Thursday, February 28, 2013

Knitting as Right Brain Activity

Someone had fun - and let their right brain go crazy - with this lamp post in Conway, South Carolina

 For those of us dealing with trauma and PTSD, one of the best ways to cope - and eventually - heal is through right-brain activity.

Our left brains - the logical part of us; the part that keeps trying to make sense of things that don't make sense - goes into overdrive.  Continually active.  Nagging at us.  Keeping us awake at night.  Tormenting us.

The right brain is the opposite.  The creative part of us.  The part we need to allow to take over in times of stress and trauma to soothe us and allow emotional healing to take place.

There are many activities which are considered right brain activity:  knitting (and the other creative arts) being one of them; reading; photography.  Anything that does not involve logical thinking or problem solving.  Knitting (and the related art of crocheting) are what I've chosen as my pre-eminent right brain activities:  those which help keep me sane in an insane world.

Before I learned to knit, I crocheted.  Now I do both.  It's not uncommon for me to have two, three or even four projects on the go at any given time.  Right now, I have two pairs of fingerless gloves on the needles and a baby afghan on a hook so I can mix it up a bit.  If I get bored with one for a period of time, then I can switch to one of the others.  Or even start up a new one.

It's a knitting thing, I believe.  Real knitters move from one project to another and back again.  Real knitters sit back and go with the flow.

I discovered the difference between the left brain and the right during the aforementioned severely stressful situation when my therapist suggested I read the book Invisible Heroes:  Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal by Belleruth Naparstek.  I was expecting stories about trauma victims and their survival stories.  Instead, the book was about this psychotherpapist's work with trauma victims and what she learned through her experience including how she changed her therapeutic model and techniques based on her work and research.

She discovered the use of right brain activity, specifically affirmations and guided meditation, to be especially helpful in the healing/recovery process.  She gives examples of both.

For me, right brain activity is not just confined to affirmations and guided meditation - or I would be doing those activities pretty well 7/24 some days.  For me, it's the art of creation.  Seeing the work in progress.  Watching something beautiful come from a mere string of yarn.  Covering myself with the completed afghan.  Wrapping the warm, comforting shawl around my shoulders like giving myself a soft hug.  Feeliing the different fibres of yarn beneath my fingers.  Hearing the soft click clack of the needles rubbing against each other.

Definitely a sensory experience.  Then add music to the mix. Soft music.  Celtic music.  Classical.  Praise.  Whatever.  Add to that, a safe you consider to be your safe place.  If you don't have one, create one.  Fill it with your favorite right-brain things.  Mine is filled with yarn, patterns, DVD's, CD's, my computer.  A heater to keep me warm.  A fan to keep me cool.  A phone.  My rocker.  Books.  Various completed projects.

Everything I need when my emotions are in a jangle.  When the thoughts assail and torment me.

Everything I need to regain equilibrium and peace.
My second favorite lamppost - a crocheted chain wrapped around the post adorned with crocheted flowers.

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