Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brain Juggling

Poppy gave me a gift certificate for the bookstore this Christmas, and last week I finally used it. It wasn't easy. I don't know why, but now I wander the aisles and think, "Huh. Is this information I could just as easily and deeply access over the internet? Is there anything here I'd really benefit from buying?"

But I bit the bullet and bought the book. "The Brain That Changes Itself", by Norman Doidge. And I'm so glad I did! He uses case studies to illustrate the dumbfounding capacity of the brain to rewire itself to compensate for deficits, and its ability to retrain itself around new parameters. Wow. The people he interviews, both the researchers and the "subjects" (sometimes one and the same) are extraordinary folks, and their stories are inspiring.

In that spirit, I hit my studies. Memorizing origins and insertions and actions of muscles has been my least favourite part of this massage-therapist gig. I'm not very disciplined sometimes. Unless I've got a need right in front of me I find it difficult to project the need for this knowledge into the future for people that I haven't met yet. I learn much more easily and thoroughly when I've got a damaged hamstring under my fingers, or a compacted spheno-basilar symphisis, or what-have-you. Unfortunately the massage training schools aren't very sympathetic, and insist that you be able to write it down on the paper, regardless of whether or not anyone in your vicinity is presenting symptoms.

So, I thought to myself, so, hmmm. How can I trick my brain into taking this stuff in? And keeping it. That's the really tricky bit, the useful retention.

As an experiment, I thought I'd try writing the information with my non-dominant hand while talking the words out. And I took a picture of my efforts for y'all.

It wasn't as bad as I thought, all things considered. I didn't think it would even be legible.

But you know... as much as I'd "forgotten" the stuff I was tested on so excruciatingly last June, it was amazing how quickly it jumped back into my head with a little serious review. And lo - shortly after that a client with a flaring hamstring and quad mess called and presented her leg for my edification treatment.

Funny ol' universe. We're all being juggled, all the live-long day.

Let us cheer the weary traveller
Let us cheer the weary traveller
Let us cheer the weary traveller
Along the heavenly way.


Madcap said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

I read somewhere once that Buechner used writing with his non-dominant hand in a counseling session. If I recall correctly, it was a letter he wrote to his Dad (you may remember that his Dad committed suicide when he was around 10 years old). The psychologist told him something along the lines that it would help awaken his inner child.

Madcap said...

I'd read that about Buechner's father, but I'd forgotten. Never heard about the counseling session though. So did the article mention whether or not it was helpful?

I'm not sure if it was helpful to me in this instance. Mostly I'm just trying to wake my head up and be engaged with this stuff. It's better to have it memorized than to want to look things up in the middle of the work when my hands are full of lotion!


He did mention it was helpful. For him it was more about connecting to memories long since lost. In his later adult life he was troubled that he couldn't remember his father's face on his own, outside of pictures, or remember much else about him for that matter, save for what others told him about his father, and the psychologist recommended he do the "writing exercise" with this non-dominant hand because it would help him connect to those more childlike feelings. It was from this place that he wrote a letter to his Dad. I suppose at its root level it's not unlike what you are doing by essentially tapping into another part of your neurology to facilitate greater retention, etc. Buechner's four part memoir is entirely haunted by the event of his father's suicide.

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