In the aftermath of a great idea, you can experience a sudden faltering in your train of thought. Not just a derailing or a distraction, but actual not-knowing. As if you just ran past a sudden cliff-edge, beyond which your train-of-thought’s “tracks” trail off into space…
The train? It’ll just have to fly.
This article is about the momentary panic that can accompany good shifts.
Thanks to first-hand experience, I know what neuroplasticity *feels* like: like a flying dream.
What’s really happening?
Due to a profound insight or new experience just earlier that day, a neural pathway that used to be rote, routine, and well-ingrained… no longer is.
A particular query or thought in my brain no longer leads ONLY to the same neural nets, the same ideas and conclusions as it did before.
Not half as strongly. Maybe 1%.
How do I know?
I can sense, amidst the disorientation, a despair that has, when I let it, proverbially “clutched at the clods of grass on the edge of the cliff.”
More literally, it has made me want to wag my forehead to literally shake my thoughts back onto their usual route. When I’ve done that, I stopped the process and got more familiar outputs… and diappointments.
Panicking and rejecting a state of un-knowing is a totally logical response to being weirded out!
It’s been an understandable response, and helped me to “keep being myself the way I know myself to be” — or, more accurately, to not be all I can be. But there’s no shame in choosing familiarity!
In pursuit of freedom
I can stay recognizable (able to be re-cognized) even while allowing this expansion, because I know I can always go back: my old responses remain an option. It’s still there, but it’s one among many new options, is all.
More and more often, I allow the change in pursuit of the freedom to have truly responsive cognition; thoughts informed by new, more accurate information and sensation.
So, in pursuit of freedom, I recognize the panic at wanting to stay the same, and I soothe it: “it’s okay. Whether my old way of thinking has been wrong or right, I can learn.”
But I don’t need words. That’s how often letting neuroplastic learning run its course, has worked out for the best for me.
(Scroll down for more on why I can’t recommend you try this at home.)
Why it feels good
As long as the profound insight or novel experience earlier in the day was not imposed or coerced, but rather, borne of of choiceful exploration undertaken out of curiosity, with permission to revert to old ideas if they work better, I am that completely 99.9_% on board with the consequential disorientation in response to certain thoughts and stimuli.
I employ any discomfort-with-confusion.
I use it to recall whether my last coherent thought might have pertained to the profound insight from earlier in the day, asking: is this one of the first times I’m “going there” again — firing those neurons that used to get me stuck?
That settles me.
After that, it’s easier to allow imagery to arise, so the unfathomable intelligence that passes itself off as mere imagination/humor/sensation, can run its course.
Rarely, but sometimes, I get imagery, like lights.
More often, I just feel somehow able to sense a general directionality of happenings in my brain… like the opposite of a headache.
Neuroplasticity is at work for me, whenever new, broader, more diffuse parts of my brain are being tickled, instead of all the synapsing potential staying linear, like a train, habitually shunted through well-worn, specific channels.
All this to say: imagery can be non-visual.
I just have the feeling of lights or signals, synapses, pathways or streams — parts of me that expected to be and stay strong, focused, and familiar… and instead, I can actually feel that which would have gone that one route, not just go another route… but become diffuse. It’s as if my brain became aware it is actually luminous, multi-dimensional, or just vaguely full of juicy new chemistry.
Why I risk trusting it
A brain more wholly suffused with chemistry, all looking for, testing, finding, and feeling feedback… makes me smarter the rest of my days. It’s noticeable.
Millions of minute pleasures…
When a plant grows towards the light, isn’t that about preference?
When an amoeba grows toward nutrients, isn’t that life itself longing for what is next in life?
Humans may shrink from cold, dark, and hunger out of fear, but is the result not that we are inclined towards what’s better for us in each moment?
I allow my mind to be diffuse, to be inclined towards all it is and can connect with. I wonder how — no — I wonder how soon I am going to start experiencing the inevitable increase in pleasure, in ease, in responsiveness, in traction in life;
more juice and less strife,
thanks to the present-moment courage to allow my thoughts to diffuse. To know I don’t know.
Don’t try this at home?
The word neuroplastic implies literal changes in how the brain is wired. It’s no joke!
I can’t recommend experiments with neuroplasticity for their own sake. PTSD is, arguably, a kind of neuroplasticity-backfire. Trauma could be blamed on the brain’s ability to learn and rewire… which, by the way, it can do well past brain maturity, which is supposedly at age 25.
But I can recommend exploration. Consensual, choiceful, innocent curiosity-driven exploration with or without an experienced, respectful, non-coercive sojourner.
Pick someone who will not only prepare the ground for you to have the cognitive changes you want, but has the requisite wisdom to help you not be at work, in a meeting, or driving at high speed when the integration phase comes over you.
What do your big AHAs feel like?
Tell me about neuroplasticity in a private comment!