Can’t Live with Them, Can’t Live without Them
Our brains are like computers. We can only handle so much information at any one time. When our brains are overloaded, they slow down or even freeze—much like the old Windows blue screen of death.
Computers work fastest and are most reliable when only one program is running, because there is less chance of software incompatibility. Of course our brains are vastly more powerful than computers and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future, but they still have their limits. They, too, work best when only a few programs are open.
A conscientious computer owner runs only programs that are being worked on and defragments the hard disk regularly to free up space and increase processing power. We call this mindfulness.
Few people take the same care with their brain. They lose themselves in the background noise. Overloading your brain puts you at the risk of not being able to find some of your most precious gifts.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
Hans Hofmann was one of those rare individuals who could combine the rigorous disciplines of science and mathematics with abstract expressionist art and still find time to think. Perhaps his secret to success was an exceptionally ordered mind. His approach was one of ruthless simplification: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
In other words, allow room for the unconscious mind to speak. While it might appear to us that our brains are unlimited in their power, there are limits. While it is true that they possess enormous memory and can handle huge amounts of data, there are nevertheless some boundaries. Scientists have established that our brains can only handle seven packets of information at any one time.
Once this limit is exceeded, the pure information is corrupted. While the content remains identical at a deep level, the overlying abbreviated information could be quite different. This is one reason why sometimes we have so much difficulty communicating with each other.
Cut to the chase
These information shortcuts have evolutionary importance and can, on occasion, be directly linked to our survival. That is why we still have them. When Mr. Caveman is confronted with a saber-toothed tiger, he does not have time to consider all the details of his situation. Fight or flight—that is the only decision he has time to make, and he needs to make it right now.
If he were to think of too many options at the same time, he would freeze, paralyzed by fear. This would be the worst possible outcome. We have all frozen at some time, and it is not a pleasant feeling. It is not as bad as being eaten by a tiger, though.
Why Don’t You Listen to What I Say?
The most common shortcuts our brains use to condense information are generalization, deletion, and distortion. Conversation would be rather boring without these shortcuts. In other words, we do not need to discuss every detail of our thoughts. Much can be omitted. What is left is colored by whatever emotional lens we happen to be wearing that day—whether they’re rose-tinted glasses or something darker.
As we drone on about our terrible day at the office and the other person receives this information, the same processes apply. When our story is recounted to yet another person, who again uses the same processes, there may not be much of the original story left. This is one of the reasons why people get things wrong, why couples divorce, and why countries go to war.
Thus, if our success depends on the quality of our thoughts, and our thoughts depend on the power of our brain, then we can take some very obvious steps to increase our chances of success. The simplest step is to limit the amount of information we allow in.
Looking for something that just might help you navigate this minefield? Take a look at my NLP page –http://drstephensimpson.com/techniques/nlp/
More about mindfulness next week…..