THE PROBLEM

The Primary and Secondary Consequences of Converting Handedness

The fact that the converting of inborn handedness which has been and is being carried out on the basis of societal prejudices (i.e. a mechanical adherence to traditionalism; would-be reasons of practicality; laziness; ignorance; and often even reasons with a religious-ideological background) has massive consequences, especially if one is using the non-dominant hand to write with. This converting is contrary to the natural state of the human being. Converting handedness does not result in a converting of brain dominance. Instead, it results in an over-loading of the non-dominant half of the brain and an under-loading of the other half. Accordingly, there are also resulting difficulties in transference in the corpus callosum which in turn could probably result in the appearance of the widest range of primary consequences.

Writing is a process of the greatest complexity. Moreover, because it involves many different brain functions, it is also one of the most difficult tasks; one which only human beings have developed and come to grips with. The pre-dominant use of the non-dominant hand leads to complex functional disturbances, inhibitions, blockages, and an over-burdening of the entire brain. During writing, the greatest variety of cerebral skills are included here. Examples are the fine motor skills, speech, the pictorial representation of imagination of the series of letters as well as the simultaneous chain of thoughts, associations, graphic representations, memories, and recall of previously learned material which also run throughout. Scarcely any other human undertaking is comparable to writing in its multifaceted connections between the most differing brain functions. Accordingly, it is understandable why the overburdening that comes from converting handedness can lead to tremendous disturbances.

The possible primary consequences of converting handedness are as follows:

These primary consequences can then transform into various differing secondary consequences:

Of course, all of the primary and secondary difficulties listed above could also appear without the converting of handedness and they are just as prevalent in left-handers as in right-handers. However, as has been found in practice, through the additional converting of handedness these difficulties, are incalculably increased.

Thus, the converting of handedness negatively intervenes into and inhibits the course of the cerebral processes. It drives people to continually use more energy to mobilize their intelligence than left-handed or right-handed people who have not been disabled by the consequences of converting would find necessary.

The level of intelligence itself is not diminished. Only itsmanifestation is disturbed. For example, in the formulation and expression of thoughts, the recall of learned material in writing and speaking, etc., at least thirty percent or more energy is required. This finding has been substantiated by practical experience, observation, and comparison.

In the Consulting Center for Left-handers and Converted Left-handers, an attempt was made to precisely quantify this increased amount of average energy required. In contrast to the many earlier scientific studies, a wide range of data from 4,510 subjects was available for study.

Even today, this data still accumulates throughout the uninterrupted hands-on activity of the Center. Here, whenever possible, entire families are tested along with other available relatives. In addition, the cooperation of the members from the interest group for left-handers was also called upon. Accordingly, large, heterogeneous groups of left-handers, converted left-handers and right-handers, right-handers, and clinical cases were created and precise studies were undertaken. The heterogeneity of the research population was ensured in this way as much as possible.

At first, the relationship between fatigue and the ability to regenerate and concentrate were of interest. The data gathered showed a strong dependency upon physiological variables. Moreover, the hypothetical energy increase of 30% needed by converted left-handers was almost always surpassed. This result become even more significant when the test design was expanded to include factors dependent upon memory, the ability to learn, the storage and the recall of material. In some instances, the values revealed were even twice or three times as great. A direct correlation between the age, gender, health, and personality characteristics of the subjects as well as their intelligence, education, and profession become manifest. Even the time of the testing and ethnicity of the subject were influential. The issue of lateralization of the cerebral hemispheres in connection with the converting of handedness is not manageable within a research project. Instead, in reality, it constitutes its own field of research. For the hands-on work of the Consulting Center, neither exact numerical value nor precise percentage is relevant, however. Rather, the very substantiation of the finding that converted left-handers in comparison to those people who have not been converted continually have larger energy requirements is both necessary and of much greater importance. This finding is also similarly relevant, of course, for converted right-handers.


 
 

Methods of Converting Handedness and a Clarification of Terms

The course of events which are subsumed here under the term "converting" can be quite different. There were times when the trait of left-handedness was beaten right out of children as a rule. Striking the left hand, binding it to the body, or as was often the case, tying it to a chair or a table, forced children to write with their non-dominant right hand. There have even been cases in which doctors have reportedly encased the left hand of children in plaster. No less drastic were the methods which relied upon the berating, punishing and/or the withdrawing of affection, toys, or rewards for successes achieved in other areas.

Just as bad, however, are the so-called "soft methods" of converting handedness where instead of utilizing corporal punishment or control, either a system of reward or cajoling with arguments tainted with moral overtones is used. "Soft" psychological terrorization, is still terrorization. Children have a natural need for love and attention. Many are very easily influenced by the withdrawal of attention and love. There are parents, who cajole their children into using their right hand with fantastic presents. For example, a child is given a semi-precious gem in one hand, while being made to write with the right hand. The child is then allowed to keep the gem if the child continues to practice diligently with the right hand.

And then there are children who convert themselves over to the right hand so that they can be better accepted into the right-handed society. This is especially true of sensitive, bright, strong-willed and intelligent children. Such children often demonstrate a strong propensity for copying the behavior of others. They want to be just like all of the other children. They don't want to stand out. They want to integrate themselves naturally and casually. They long for attention, acceptance, and recognition. (See Chapter 7.3.2, section: "I don't wanna be a left- hander!" The Insidiousness and Meaning of Modeled Behavior.)

Irrespective of whether the method of converting is "gentle" or punitive, the functioning of the brain is affected in any case and the result has negative consequences with overwhelming regularity. Just how great these effects are, depends upon other factors. Among these, talents, unique personality characteristics, and the supports available to the child are the most influential. Such factors help determine whether the child persists and completes school and training without massive disturbances. Or, as is more often the case with left-handed children who have been converted, the children will drag themselves through school and life. Often forced to repeat grades, and sometimes fall so far behind that they are either placed in special schools or drop-out. Others, finding other routes of education, cram, slave, and cram again while they continue doubt their own intelligence and try to compensate for their difficulties with hard-work.

The term "converting" will be used also for those left-handed children who convert themselves or in cases where the process of converting took place so early in either the parent's home or kindergarten that the children arrive in school as "right-handers".

Incidentally, for those children who fall into the latter case, the term "pseudo right-handers" was formerly used. This term stressed above all the fact that a change of handedness by converting the motor pathways is only somewhat possible (i.e. pseudo). The dominance in the brain is not changed. The person only partly behaves as a right-hander. Therefore, while writing is done primarily with the right hand, other activities which require precision and power, for example drawing and painting, are still performed with the dominant left hand.

In the American literature a term which makes more clear the consequences of converting is used. "Brain-breaking" as it is often referred to, characterizes the drastic set of events which occur in the brain much more clearly than the terms "changing over", "converting", "re-educating", or "reversing" handedness. (Sattler, Johanna Barbara, The Converted Left-Hander or the "Knot" in the Brain. In German: Der umgeschulte Linkshänder oder Der Knoten im Gehirn. Auer Verlag, Donauwörth, 1995. 5. Auflage 1999).

The historical and sociological reasons that people have invoked in order to privilege right-handedness will be addressed in Chapter 5, in the book The Converted Left-Hander or the "Knot" in the Brain.
 
 
 

© Copyright: Consulting and Information Center for Left-handers and Converted Left-handers
(Erste deutsche Beratungs- und Informationsstelle für Linkshänder und umgeschulte Linkshänder)
Sendlinger Str. 17, D - 80331 Munich (München), Germany / Europe, Tel./ Fax: +49 / 89 / 26 86 14
http://www.lefthander-consulting.org, e-mail: info@lefthander-consulting.org