Materials: paper, set of felt tip pens in assorted colors.
- Sit quietly, focus inward. Get in touch with a body part that is painful or diseased.
- Draw an outline of your entire body. Then, in color, draw in that body part. (If you're not sure what it looks like or think you can't render it correctly, just use your imagination.) In your picture, color the painful or diseased part. Use colors that express how the body part feels. For instance, if the pain is a burning sensation, use a "hot" color like red or orange. If there's a lump or other distortion to the body part, include it in your drawing.
- Interview the body part by writing questions with your dominant hand. Let the body part or disease write the answers with the non-dominant hand. Use two different colors, one for each hand.
Ask the following questions:
A. Who are you? or What are you?
B. How do you feel?
C. What caused you to feel this way?
D. How can I help you? What do you want me to do for you?
Observe any new understandings of what may be causing your discomfort or illness. Have you gained any insights into what part you can play in the healing process?
The following story is a classic case of successful healing through medical treatment combined with right/left hand dialogues. When I met Erin, she was in her mid-twenties, a bright, outgoing young woman shopping for a career. She had a degree in Art and was interested in becoming an art therapist. Like Pamela, she came in for career advancement but went out with tools for healing herself.
Over many months of journal-writing and drawing in my classes, Erin experienced a recurring theme: a chronic bladder infection (for which she was receiving medical treatment). In retrospect she described her healing experience as follows:
Somehow, I always knew that if I had a physical problem and could decode what it was trying to tell me, I could clear the problem up. Every time I drew a picture of how my bladder felt and then conversed with it, issues would come up. I started the process of looking at things about myself and my life that I hadn't wanted to look at.
The biggest problem was a friend with whom I was having great difficulty. In my dialogues, it became very clear that this person was not healthy for me. But I still had to struggle with what to do about it.
My doctor at that time was a well known physician who practices holistic medicine. That is, he takes life situations in to account when diagnosing and prescribing a "cure." Since I had gotten in touch with the problem friendship in my journal writing, I was able to talk more freely about it. After hearing what I said, the doctor finally said to me: "This person is causing your bladder problem. If you want to heal it, drop this so-called friendship." I knew he was right. He confirmed what my dialogue had said. His words really got through to me. I finally dropped that person from my life and when I did my bladder problem disappeared.
What I've learned from all this is that my body goes out of whack when I'm doing something I shouldn't be doing. It tells me I'm on the wrong track. For me, this usually involves a friendship that doesn't nurture me, a relationship that is not healthy. If I stay in those non-nurturing relationships, I break out in rashes or develop infections.
Another student who started a deep inner healing process through dialogues with a physical discomfort is Jill. As a child, Jill wanted to become an actress when she grew up. But emotionally she wasn't able to follow through with her childhood dream and take it into adulthood. Instead she did what was expected of her, got married and had children. As she puts it, she became "Mrs. Somebody" and "Somebody's Mother."
After years of taking care of everyone else while ignoring her dream, Jill took a stand. She started seeing a therapist and also took one of my weekend journal workshops, where she discovered the healing power of her Inner Child through a right/left hand dialogue. "It was a major breakthrough in my life," she recounts. Her first dialogue was a conversation with her headache. As she wrote, she soon contacted the Little Girl within who had been silenced for so many years.