Have you ever surprised yourself with the realisation that your mind has been working on a problem much longer than you thought?
Isn’t that a strange concept?
Of all the entities that should know what is happening in your mind, you might be forgiven that YOU – whatever that may encompass – might be the one that is top of the list. We are, we believe, uniquely self-aware.
But being self-aware isn’t the same as knowing, controlling or keeping track of everything that happens in the process of thinking – it’s just far too complex. Subconscious is a fascinating concept that I could research and write about for days. It’s as if a sentient iceberg floats around, knowing that 90% of icebergs are below the water’s surface, knowing too that it is an iceberg but knowing nothing – and knowing that it will never know – much of what is happening below anyway.
Recently, my beloved and I have been spending some real time and effort teaching my children to swim. I’m an expert on learning and what has happened has still surprised me. One of the aspects that falls into this category is the mental progress that has been made, behind the scenes, in between lessons. By this I mean that as the children have learnt the physical skills needed (co-ordination, breathing control, body position) we have discussed and explored the idea that some of the steps needed to make progress are psychological (dealing with fear of obscured vision, trusting the science of flotation). The children seem – unknowingly – to have done some serious mental work in between lessons on this.
This reminds me of times in my own life when my brain has stewed up a lovely thick soup of creativity without my awareness. One of my favourite pieces of writing came in response to a teaching colleague giving a leaver’s assembly and being stuck for a reading. I told him I’d write him something. It wasn’t until I produced the thing that I realised it had deep echoes in something I had been read at my own leavers assembly, some ten years before, and my mind had been mulling, pickling and marinating it ever since. It came out like this:
A similar thing happened with an art piece. It positively steeped in my brain for a few months, probably because I couldn’t find the time to put paintbrush to canvas, but by the time I did it seemed to already have a life of its own that I simply needed to breathe into.
Does real learning happen this way, or just inspiration?
Has this ever happened to you?