You can only think or do one thing at a time.
We, humans, are serial processors.
First this then that then that.
A > B > C > D
My computer works in parallel.
First this then that and that then that, that, that, that.
A > B&C > B&C&D&E&F > B&C&D&E&F&G&H&I&J&K&…
It has something to do with RAM – Random Access Memory – not enough and the that’s are limited.
All of us have done the trick of patting our heads and rubbing our tummies – the childhood NASA test; I think the assessment methods are more sophisticated nowadays. This isn’t parallel processing – it is making actions unconscious so you can do more than one thing at a time; you can ride a bike and talk on the phone only when the cycling or the talking are unconscious; you see, we have lots of unconscious RAM, our conscious minds are not so hot.
Sometimes I marvel at individuals’ supposed ability to do more than one thing at a time – read a document and join a conversation. They aren’t really – even women who claim that evolution has allowed for the capacity to watch children, cook mealies, breast-feed and polish the silverware simultaneously. It is really just lots of serial switching backwards and forwards, with some assistance again from the unconscious – the internal Jungian vortex.
And the thing about this serial nature – it is not actually a limitation or a curse, it is our salvation.
I wrote recently about mind wandering – the meandering of our thoughts that is often associated with stress or anxiety…
…She didn’t reply to my email… She is ignoring me… She has never liked me… I am worthless … It is hopeless… There’s no point…
This kind of thing; illogical connecting that leads to frustration, worry and psychological drain.
It is actually possible to worry about something and go about your daily activities, although that again is the switching which uses twice as much energy – physical and psychical.
I am talking and every so often an intrusive thought pops-in to challenge my focus.
The solution, in taking advantage of this serialism is, when you notice that your mind is travelling down an avenue of negativity, pessimism or anxiety, is to find something else to occupy you. Something that provides sufficient cognitive load so as to fill your senses; this could be watching TV, stroking a dog, monitoring your breathing in and out. It doesn’t matter what. Some pray, others exercise.
If our brains were parallel processors how grim… how frightening, the potential to worry not just about one thing, but multiple… I am getting old, no one likes me, I might fall over, have a heart attack, forget my lines, become ill, make a mistake, lose my job, embarrass myself; in parallel we would all soon crash.
So, celebrate the way we are.
And, have faith in the unconscious, for this is where the magic happens; the subterranean world of ideas and imagination – it is where novelty starts, where surprise and intrigue develop. It is bottomlessness, never ending, always capable of more; an infinity.
The next time your head leads you astray; find something else and go for it.
As described, the ideas in this blog have been inspired by my reading ‘Solve for Happy’ by Mo Gawdat.
20/12/18 Happy Birthday Michelle!