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Monday, August 24, 2009

How to Think Like a Fool #56: Listen to your Unconscious

OBSERVE: Listen to Your Unconscious
“Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious.”
—Jean Cocteau

"The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious."
—T.S. Eliot

Sometimes, when I'm looking for something I've lost (usually my keys) and I'm tearing the house apart, I'll get a sudden flash—a visual image of exactly where that object is, and most of the time it's correct. I'm no psychologist, but I am a professional fool, and with that knowledge I'd say that image was my unconscious mind doing work behind the scenes.

Fools' minds work like dreams, a surreal stumbling from ideas to images to words to songs to memories to impulses, with the flimsiest of connections. Just like dreams at night, this may just be random stimulation from the unconscious, or guided signs pointing towards possible solutions. Either way, fools dance with whatever comes up, allowing them to help break out of mindsets that are too logical and linear.

The surrealists championed the Marx Brothers, with Salvador Dali befriending Harpo and even writing a script for the Brothers. The Marx Brothers embodied surrealist theories without the intellectual baggage.

Definition of surrealism from the Surrealist Manifesto:

"Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation."—André Breton

This scene from Animal Crackers has an anarchic dream-like feeling, where Chico and Harpo act impulsively, moment to moment.

To apply this fool tool, you listen to your dreams for random clues (remembering to write them down first thing in the morning), pay attention to thoughts and images that pop up unannounced throughout the day, and that you'd usually dismiss, and push things along by making a series of associations, whether with words, sounds, movements, or images. Just let one thing lead to another without censoring, and capture the first thing that comes to mind every time.

You might not have to work that hard, by allowing yourself to be occupied with anything but your problem—or just get a good night's sleep:

"The researchers believe REM sleep allows the brain to form new nerve connections without the interference of other thought pathways that occur when we are awake or in non-dream-state sleep." BBC: Problems are solved by sleeping

Think: How can I tap into this part of my mind? What is my unconscious telling me? How does this information relate to my problem?

Next: How to Think Like a Fool #57: Ride the Opportunities

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