Effortless imagining

Our minds have far more potential than we think.

As you probably know, scientists have shown that conscious thinking uses only about five per cent of the brain’s capacity.

You may have started to wonder what the other 95 per cent of the mind is up to: is it working for you, working against you, or just having a holiday? Does the unconscious mind even experience work, rest and play? I think probably not.

As Keith Johnstone points out in his classic Impro (1981), we have no sense of “effort” as our unconscious minds perform the massively complex task of recognising a relative. When we read a novel, it’s not hard work to imagine the characters, their activities, their environment. When we chat with a friend, the massive task of choosing our words from all the possible alternatives and stringing them into sentences is handled automatically, effortlessly, by the unconscious mind.

Solving a problem rationally, step by step, is hard work. When we allow the unconscious mind to do its job, we make better connections and solutions come easily.

It’s like the difference between struggling on restricted battery power and tapping into the national grid.

One of the things I love about X-Ray Listening is the way it helps people to connect with the unconscious mind in new ways. It can be a way of uncovering hidden ideas, of discovering things you didn’t know that you knew. And it can be a near-effortless journey, like having your mind massaged.

The key is to help people get out of their own way.

As with Johnstone’s improvisation techniques, it’s about removing some of the restrictions on our thinking and accessing more of our potential. It’s like untying our hands.

And then what happens?

What if we all set about our work like Keith Johnstone, once he regained his childlike spontaneity? “Nowadays, everything is easy for me. If we need a cartoon for the programme, I draw one. If we need a play, I’ll write it. I cut knots instead of laboriously trying to untie them.”

What if life – and work – didn’t have to be a struggle?

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