Alien Hand Syndrome

erez's picture

Average: 4.8 (18 votes)

I have just returned from a dinner I had with some friends in a nice restaurant. One of my friends is a neurologist. During the dinner he happened to mention an interesting neurological disorder called the Alien Hand Syndrome that one of his patients is suffering from. All were fascinated by the strange phenomena concerned with this disorder. My attention, on the other hand, was immediately drawn to the ridiculous light this syndrome sheds on our deep-rooted belief that we are the body and that this I-body is a consistent uniform solid entity.

This syndrome is a supporting evidence that may further crumble our stubborn deep-rooted "I am the body" belief and that validates the fact that our body's "intelligence" is just a bunch of numerous independant nerves.

So what is "Alien Hand Syndrome"?

Here is the exact description of the syndrome taken from Wikipedia and from various professional resources:

Alien Hand Syndrome (also known by the names "Anarchic Hand" and "Dr. Strangelove Syndrome") is an unusual neurological disorder, in which one of the sufferer's hands seems to take on a mind of its own. Alien Hand Syndrome is best documented in cases where a person has had the two hemispheres of their brain surgically separated, a procedure sometimes used to relieve the symptoms of extreme cases of epilepsy. It also occurs in some cases after other brain surgery, strokes, or infections.

An alien hand sufferer can feel normal sensation in the hand, but believes that the hand, while still being a part of their body, behaves in a manner that is totally distinct from the sufferer's normal behavior. They lose the 'sense of agency' associated with the purposeful movement of the limb while retaining a sense of 'ownership' of the limb. They feel that they have no control over the movements of the 'alien' hand, but that, instead, the hand has the capability of acting autonomously, i.e. independent of their voluntary control. The hand effectively has 'a will of its own.' Alien hands can perform complex acts such as undoing buttons, removing clothing, and manipulating tools. Alien behavior can be distinguished from reflexive behavior in that the former is flexibly purposive while the latter is obligatory. Sometimes the sufferer will not be aware of what the alien hand is doing until it is brought to his or her attention, or until the hand does something that draws their attention to its behavior.

Omkaradatta's picture


I went through a period recently where the rug was pulled out from under, and during that period had some insights that the body is a reflection of duality -- we have two arms, two legs, two hands, two feet, two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and two brain hemispheres, and are often "of two minds" about things. It's as though ego/mind (maybe even the outer world, multiplicity itself) is generated by the conflict between two 'me's' living inside us (represented by left hand and right hand), and in order to awaken this conflict has to subside.

Omkaradatta | Sun, 09/14/2008 - 07:00
erez's picture

redundancy for sake of survival

mmm it's not the duality in the sense we are talking about (of subject-object), it is just redundancy of objects. You can say the same about any multiplicity in nature. The reason for the duplication of many body organs is mere redundancy for the sake of survival, if one part is out of order or ceases to be, there is still a replacement...

erez | Sun, 09/14/2008 - 07:32
Phroggy's picture

As I see the body as just

As I see the body as just another creation of Consciousness, I figure it forms to reflect dualistic perception. We imagine everything in self defining pairs, so the body is formed with this dualistic symetry too. All of nature seems to follow this balanced symetry.

The 'conflict' is the tension of opposites that instigates the movement that is the experience of life.

Phroggy | Sun, 09/14/2008 - 09:11
Omkaradatta's picture

It does...

Even cells divide in a binary like, power of two fashion... one becomes two, two becomes four, four becomes eight, etc. And of course we created computers (which use binary, base-two arithmetic - on/off, yes/no states) in the image of duality as well.

Omkaradatta | Sun, 09/14/2008 - 09:48
barbara's picture

blind spots in the service of our ignorance

An alien hand sufferer can feel normal sensation in the hand, but believes that the hand, while still being a part of their body, behaves in a manner that is totally distinct from the sufferer's normal behavior. They lose the 'sense of agency' associated with the purposeful movement of the limb while retaining a sense of 'ownership' of the limb. They feel that they have no control over the movements of the 'alien' hand, but that, instead, the hand has the capability of acting autonomously, i.e. independent of their voluntary control. The hand effectively has 'a will of its own.'

We can extend these wonderful findings to further substantiate that even if we wished we could never be our bodies: If we look closer into our relationship with our body, we see that exactly the same symptoms apply also to other organs but in the case of these other organs, we simply do not regard the symptoms as abnormal and thus do not pay any attention to what these symptoms mean in terms of our belief that we are the body. These other organs include, for example, most of the internal organs (liver, kidneys, lungs), our sexual organs, the retina in our eye etc.

So what is the difference then that makes us ignore this considered-normal behaviors in the case of the other organs? our expectations. We expect our hand motions (not our hand) to be under our full control while in the case of our liver, we do not. In other words, our expectations or more precisely the facts that we take for granted since we do not have any expectations from them are blind spots of our awareness towards realizing that we are not the body, that we cannot be the body, that we are far away from even to be considered to be the body.

barbara | Sun, 09/14/2008 - 13:52
Omkaradatta's picture

Excellent posting, very perceptive....

I agree... somehow we consider muscles to be under our control (as well as our thoughts, perhaps) but nearly everything else we just accept as happening by itself.

P.S. If you look at what's supposedly 'voluntary' and what isn't, it appears that what's voluntary is what we want to be voluntary, i.e. what meets our desires, needs, etc. Everything else, we are glad that it's automatic and we don't have to bother with it.

Omkaradatta | Sun, 09/14/2008 - 21:39
david's picture

Interesting and inspiring

Interesting and inspiring. Thanks for bringing this.

david | Tue, 01/20/2009 - 16:06
genep's picture

Alien Head Syndrome

"Alien Hand Syndrome"

When the medical profession finds a drug or surgery
that causes/is a disease called “ Alien Head Syndrome”
then it will be the cure everyone needs for realization.
-- O'no

only dreams have awakenings -- sleep is samadhi. -- O'no

genep | Sun, 03/15/2009 - 16:23
dora's picture

separate volition

Very interesting!

It is important to emphasis that it does not mean the certain hand just has a reflexive behavior but way more than that: the hand performs complex context-based meaningful acts but not under the volition and command of the "I" but as if it has a separate mind.

dora | Tue, 04/21/2009 - 10:43
Phroggy's picture


The experience of a separate mind occurs often because the volitional 'I' is imagined and assumed. Everything is occurring spontaneously, and the supposed volitional controller (ego) must wait for it to occur before it can lay claim to it, and so it is always a step behind and often doesn't know what is occurring or why. It assumes that if it didn't cause the action or thought or feeling, it must be comming from elswhere. It's actually not causing or controlling any of it. Even those ego thoughts are spontaneous.

Phroggy | Tue, 04/21/2009 - 18:38
Tania's picture


On what do you base your opinion?

Tania | Thu, 09/03/2009 - 10:43
Phroggy's picture

It's not an opinion. You can

It's not an opinion. You can observe this directly right now. Silence your mind and notice that you have no idea what the next thought will be. You stand at the doorway waiting, and a thought appears. Only then do you know the thought, and it has already ocurred. It cannot be prevented.

You may think that, although you cannot prevent a thought from arising, you can prevent the chasing of the thought, but this thought of not chasing is also a spontaneous thought. The thought that this is a spontaneous thought is also a spontaneous thought, and so on. If all thoughts arise spontaneously, there is never a point of volition anywhere within your experience.

One is being hopelessly lived by the spontaneous thoughts and resultant feelings that arise without anyone's permission. However, you are not the imagined controller of thoughts, but rather the Source intelligence which spontaneously expresses in the form of thought, feeling and perception.

Phroggy | Thu, 09/03/2009 - 21:11
not_me's picture

Open the door

The reason is different and simpler: the pre-processing is just out of your field of awareness. There are techniques that allow you to "feel" a microsecond before what you are going to think/do. This preliminary "feeling" is not textual but in some sort of primordial "energetic" representation and is verified in retrospective when the actual thought arises. In that primordial level, you are aware of the quick though links, conditioning, whether the thought is "yours" or originated from a sequence of thoughts of someone else and more.

There are no spontaneous thoughts or chaos but only unawareness.

These same techniques allow you after some practice and weakening of the mind to stop thoughts and influence course of thoughts without effort or conflict in that very same primordial level.

not_me | Fri, 09/04/2009 - 13:30
Phroggy's picture

You're just playing mind

You're just playing mind games with yourself. It is possible to become aware of the foundation of your thoughts to some degree, which amounts to being conscious, but not before the thought occurs. You can perhaps see how it bubbled up from unconscious levels but only after the fact.

You cannot influence the course of thoughts until the thought occurs to do so. Explore all these techniques until you've had enough of them, and then get on with it.

Phroggy | Sat, 09/05/2009 - 01:33
Tania's picture

This is outstanding. Recent

This is outstanding.

Recent research has shown in more than one way that cells as well as other resolution of parts of body and plants have consciousness. See the excellent book "The holographic Universe" for more.

Tania | Thu, 09/03/2009 - 10:41
staceyk's picture

Maybe it is a small portion

Maybe it is a small portion of isolated subconscious which is actively and intelligently moving the hand. Could be possible.

staceyk | Fri, 04/02/2010 - 04:00
agapuram's picture

This is simply a case of

This is simply a case of split personality. The alien hand is his/her negative self. I don't think they will be unaware of it's actions. They will be aware of it, only unable to control it.

agapuram | Sun, 04/24/2011 - 07:31
agapuram's picture

i saw a beautiful film in

i saw a beautiful film in which the hero's wife is dead, and her soul enters his hand, caresses him, shows him love etc. Here the hand takes a positive role.

But a hand that does negative things like stealing, unhooking the buttons of others etc. and later disclaiming the ownership of hands, is bullshit and bogus.

agapuram | Sun, 04/24/2011 - 07:35