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How The Brain Works!

Background to the need for thinking tools

Knowing the full complexity of how the brain works has the same necessity as needing to know how the guts of a computer works. Just as we can work a computer using all its functions well, simply, we can use the brain to an optimal level either by using thinking tools or by an understanding of how the brain works. Or both. Actually we only need to understand the brain to a basic level. Just as with a computer, we understand the on/off switch, the keyboard, and how to load software. We need not try to understand the brain's mechanics to the level of a brain surgeon.

So: The brain works by forming basic patterns. There are fundamental readymade patterns such as fight and flight for defence and survival. The patterns work emotionally or instinctively. The fundamental patterns for survival are inbuilt, intrinsic. The subsequent patterns laid down in the brain since birth are parental guidance and educational. However, education does not provide mechanisms for thinking or mechanisms for escaping rigid dogmatic patterns. Education provides patterns devised by governments. The needs of government are to provide the means of the state to survive and prosper. Individuals, however, have a creative and successful individual life to live, and objectives to fulfil, that are as valid, if not more so, than governmental designs. So parental guidance may in many cases be no more than a repetition of government education, or sometimes only inherited dogma.

A brain pattern means a dominant type of thought that is more likely to repeat itself by means of simple repetition of the existing dominant pattern. Thinking skills exist as conceptual tools that provide escape mechanisms from dominant patterns. Not only do thinking tools provide escape mechanisms from dominant patterns, they also provide the means for creativity and new ideas. This area of brain pattern understanding is where Dr Edward de Bono has pioneered the use of thinking tools: to enable change in human thinking: from automatons to thinking and creative beings.

Liberation: The use of thinking tools provides the means to design new ideas, escape from dominant thinking patterns, and to provide a life that fulfils the ideals and values of being human.

The Use of Tools: Since the patterns in the brain organise themselves, new patterns can be quite difficult to develop. The thinking tools work on the Pavlovian principle of triggers, as widely used in advertising, and free associations (Freud). In a simple yet practical example, let's say someone wants to remember to put her sunglasses in the car. As a trigger, she could arrange something simple quick and unusual in the kitchen that's just as effective as going to the bother of writing a reminder note. If a fork is placed in her coffee cup and the association is made as an instruction while placing the fork in the cup (instruction to self: Remember Sunglasses), when the woman sees this arrangement in the morning, she will immediately remember why, and know to put her sunglasses in the car before she forgets again. This action is quicker and easier than writing a note. It's also personal and private. Unless she tells someone, the action can have no meaning whatsoever to anyone else. It's a secure reminder. There can be any number of reminders made in this way since the imagination is probably limitless.

Mechanisms for Creativity: Although the thinking tools are neither mysterious nor secret, what we use them for is entirely our business. No one is telling us what to think. The tools simply and conveniently provide a mechanism for creativity and for basic thinking needs. Just as we could put a fork in a coffee cup to remind us of something to do, we can give ourselves an instruction in the form of a simple concept that will generate our own ideas.

Organising Principles: One of the many problems in human life today that creates issues difficult to solve is boredom. Boredom can easily lead to depression since old patterns are easily available to the brain in the form of cheap entertainment. Once we generate something to do, we escape through action the tyranny of dominant concepts. Not only do we know what to do but we can perform the action creatively. Many of the ailments that lead to crime or suicide can be quite easily overcome by learning the organising principles of new thinking: in the form of simple powerful thinking tools.