Ask Spooky Action - Subsconscious Conscious Flow

Reader John Pollabauer sent me a nice note that included the following question:
When I read your May 2, 2006 blog post entitled Why Co-Workers Hoard Information, especially the reference to r-Complex cave man subconscious brains, and then shortly thereafter read your blog post dated 4/7/2005 entitled Good to Great throughout the Ages, it became obvious to me that before a person can experience "FLOW", the beliefs and values of both his conscious mind and his subconcious mind must be jointly aligned and in harmony, at least with respect to the task at hand. ... I would be interested to hear your take on the need for the alignment of both the conscious and the subconscious minds as a pre-requisite to experiencing FLOW.
It took me some time to come up with something to add to what John wrote, which I agree with completely. Thank you, John, for sharing the insight.

Remember these guys?

Normally you see them going the other way, representing the Ascent of Man. But the order you see here is the one in which our brains operate. That's right, research would indicate the Ogg, over on the left, is in charge of deciding what we focus on and learn. Then right-brain Thag gets engaged, and finally Oleg on the right consciously gets into the act.

In order to achieve flow, your subconscious brain has to believe that the task represents an imperative in your life. It's either part of an immediate and important threat, or an elemental opportunity. Most of the time we associate flow with the latter, but immediate-threat flow stories abound. Read the citations of Congressional Medal of Honor winners and I think you will agree.

Our subconscious minds are constantly working at many tasks, primarily around pattern matching and modification. Our early ancestors primarily reacted to the world around them. Was the that pattern of light and dark natural foliage or the camoflage of a potential meal? Was that twig snapping in the night someone going to stoke the fire or an approaching enemy? Our subconscious brains are constantly looking for all kinds of unrelated patterns both inherited and learned.

But in flow, those extraneous patterns aren't conflicting with the main task. How does that happen, because we can't consciously will them to stop? Answer: Ogg's thought processes can override Thag's. In computer processor designer there is a concept called the non-maskable interrupt(NMI). This is a signal that can be sent to the CPU to stop whatever it's doing right immediately and deal with the NMI. It's reserved for critical errors or events which need to be dealt with immediately. [I'll stop the computer analogy here. If you want more info, go here. This is what Ogg's r-Complex brain does to Thag's higher order subconscious processes. The process alignment can be immediate, as in the Medal of Honor citations, or may need to be developed over time, which seems to be more common with the non-threat type of flow. We'll explore that aspect in part two, since I need to start with a significant digression.

Thanks again to John, and if you have a question you'd like me to discuss, please leave a comment or email me at mdewitt@alum.mit.edu.

If you want to read more about the relationship between the different brains right now, click on the image below.

posted by Mike at 9:55 AM


Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ahh, very nice. Along the lines of military and medal-deserving response (AKA: Heroic measures; AAKA: Chucking out the manual when the s*** hits the fan), check out this post about LTC Leonard Wong's report: Developing Adaptive Leaders: The Crucible of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Oddly enough, it's from the "Culture beats Strategy" chapter of the upcoming book, "Moonshots and Tsunamis: Why 21st Century Leadership Needs Reptile Brains."

PS: Lose the meatsack in that visual, it's not nice to torture your readers.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

"Moonshots and Tsunamis..." Sounds like a book I'd like to write, er, read!

7:19 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Image rearranged!

7:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Schweet! That dood in the middle was interfering with my gestalt. The haze is separating....hey, both those images have vessels in them. Hmmmm.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

As Rafiki said to Simba at the watering hole...look harder!

Who's driving that LEM?

11:53 AM  

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