Is there a difference between handling a problem the right way and or handling the right problem? To set the context, we need to acknowledge a potential difference between the right and the wright hand. Knowing the difference is key to explaining and resolving many seemingly intractable problems, when common-sense fails.

What's left when common-sense fails?

When common-sense fails 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 solve the problem, what's left? The first step is to adopt Descartes' and the Ancient Greeks' definition of common-sense.

Common-sense is when what we see agrees with what we hear and feel. It is not, as commonly used, when everyone agrees!

The meanings of /right/

  • right----  spatial: -opposite to left
  • wright--- craftsmanship: arkwright ... kenwright ... playwright, and of course Mr Wright
  • rite ------ repetition: the Christian ritual of making the sign of the cross with the right hand
  • write ---- representational: thinking with a pen in the hand and on paper

Knowing which/right/  to use and when can be labelled  handling the hegemony of the 'right'.  For those born 'the right way' there would be harmony between the hardware of our biology (an adept right hand)  and the sofware of our (language of human rights) culture. For those born left handed the position is fundamentally different. For how can 'lefties' be said to be handling things the right way while do it the left way? Here the potential for disharmony is built in from birth.

But the issue is not whether one is right or left handed but whether we write with the wright (adept) hand because in literate societies we are defined, in large measure, by how well we read and write. Failure to acknowledge the potential for a mis-match between the particular way the brain controls the hand on the one hand and the way the hand is induced by our culture to act in a particular way constitutes a core body-mind problem. In its less innocuous form the mis-match expresses itself as a feeling of being ill-at-ease. In its more innocuous form it is a common co-factor in a variety of of intractable problems. The mis-match can be given the short-hand label 'latent or converted' handedness.

Problems with formulations and problems with tools

Most problems are embedded within other problems, hence their protracted nature.  An initial problem is how we formulate our problems. Some personal problems appear to be primarily practical and therefore solved gradually over time (eg: how can I learn to drive a car?).  Others appear to be primarily conceptual and therefore solved 'suddenly' by definition (eg. what is dyslexia and am I dyslexic?). All problems however are have both aspects.

The secondary problem is that since life is not problem-free, having problems is not the problem. It is when problems get in the way of living that we're confronted with an intractable problem. They will get solved, if at all, by re-formulating them and changing the tools we're using.

Common-sense tells pessimists "I've tried everthing and nothing works", and  tells optimists "I think the problem is greater than it seems, and I might need to use different tools". (To jump ahead of the 'story' read brief details about some of the cases).

Is our common-sense the same?

To predict whether we're probably going to be able to solve our problem or not we need to see which of the following we accept as indisputable facts:

  1. infants don't learn how to do what they do by looking, listening and following instructions.
  2. infants do learn by interacting with objects and other agents
  3. other agents have their own ways of acting and interacting
  4. an insatiable curiosity, mimicry and repetition are an infant's principal tools
  5. brains are malleable throughout the life-span, able to make and break connections
  6. in short, we live by doing, enduring and enjoying (or avoiding)
  7. children and adults often experience confusion
  8. confusion is an emotional and mental state, with social and physical aspects
  9. confusion is either worked through or avoided
  10. a dogmatic, reasonable or utter sceptical attitude determines what we're prepared to accept
  11. some will be preoccupied with whether nature or nurture is responsible for our problems
  12. vested interests often determine how we act
  13. not all facts constitute evidence for or against an issue
  14. and finally, no one can please everyone all the time!

Well, how many?

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

Framing tools or diagnostic labels?

One of the main reasons why so many problems remain unsolved is because we neglect to be explicit about our framing tools and are instead obsessed with finding the right diagnostic label. The reason for this is simple: the 'right' label frequently confers particular social benefits and legal entitlements. A more productive alternative is to acknowledge that diagnostic labels are merely short hand descriptions. The hegemony of the /right/ is an overarching framing tool. Other tools include:

  • 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,  through accident (ignorance) or design (vested interest), we 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'

Re-formulating the core mind-body problem: right brain - left hand

When we hear that someone is in two minds over some matter or other, we don't t think of them as having two brains. And yet there is a sense in which we do indeed have two brains. But we call them cerebral hemispheres. Although the two parts of the whole brain interact with each other by a bridge (called the  '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 after all!!

What, you might ask ,does this have to do with for example offending, recidivism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, stuttering, depression, radicalisation and a host of other seemingly intractable problems? Well, the simple justification is that it is the same brain that has to learn how to handle its own body as has to learn to handle both the conceptual and the practical problems the world throws at it.  And the key conceptual-practical  'problem' in any literate society, is reading and writing with fluency.

It now stands to reason that failure to confirm that the observed writing hand  is indeed controlled by the wright adept-hand cerebral hemisphere inadvertently prolongs any permanent solution to a whole variety of derivative intractable problems.

Enacting a strategy to identify latent / converted handedness doesn't demand any particular practical expertise. It demands instead a profound change in our use of framing tools such that we question   how the brain is organized and orients itself. This 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 or adult 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 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 from dealing with the presenting problem. 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.

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. And what do many do, but make the world suffer!

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 a mis-match between the writing and the adept hand
is NOT a co-factor causing or sustaining the presenting problem?

This is seldom asked because we assume everyone tries to do the right thing, the right way. Indeed, why would brains deliberately try to make life more difficult for their owners than needs be?



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