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The “Curse” of the Lefthanded
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
Tenafly, NJ
Monday, April 25, 2022

Dr. Patricia A. Farrell

Persons who write with their left hand haven't had an easy time of it.  Popular myths, one being that they were influenced by the devil, made their lives even more difficult. We have lived in a righthanded privileged world and the lefthanded were left out. In fact, in times gone by, teachers in school rooms would regularly tie the left hand of a child behind them so that they were forced to write with their right hand. It was brutal, it was cruel, and it was wrong.

Some 30 years ago, a well-known behavioral neurologist, Norman Geschwind, found that the lefthanded seemed to have autoimmune disorders that outnumbered those who were righthanded. The physician began an investigation and found there seemed to be a relationship that was physical and he came up with something called Geschwind Syndrome. What does the syndrome include?

The symptoms of Geschwind Syndrome include hypergraphia, hyperreligiosity, atypical (usually reduced) sexuality, circumstantiality, and something he saw as intensified mental life. He proposed that the patients with the syndrome must have brain developmental differences from the righthanded.

Geschwind supported his thinking by indicating that he had found there were brain configuration differences in the lefthanded in that the two sides (hemispheres) of the brain were more similar than those in the righthanded. He proposed that this caused learning disabilities and that they also may suffer from some form of epilepsy.

One thing that Geschwind may have neglected to examine was that trying to live in a right-handed world was extremely stressful. We know that stress has a direct effect on the immune system's ability to maintain our health and protect us from disease. If a child were an object of ridicule and treated differently in school from his or her classmates, how high do you suppose their stress levels would be? Undoubtedly, these children had a very hard time of it and, as a result, they may have exhibited learning difficulties which were seen as disabilities rather than reactions to stress and the fear they experienced in a classroom environment.

Even when a lefthanded child reached adulthood and proceeded into higher education and the professions, they found difficulties that were unique to the lefthanded; tools, equipment, and even kitchen aids were made for the righthanded. Any surgeon who sought lefthanded surgical instruments had to go on a difficult course of discovery.

Now, however, we live in a more enlightened age and many more manufacturers have realized there is a market that they have been ignoring. The lefthanded now find it possible to purchase everything from golf clubs, baseball mitts, surgical tools, kitchen equipment, and much more. In fact, there are websites devoted to providing specific models of various items for the lefthanded.

Undoubtedly, Norman Gershwind was a titan in his field, but it appears he mixed the physical and the psychological in a manner that was detrimental to many children and adults. The hypothesis he formulated remains controversial and points out that we must always be aware of the connection between the body and the mind.

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Attribution of this material is appreciated.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Title: Licensed Psychologist
Group: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ United States
Cell Phone: 201-417-1827
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