An extract from Common Ground magazine with Marilyn Atkinson on how the brain learns.
CG: Tell us about the cerebral cortex. You say it is about two to three million years old. What is it doing? How does it learn?
MA: Well, it is so amazing! The research on the brain is amazing...We’ve got this two to three million-year-old brain that genealogically is so new that we hardly use it. We only use 5% of it. Visually it can do miraculous things that the emotional brain could never begin to do.
With the brain, you probably know that when we start asking rich questions, open-ended solution-focused questions, and really start visualizing moving pictures, we literally start growing neuron connectors. A person who’s thinking, questioning and learning can grow about 2 miles of neurons linkages in a day. Our brains require a lot of food because we develop these pathways for learning, questioning and visualizing in a rich, energy consuming way. We are increasing our intelligence by miles.
People need to ask lots of questions and become really curious to do this. Gradually you develop a myelin sheath around the circuitries that hold new learning so you can actually use it. It is like when you ride a bicycle; it takes a couple of weeks to get habituated, which means that those neuron sheaths become myelinated and you can ride a bicycle for the rest of your life.
Well, the same skill development at the process level is available with different kinds of visualizing skills. A lot of people hardly ever visualize very much because they’ve not re-developed that skill-set, they don’t even know its missing. In fact, this is true for the majority of people on the planet; growing up in cultures that don’t use dialogue, questions, or a coaching approach in their teaching of young children.
We’ve become so overwhelmed by auditory tonal training and schooling dominated by closed statements of givens and conclusions, we hardly notice that we, too have built the same kind of closed, auditory, brain. And within that we listen to our own personal and negative tonal command structures, such as “You will probably fail again” . In the scope of Solution-Focused Coaching, these are called t. These negative conclusions are like a cork in the bottle. They plug up the whole visualizing capacity.
People visualize best when they’re relaxed, like when we dream. This means that if people are tensing up to beta level auditory brain waves all their lives with an ongoing set of cautions and negative internal commands to themselves, then true curiosity and flowing visualization rarely gets started.
Upon discovering that using Solution-Focused questions, practices and a genuine curiosity about the emerging possibilities, our participants could hugely shift their intelligence and capacity to follow their vision, develop it into strategic plans, and create successful results. With this in mind, we created Erickson Coaching International in honor of Milton Erickson. Since then I’ve been busy developing the system throughout the world.