Sunday, 23 November 2014


Have you ever come across  the word - UNCONSCIOUS INCUBATION. Well, it is nothing but a process in which the unconscious mind keeps working on a problem while the conscious mind stops thinking about it. It is a humbling thought that the mind frequently works better without our interference. You have probably had the experience of wrestling with a problem without coming to a solution and then, after you have stopped thinking about it, the answer suddenly comes to you in a flash of inspiration. The unconscious mind is a great mystery. If it were merely a storehouse for all the things that we don't need to think about immediately,that would be quite understandable. But the unconscious is far more complex than that. It keeps thinking all the time, whether we are awake or asleep. From time to time, it throws up notations in a way that seems quite ransom. Certainly, it is outside our conscious mind.Sometimes it generates thoughts that seem to have no immediate relevance to anything. Anyways, it is not the place to go too deeply into the workings of the mind. Let us confine ourselves to ways in which 'unconscious incubation' can be used to help our creative powers. Although there is no sure way of making the unconscious work on a problem, there are things we can do to give it encouragement.

  • Spend as much time as you can attempting to work out the problem in your conscious mind. It doesn't matter if all the ideas you come up with are no good. The most important thing is to focus your mind upon the problem and consider it from every angle.
  • Write down all the possible solutions, or at the very least, make notes of the difficulties you encounter and the reasons that no solution has been found.This is very important because the unconscious mind will not provide flashes of inspiration unless you have exhausted more conventional methods.
  • Now, take a break. It doesn't really matter what you do but it should be something that has no relation to your problem.
  • Leave your problem alone for at least 24 hours. If no solution presents itself, go back to think consciously about possible solutions.
  • But the unconscious mind is utterly unpredictable, there is no guarantee that a solution will be forthcoming at all. However, it sometimes happens that the problem will incubate for months or years. You just never know what is going to come to surface!
One particular example that I would like to share in this aspect is the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the late summer of 1883, Mark Twain finished a book that, according to his own account, he had 'been fooling over for seven years'. This is a clear example of the way in which creative tasks cannot be hurried. Doubtless, if Twain had tried to complete it quickly, it would have been a much lesser book than the one we know now - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It took him seven years of unconscious incubation before the book got published.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Good stress and bad stress

There is so much talk of stress these days.The almost universal view is that stress is a bad thing, something to be avoided. While prolonged exposure to stress is certainly bad for the mind and ultimately damaging to your immune system, some stress is not only inevitable but probably desirable. You will all be surprised at this comment. But its true.For the mind to operate at its full potential, it requires a certain level of stress. It is more useful to think in terms of good and bad stress. Harnessed well, stress helps us through exams,and allows us to excel at challenging intellectual assignments and endure physical hardship. 
In this context, I would like to share an information that psychologist Hans Seley is often called the 'Father of Stress' due to his extensive research into the topic. He called these smaller amounts of positive stress 'eustress'. People exposed to eustress may have experienced more success in their exams as it improves some aspects of intelligence. A report says that stress is actually a cognitive enhancer which can boost several aspects of mental prowess and hence helps in professional and academic capabilities. For example a little stress while revising for an exam or a presentation can help you remember what you have read on the big night. But remember stress is good only when taken as small dosages of eustress. Otherwise it becomes a bad stress.
When it is mismanaged, it produces angry or rude behaviour. Too much stress, or extended periods of stress, stops the mind working at its full potential.The main causes of bad stress are from predominantly two sources; people and situations.Try to identify who or what causes you to feel badly stressed. This will help you address the problem and work towards a situation or take avoidance measures. Another aspect is planning. Planning reduces stress considerably - just think how often you see other people or yourself fret because there isn't enough time to prepare for something or are confronted with something unexpected but predictable. Watch out for the good and bad stress in you so that it does not wear you down!