Patterns and Creativity

We had discussed about how the mind responds to a trigger in the posts Problem solving – what happens in the mind and Responding to a trigger – what happens in the mind.

How one thinks is determined by how his thoughts connect to one another or how a  new thought is formed in response to trigger.  And a subtle difference between different connections can produce drastically different outputs. This can differentiate between creative and normal thinking.

It is said that every neuron has a choice of 5000 – 6000 connections to choose from, which can tell you the amount of complexity involved in connecting thoughts. Try imagining the situation  where every time you think, you have to pause after every thought and choose from over 5000 thoughts to connect. It might look ridiculous, but in reality I think the brain can do such wonders. But the intelligent mind (logical) tackles this problem by forming patterns, based on past experiences. When a new trigger arrives, mind prompts you to behave in a particular way; the prompting depending upon your past experience. If you oblige, the patterns are strengthened and stronger the patterns lesser one has control on it. (By pattern, I mean the sequence of connecting thoughts – please refer to the post The problem of ‘interpretation’ for a sample)

The way patterns work is interesting. In a scenario where a pattern consists of a set of thoughts that are triggered by a particular event, the mind is only aware of  the beginning and the end of the pattern and not what happens in between. In this way, the processing is pretty fast, but the disadvantage is that thinking becomes almost unconscious. And the more patterns we form in the mind, more unconscious our thinking becomes.

Look at small children; they are still forming the patterns. They can still look at a ‘flower’ without really labeling it, classifying it, trying to name it or even wanting to know where the plant was purchased from. But then there is  a loving father or a teacher  who tells him/her what that flower is called, why is the color this way, what is the biological name etc..Great, a new pattern forms and the next time the child sees the same flower, the mind is most likely  busy trying to recollect the botanical name of the plant..

Creativity experts argue that ‘logical mind’ is the most prominent block for creativity. Though this is true at a surface level, what can you do with the logical mind? You telling yourself to drop all logic simply doesn’t work. The real block  is actually the ‘patterns’ or how a single new thought connect to an existing thought (or memory)  or create another new thought.

For most of us, this is a completely involuntary activity (this by itself  is a problem which later manifests as compulsive thinking and reactive mind patterns when someone is stressed etc), which means we have no idea what is happening during a thought processing.

Now simply imagine that we have some say or control over how one thought connects to another. Or at least there is a small delay in the connection process, so that it is not a completely unconscious process. Can you imagine what would happen to our thinking? How will our perceptions change?

This is actually the key to creative thinking. I would put it this way: the first step to creative thinking is to make thinking ‘conscious’. And this is something that can be learnt by practice. We will continue the discussion. In the next post we will discuss about ‘Presence’, which is the key to making thinking conscious.


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