'see', are often, the tip of greater and deeper problems which we fail through accident (ignorance) or design (vested interest), fail to acknowledge.
  • Jig-saw puzzle
    represents the fact that all parties to an interaction hold some of the pieces of the puzzling worlds in which we live. One task, then, is to lay out the pieces face up. Another is to allow the bigger picture to emerge through a progressive 'fitting-together' strategy.
  • Cusp catastrophe graph
    represents the fact that when 'insight' occurs it occurs suddenly (catastrophically) by breaking through previously (and often unintetionally) created barriers. The cusp-catastrophe is only one of seven catastrophe surfaces dealt with by Rene Thom.
  • World-views : mind sets : explanatory schemas ; mental frameworks
    differences in world-view (mental set, explanatory schemas, mental framework) explains why experts working in the same field often disagree with each other. World-views determine what facts we seek, how we seek them; and what we accept as evidence and what we neither seek nor accept. The best general account of world-views in Pepper's World-Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence. Mary Douglas uses much the same analysis in her book How Institutions Think.
  • Pen and paper
    unlike 'talking therapies' pen and paper is used as another key 'thinking tool'

Right brain - left hand

Although we sometimes say we're in two minds over some matter or other we generally don't say we have two brains. Instead we label the two brains 'cerebral hemispheres'. This captures the fact that the whole brain, looking face on, has two parts -left hemisphere and right hemisphere. It is important to note this because, although the two parts interact with each other by a bridge (labelled 'corpus collosum'), the right brain 'controls' the left side or the body and the left brain the right side. So the left hander is in their right mind!

Why do we need to know this when dealing with for example offending, recidivism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, stuttering, depression, radicalisation and a host of other seemingly intractable problems? Well, if we're not to be left in the 'no-man's land' black hole, we need to acknowledge that it is the same brain that learns how to handle both the conceptual and the practical problems the world throws at it or it doesn't. One such key 'problem' in any literate society, is reading and writing with fluency.

Failure to confirm that the writing hand is matched to the wright brain inadvertently prolongs any permanent solution to an intractable problem.

Such a solution doesn't demand much expertise for how the brain is organized and orients itself can be spotted early on in childhood by noting, for example, which leg leads when climbing, then later, descending stairs; which the 'holding' hand when spinning round a vertical pole and which hand is being used when the child becomes agitated or frustrated when tackling new tasks.

However, because, we live in a world of Universal Human Rights there is an implicit bias for us to interact with everything the right way. even if one is left handed.  It may not be obvious but we cannot assume that just because someone prefers to write with their right hand that they are using their adept hand. Nor indeed that the left hand is the adept hand when writing with the left hand!

Attending to the hand-brain link instead of debating which label to use for the presenting problem seems at best a distraction. Yet an indirect link between the thinking hand and the manipulating brain is indicative of a core body-mind problem. This is why the mismatch between the adept and the writing hand appears so frequently as a co-factor in so many presenting problems.

But first we should clarify some terminology relating to hand use by defining writing, adept, preferred and latent hand operationally.

  • The writing hand is easily self-defined by observing which hand is used for writing.

  • The adept hand is the hand better able to read the mind's eye image with seemingly effortless ease and record it on paper.

  • The preferred hand is, as the name implies, the one we choose to regard as our 'right' hand

  • The latent / converted hand is unknowingly or unwittingly writing with the non-adept

In summary latent / converted handedness indicates someone out of harmony with themselves and therefore potentially out of harmony with the rest of the world as well.

Wilful blindness

Failure to eliminate a mismatch between the writing and the adept hand, as a co-factor in any presenting problem when conducting evaluations for psychological, educational,  medico-legal or legal purposes, incurs heavy financial and emotional penalities, particularly for the education and the penal system. Its neglect results in ineffectual Personalised Education and Professional Development Programmes or making inadequate Reasonable Adjustments in the Work Place for Fitness-to-Work treatments. The greatest cost-savings are in respect of depression,  dyslexia and recidivism.

The meta-question when trying to solve interpersonal and personal problems is:

What constitutes necessary or sufficient evidence that the mis-match between the writing and the adept hand
is NOT a co-factor causing or sustaining any presenting problem?

This question is seldom asked because we assume that everyone tries to do the right thing the right way. Why indeed would 'a brain' deliberately try to make life more difficult for itself and its owner than otherwise needs be?



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