Retraining my Brain


I had surgery last week to repair a tendon in my right wrist, which happens to be my dominant hand. With my hand wrapped up like a giant cocoon, I am learning a few lessons quickly.

  1. There are many daily tasks that we perform without much attention or awareness.
  2. My non-dominant left hand is slow and clumsy.
  3. I cannot multitask as I did before.
  4. I am slowing down to a methodical plod with each task.
  5. I am compensating by using my left hand a lot.
  6. This may not be such a bad thing.

“The non-dominant hand is actually linked to the non-dominant hemisphere in your brain – the one that isn’t exercised as often. There are studies that show that when you use your dominant hand, one hemisphere of the brain is active. When you use the non-dominant hand, both hemispheres are activated, which may result in thinking differently and becoming more creative.”

Perhaps I am accessing more creativity, and maybe even growing some new neural pathways by doing stuff with my non-dominant hand. But there is more to this process than the physicality of what things I can or cannot do.

In the past few days I’ve noticed how impatient I am with myself and how hard it is for me to step back from doing all the things I wish to do. Having to ask others to cut my food, open containers and bathe me has made me feel vulnerable and even embarrassed. It has required me to humble myself and to allow others to care for my most basic necessities.


“Nurse” Alexandra gave me a bath today.

As child life specialists and hospital play specialists, we provide care to patients and families at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. Their lack of autonomy due to physical constraints is exacerbated by being foreigners in a medical culture where they have very little say in their care. Some of the physical and emotional challenges children and families face may be life long, as opposed to my brief encounter with being hobbled.

It is a gentle reminder for me to think about my situation as a parallel process. I must work hard to reframe how I view my own inadequacy, treating myself with gentle patience as I work towards building up the strength in my hand. I can also model patience and compassion for my students, as they grow and learn and make mistakes at their own natural pace. Beginning with myself and extending what I learn to my students, I can toss a stone to start the ripple effect, so that they may provide the same for the children in their care. When they encounter an “acting out” child or a “difficult” family, perhaps they will be able to empathize with what it is like to be so very vulnerable and dependent on the expertise and goodwill of others. When we treat ourselves kindly, all flows from this.

6 thoughts on “Retraining my Brain

  1. I’m so proud of you! You are always trying to look at things in a different light! I would love to be more like you!

    Sent from my iPhone



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