When Laura learned that I was writing this book, she volunteered to be a test subject. In her mid-fifties and divorced, Laura hadn’t dated for several years and indicated that she wasn’t terribly happy with her life at the time.
For our first exercise, I suggested Laura use her nondominant hand to draw a picture of her life. After about five minutes, she showed me her drawing. To my eye, it depicted a childlike image of a house with many windows and the stick figure of a person standing to the right of the house. Next I asked her to write with her nondominant hand the question “What does the drawing mean?” Then I had her switch hands again and answer the question.
Laura explained her drawing with these words: “My house is filled with all this stuff that I’ve bought as a substitute for having a relationship with a real person. No one can come inside my house because it’s too full.” As Laura wrote these words, she started to cry. I told her to just sit quietly for a few minutes.
After more writing and thinking about what she’d drawn and written over the period of about an hour, Laura confessed that she held on to all these possessions because she imagined they could protect her. She had become a hoarder, and the addiction had taken over her life. What I had mistaken for windowpanes were actually piles of boxes inside her house. Although this dramatic revelation occurred during one of my first interviews, almost every subsequent interview I conducted doing the research for this book produced some deep insight that helped the participant get a fresh perspective on their life. I realize it’s difficult to imagine interview subjects would be would be willing to be so vulnerable by sharing their drawings and deep insights about their lives. I’ve noticed when people get in the zone activated by the right brain, they are more able to stay focused in resolving the issue they are writing about. “By nature,” Laura said, “I used to be quite gregarious. I liked to throw parties and share my good fortune with friends. But sadly, no one except me has been inside my house for almost ten years.”
A decade earlier, when her fiancé called off the wedding, Laura retreated from the world. I had her ask herself, “How did this happen?” She replied with her nondominant hand, “You gave up on people. You put all your time and effort into beautiful things instead.”
Rather than concentrate on the central issue in her life, Laura spent more time with her hobby of collecting and reselling antiques. She became so obsessed, in fact, that she couldn’t sell things as fast as she bought them. They piled up inside her house until they closed out the possibility of a primary love relationship and ties with friends and acquaintances.
Laura had fallen into a self-destructive pattern. Though she basically knew she didn’t feel happy, she hadn’t given it much thought. She persisted with binge-like purchases to make her feel a little better. She ignored the boxes in her house because she told herself she could sell the things, if necessary. In effect, she had convinced herself that everything would work out eventually. But that wasn’t the truth.
Seldom does divine intervention, or magic, play a role in uncovering the truth. Yet we often act as though the truth is more easily denied than dealt with. Laura must have figured that, in time, she would find her way out of the hoarding problem and begin again to entertain and to date. Yet instead of confronting head-on either the lie or the truth, she told herself she had better things to do.
Why did this smart, usually sensible woman put so much effort into piling up a wealth of beautiful things just so she could ignore the poverty of her relationships? Did some part of her imagine that her addictive behavior was her best—or only—choice? Was she waiting for something to happen that would break her out of her funk? Is that why she quickly volunteered to try the intuitive writing exercise? Until Laura took that step, she hadn’t given much thought to her own best interests. Or maybe it took those ten years and the piles of antiques to force her to face the truth.
What goes on in the mind when we think about our difficulties? Often, the nurturing mind puts a little salve on the wound and we get on with our business. The rational side of the mind hopes to avoid conflict, pain, or any disruption of the status quo. It simply embraces the notion that there’s no need to enter into the battle of figuring out our truths today. Laura’s rational thinking mind convinced the intuitive and emotive mind to stand down because it argued, “The truth will eventually surface.” Her intuitive side didn’t feel completely closed off from the “decision,” since there was a prospect for the truth to surface in time. Laura, like many of us, trusted her rational mind: since she didn’t have a specific process for tapping into her intuition, she had not developed it or learned to trust it.
Laura believed that the truth behind her behaviors—both her hoarding and her avoiding love—would surface on its own. Rather than put any effort into action that might resolve these problems, Laura spent the best part of ten years “copping out” because she didn’t think she had any responsibility to seek the truth. It would find her when it was ready. And in one way, she was right. The truth eventually revealed itself, but with wasted years of isolation and pain. When she finally learned how to listen to the needs of her unconscious right brain, Laura learned how to get out of delay mode and focus on what she needed to confront.
TRUTH SERUM , DOSE 1 :
“Can the truth set me free?”
The extent to which we tackle our issues, limitations, and problems directly relates to the progress we make in our lives. If you fail to find your uniqueness, or if you’re not true to yourself, such self-betrayal can become a tragic flaw.
On the subject of truth, we have two adages: “Truth hurts” and “The truth can set you free.” Whether or not it hurts to learn the truth, denying the truth certainly can inflict huge tolls on you . . . and on those around you. It did exactly that for Laura. Perhaps, then, the freedom that comes from knowing the truth is little more than freedom from the emotional strain of trying to deny it.
As we’ve seen, the hurtfulness of this lie compounds when the liar abdicates personal responsibility. Laura told herself that she didn’t have to focus on the issue immediately because she believed that “the truth will eventually surface.” Such thinking let Laura off the hook because, through it, she avoided looking more deeply at herself. But what happened when she started to look below the surface after more than ten years? Once Laura recognized and admitted the damaging influence of her hoarding, she continued exploring the possibilities this admission afforded her. I suggested she write down the answer to this question with her nondominant hand
Since I feel so miserable now, should I make some changes in my life?
What happened next amazed us both. Her composure restored, Laura calmly used her nondominant hand to put on paper a nine-point plan that could help her progress beyond the pain and obstructions she’d instilled in her life.
It was almost as if her creative mind had simply waited for this opportunity to present the solutions. Laura stared at her words in disbelief. Half grudgingly, she asked me, “Why couldn’t I have figured this out ten years ago? It makes so much sense, and there’s really nothing stopping me from doing it!”
Over the next seven months, Laura dutifully followed her plan for freedom. At the end of that time she invited a relative to visit and hosted a small party at her house to celebrate the occasion. I watched in amazement as a gregarious, warm, and sociable person came back to life. With nothing more than an hour of using her nondominant hand and some determination, Laura resolved the problem she had wrestled with for ten years.
My appreciation for the complexity and directness of the human mind grew from witnessing Laura’s progress. The bad habitthat had trapped her for ten years practically went up in smoke when I gave her the opportunity to tap into her creative mind. She not only gained the insight that she needed to change but realized exactly how she could go about it.
If Laura’s friends or family members had made the same suggestions she discovered through intuitive writing, I believe that she wouldn’t have followed their solutions. Instead, Laura may have felt judged and become defensive and, thus, more resistant to making the changes she needed. It was because Laura identified the issues on her own terms and experienced her own “aha!” moment that she could proceed confidently to a resolution.
If you believe you’re telling yourself the lie “Everything will work out eventually,” inject some of the same truth serum Laura used by asking
What am I not honest with myself about?
Write this question in your Thought Revolution Journal. Then switch to your nondominant hand to answer the question. If you draw a blank, try asking
Is there something or someone in my life I avoid?
You can follow these questions with
Why can’t I be honest about X? Or why can’t I face X?
Switch hands to let your dominant hand write the questions and your nondominant answer. Your objective is to become a detective and discover whether you are in denial of an essential truth about yourself and the manner in which you keep it hidden.
Ultimately, tapping into your whole mind has the great value of helping you discover what you already know but don’t perceive as the “rational” answer. The easier course of resisting change and avoiding pain usually doesn’t yield positive results, but still we cling to it as Laura did because we know we don’t like pain. By allowing the creative right mind’s resources to slip past the guardhouse of our logical left mind, we can explore the labyrinth of options our whole mind presents.