The Monkey And The Spreadsheet

When the mind was fidgety, like a monkey

When you felt restless, it helped to understand drives. The mind perceived, recognized and interpreted. It set goals and acted. Those five faculties were managed by sovereign intelligences. Out of these, it was the fourth intelligence, which set goals, by translating feelings into drives. A feeling of fear dictated an escape drive, whose purpose was to achieve safety. That demanded instant responses, varying across species. A deer bounded away. A bird took flight. A fish swam off. While the activities of running, flying and swimming differed, it was the the drive, which achieved the objective of escaping. Drives often made you restless.

Intuition managed drives

Drives have been described in the book, The Intuitive Algorithm. Intuition, a pattern recognition algorithm, enabled the mind to respond, from input to output, within just 20 milliseconds. The incredible speed of this process depended on massive combinatorial memories in nerve cells and this elimination algorithm. These vast memories enabled nerve cells to remember and trigger drive sequences, with infinite contextual finesse. Drives enabled birds to build nests, selecting secure locations and suitable materials. The wracking sobs of sorrow, or the relaxing movements of a belly laugh were both drives responding to emotions. Such drives were the inherited responses of nerve channels to varying feelings and emotions.

Search components of drives

Not all drives produced motor outputs. To achieve their objectives, drives also demanded an intelligent evaluation of the environment. If the objective was to escape, that goal was hardly possible by heading into the predator. Increasing the distance from danger demanded evaluation of many escape routes. That goal could even be achieved by slipping into a safe sanctuary, inaccessible to the predator. Like the underside of a rock.. Drives involved a search of multiple contexts to discover the right answer. When a person sat down to write a shopping list, drives evaluated the stock in the larder, the likely menus, the stock of toiletries, and cleaning needs. Drives delivered item lists to the working memory, to be jotted down. By contextually searching the mind, drives played a valuable, creative role.

The "Aha" experience of drives

Such drives, searching across varied contexts, were not limited to humans. Konrad Lorenz described a chimpanzee in a room which contained a banana suspended from the ceiling just out of reach, and a box elsewhere in the room. "The matter gave him no peace, and he returned to it again. Then, suddenly - and there is no other way to describe it - his previously gloomy face 'lit up'. His eyes now moved from the banana to the empty space beneath it on the ground, from this to the box, then back to the space, and from there to the banana. The next moment he gave a cry of joy, and somersaulted over to the box in sheer high spirits. Completely assured of his success, he pushed the box below the banana. No man watching him could doubt the existence of a genuine 'Aha' experience in anthropoid apes". Even monkeys inherited creative drives. And restlessness.

The burden of responsibility

The need for a solution had given the animal "no peace." This dilemma was not limited to animals or just ordinary people. It was a problem at the highest levels of professional life. Mathen had retired as director of a major medical college and hospital, where he had gracefully managed the myriad problems faced by the institution. He mentioned that, when he rose from bed the morning after retirement, he felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off his shoulders. His subconscious drives, seeking solutions to a barrage of issues, had become inhibited. He felt unburdened. A multitude of such drives operated in your mind. Some of those could discover no solutions. Which caused restlessness. Understanding those drives and acting to manage them could be a step to peace of mind.

Many conflicting goals

Life was a creative process, facing a train of baffling problems. The options were to fight, compromise, or retreat. Each context triggered distinct emotions. Anger, friendship, or fear triggered competing drives. Intuition provided a narrow focus to each drive, by eliminating concerns that did not fit its own feeling. For the drive supported by anger, amicable memories were eliminated. Each drive held a partisan view. As evidence built up, the emotional strengths of the drives varied. Opposing emotions competed for control. Intuition acted in the limbic system to establish the most powerful emotion as the current feeling. The current feeling triggered its own drive. Competing drives, which opposed the feeling were inhibited and became unavailable to consciousness.

Clashing drives

You were conscious of the dominant drive. But, other divergent drives continued as subconscious search processes. Many sought to achieve opposing objectives. More often than not, these furtive emotions perturbed you. For some, this process created massive internal conflicts. How could the conflicting viewpoints of the mind be integrated? How could a multitude of clashing drives be focused on the problems of coping with life in a harsh and unforgiving world? Across the ages, many solutions were offered to focus the mind and still conflicts. Over time, meditation, chanting and breathing routines were found to be beneficial. But, that treated the symptom, not the problem. The long term solution was to broaden the narrow focus of the competing drives. An integrated approach to life would empower consciousness.

Which was the real you?

But, where was consciousness? Which was the real you? Nature had a mechanism, which isolated the truth. When an animal sensed danger, it sniffed the air to investigate. It was a process which generally stilled neural activity. Survival, in a perilous world, demanded a responsive approach, free of distorted views. An inquiring mind was the most open. And, it was not as if an investigation needed to be about life threatening concerns. Even when you wrote a shopping list, that very inquiry stilled background thoughts. In the end, that curious personality was the true you. The superior consciousness. The most powerful intelligence in nature. That questioning drive was devoid of emotions. Open to recognize the new. All other drives had fractional views. Views, which were distorted, or bending to the whims and fancies of anger and fear, or love and compassion.

The spreadsheet list

For worrying issues, you did not need costly counseling. You could begin you own investigation. Just an exercise on a spread sheet assisted this process. Just as in a shopping list, a search process was set in motion. This routine began by listing, line by line, any aspect of a vexing problem, as it came to mind. A short line would be entered, in a single cell of the spread sheet. Like a shopping list. It could just begin with, say, "Downsizing" and go on down. Many conflicting emotions surged in the background. Each line would be a thought, which could point to pages of reports, or be just a hunch. It represented a particular feeling. The curiosity drive was powerful. It would bring in differing viewpoints. Each viewpoint was noted down. These views would arrive in conspicuous sequence.

Emptied mind

When you noted them down, you brought them into consciousness ? into the general view of isolated and competing drives. The more outraged drives, including four letter references to corporate stupidity, became conscious of opposing viewpoints. Raging emotions could have eliminated those muffled, crucial insights. The average issue would fill about 60 or more cells. All your views about those uneasy rumours in the office. It was a process which emptied your mind concerning the subject. By the time the list was over, the mind would have thrown up many rival positions. Opposing viewpoints usually brought the needed balance.

Organized thoughts

Once the list was over, a label was entered for each thought in an adjacent cell on the spreadsheet. From a calmer perspective, labelling an entry became easier. The slimming down of the corporation was not the end of the world. There could be promotional opportunities. Even possible career improvements. Solutions were bound to emerge. So an entry in a cell could be labelled as an "opportunity." Each such label would fit several more entries. Gently, the picture cleared. Subsurface drives which triggered anxieties came out into the open. Things at the back of the mind, which went thud, in the dark. The process ended with sixty thoughts in a dozen labeled categories. A "sort" of the labels column would arrange similar ones together, in alphabetic order. Listing similarly labeled ideas together would bring clarity. They became groups of consistent, allied thoughts.

Creativity from a stilled mind

Isolated drives came out into the open. A dispassionate consciousness viewed the tumult and made sense. Unlikely worries seen together distilled reality. Purged anxieties. The less likely outcomes could be ignored. The inevitable ones had to be accepted. That left you with the actions you could take. Invariably, the things you could do never took all that much time. The rest of the stuff just climbed off your chest. Acted on, ignored, or accepted. Another threatening issue would have been acknowledged, accepted and foreseen. Over the years many such concerns raised their heads. Each time, the spreadsheet evaluation balanced the mind and stilled its hidden anxieties. When major concerns in life were sorted out, the creative forces of the mind converged. Anger and fear, love and altruism cooperated to search for solutions which met all the concerns of the mind. An integrated mind was the most creative force in the world.

Abraham Thomas is the author of The Intuitive Algorithm, a book, which suggests that intuition is a pattern recognition algorithm. This leads to an understanding of the powerful forces that control your mind.

The ebook version is available at The book may be purchased only in India. The website, provides a free movie and a walk through to explain the ideas.

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