Home Concepts Decison Making & Problem Solving Enhancing and Accessing Expertise: Finding the Personal Community of Thought and Feeling in Our Own Self

Enhancing and Accessing Expertise: Finding the Personal Community of Thought and Feeling in Our Own Self

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There is another metaphoric way in which to describe the operations of our back burner: it is operating like a carnival. Complete with the loss of inhibitions, the diverse display of emotions, and the presence of both soothsayers and sage wizards. Beware of charlatans when wandering through a carnival. However, also avail yourself of the rich source of ideas and images from many different worlds that are attracted to and intermingle at this often-hidden carnival operating inside our self.

Those who study creative processes and psychodynamic, or unconsciousf dynamics operating in the human psyche often devote considerable attention to the carnival-like operations of the back burner. For instance, if is often proposed that the elusive phenomenon called Incubation operates out of the back burner. We have the beginning of an idea regarding a new work of art, sales strategy, or topic for an upcoming lecture series. This preliminary idea gets set aside in favor of challenges we must face in our immediate life and work. This idea, however, might not simply fade away; rather, it might travel to the back burner and be bounced around in the chaos (and unique order) of the carnival. The idea expands in size and scope.

Then, one day, the idea pops up in nearly finished form while we are standing in the shower stall, driving to work, or simply relaxing with a glass of wine and a song being sung by our favorite singer. We step out of the shower and look for a pad of dry paper. We pull the car over to the side of the road (or dangerously try to write something down while driving). We step into our home office and record the idea on our computer. This is the process of incubation at work. Apparently, we often need to be relaxed or distracted for the idea to move from the back burner to our front burner, where our rational brain can review, modify and polish the idea. Our expository brain can help us place the idea in a broader context and relate it to other experiences and other matters of concern in our life. We are primed for both creativity and new learning.

The psychoanalysts use somewhat different terms when describing what is occurring on the back burner. One of the most gifted of these analysts, George Klein (1967), introduces the concept of peremptory ideation. He suggests that there are thoughts with some emotional and conceptual baggage and energy which begins traveling through our head and heart. It gathers up new content while on this journey and will often appear partially or even fully formed (like the ideas emerging from incubation) when we are relaxing or are in a reflective mood (such as when we are participating in psychotherapy).

It is not hard to locate the back burners in our brain. The back burner operates primarily out of our limbic system (one of the two cortical regions being linked by the middle burners). This area of the brain serves many cortical functions. However, two of these functions are particularly important when we are attending to what happens on the back burners. These two functions are memory and the appraisal of threat. It is interesting (and perhaps important) to note that these two functions are located in adjacent cortical structures—the hippocampus and amygdala. One might justifiably hypothesize that memory has served an important survival function in its close affiliation with threat appraisal. We might have primarily needed our memory when living on the African Savannah in order to recall what is likely to be dangerous.

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