• Should left handers tackle all tasks and problems the right way?
  • If left handers tackle tasks / problems the left way, are they wrong?
  • What if the handness we think we are (psycho-logic) is not the hand we really are (bio-logic)?
  • Indeed, what does it mean to be right or left handed and how do we know which we are?
  • One complication is that in English, "the right way" has two meanings: with the right hand, and the correct way. 
  • For reasons which are not immediately obvious, one key to understanding and treating those with seemingly intractable problems is to determine whether there is a mis-match between their adept (wright) and their writing hand. Note: not whether they are right or left handed!
  • Finally, what's left when common-sense fails?

What's left to do 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, hasn't solved our problem?  First, we need to define common-sense as did Descartes and the Ancient Greeks and second list the differing meanings of the word (we pronounce as) "right".

Common-sense according to Descartes and the Ancient Greeks  is when our senses agree with each other. In other words, when what we see agrees with what we hear and feel. This is a fundamentally different definition as commonly used, when everyone agrees!

The meanings of /right/

  • right----  opposite to left - spatial
  • wright--- signifying craftsmanship:eg. arkwright ... kenwright ... playwright, and of course Mr Wright
  • rite ------ ritual / repetition: eg. greeting each other with a right handshake
  • write ---- 'thinking' with a pen and paper

Handling the hegemony of the right

Knowing which sense of /right/  to use and when can be labelled handling the hegemony of the 'right'.  For those born 'the right way' there is a harmony between the hardware of their biology (i.e. being adept right handed)  and the programming sofware of our culture (i.e. language - of human rights) . For those born left handed the position is fundamentally different. Although they may well be in harmony with themselves if they tackle tasks the left way, how can they then be said to be tackling tasks the right way? We know that many cultures and at different times in the past this issue was resolved by inducing or coercing lefties to be righties.

But to emphasize the key issue: it is not whether one is right or left handed but whether one writes with the wright (adept) hand. For the simple reason that 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 brain-controlled adept hand on the one hand and the culture-controlled right hand  other constitutes a core body-mind problem. At best the mis-match expresses itself as an ill-at-ease feeling. At worst it is a co-factor in 'causing' a great variety 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.  This constitutes a meta-problem of how best to formulate our problems. For example, some personal problems appear to be primarily practical and therefore capable of being solved gradually over time (eg: learning to drive a car).  Others appear to be primarily conceptual and therefore solved 'suddenly' by definition (eg. what is dyslexia?). All problems however have these two aspects.

Few lives are problem-free, hence having problems is not the problem. The problem is when problems get in the way of living. Then we're confronted with intractable problems which will get solved, if at all, by their re-formulation, while also changing the tools we're using to solve them.

Common-sense, but not as defined by Descartes, tells pessimists "I've tried everything and nothing works", and therefore "nothing else will work". It tells optimists "I think the problem is greater than it, at first sight,  seems, and I therefore need to use different tools". (To see the effectiveness of this approach read brief details about some of the cases).

What are common-sense facts?

Which of the following can we accept as indisputable true facts:

  1. new born infants don't do what they do by following instructions.
  2. infants 'do' by acting on and with objects / agents.
  3. other agents have their own ways of acting and interacting.
  4. an insatiable curiosity, mimicry and repetition are an infant's 'doing' tools.
  5. brains are malleable throughout the life-span, capable of making new and breaking old connections.
  6. 'learning' is a dummy word for doing, enduring and enjoying (or avoiding).
  7. when confronted with unfamiliar tasks children and adults often feel confused.
  8. confusion is an emotional and mental state, with social and physical consequences.
  9. confusion is either worked through or avoided in a dogmatic, reasonable or utterly sceptical cognitive manner.
  10. our cognitive manner is revealed by what we're prepared to accept as evidence with respect to a particular issue.
  11. asking whether nature or nurture is responsible for how we tackle tasks is a non-pedagogic question with vested interests on both sides.
  12. not all 'facts' constitute evidence for or against an issue
  13. and finally, no one can please everyone all the time. We're lucky if we can please some of the people some of the time!

Well, which facts  do we agree on?

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 obsess instead over the right diagnostic label. The reason for this is simple: the 'right' label confers particular social benefits and legal entitlements. A more productive alternative acknowledges that diagnostic labels are merely short hand descriptions. Here the hegemony of the /right/ is posed as 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'

Right brain - left hand: re-formulating a core mind-body problem

When we describe someone as being in two minds we don't  picture of them having two brains. And yet there is a sense in which we do indeed have two brains but which we call cerebral hemispheres. These two parts of the whole brain communicate with each other by a bridge (called the  'corpus collosum'). However the key issue in terms of body-mind harmony is that 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 solving intractable problems like offending, recidivism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, stuttering, depression, radicalisation and a host of other problems? The simple justification is that it is the same brain that has to handle its own body as has to handle both the conceptual and the practical problems the world throws at it.  And the geatest conceptual-practical  'problem' in any literate society, is reading and writing with fluency.

Clearly 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 consequential  intractable problems.

The only expertise involved in identifying latent / converted handedness is 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 with the 'language' 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 arguing over which is the right label for a presenting problem seems at best a distraction from the presenting problem and at worst an irrelevance. Yet if the direct link between writing with the adept hand (ie. what one 'sees with the mind's eye image) is broken it means that an additional 'transfer' of information must take place between the 'thinking / seeing' cerebral hemisphere and the 'enacting' cerebral hemisphere.

We should clarify the 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 who is out of harmony with themselves and therefore potentially out of harmony with the rest of the world as well. And what do many with this condition 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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