Tapping into the unconscious mind

Several of our best ideas take birth in the unconscious mind.

This is true across fields. Archimedes found inspiration in the bathtub. The structure of the benzene ring came to August Kekulé as a day-dream of a snake eating its own tail. Stephen King has written about how his book ideas come from out of nowhere. Both Salvador Dali and Thomas Edison used to doze off on their chairs to tap into their unconscious minds for ideas.

Our vocabulary is replete with phrases that hint at our connection with the unconscious. We talk about bursts of inspirations, bulbs lighting up in our brain and of ideas striking us like a bolt. If all of this happens in the unconscious, what are we to do with our conscious minds – the same as which are reading these letters on the screen?

When the footballer jogs across the field, he searches for gaps in the opponent’s defense. When a chess player scans the board in a game of blitz, she questions how the pieces relate to each other. A musical composer gets in touch with his innermost feelings to correlate what he listens to with what he feels. What all of them have in common is a sense of purposeful curiosity.

“Where can I find an opening through the defense?”

“How can my rook coordinate an attack with my bishop?”

“What does this particular chord remind me of?”

Curiosity is the domain of the conscious mind, while the unconscious excels at creativity. Through a posture of curiosity, the conscious mind gathers the right data for the unconscious mind to produce an insight. The feeling of a mental block or a lack of inspiration is simply the unconscious mind deprived of data.

Therefore, our best ideas will come to us provided we ask the right questions. When an author wishes to write about the blockchain, she could ask pertinent questions and read about 20 good articles that answer those questions. When she has done that, her article would appear the moment she sits in front of the keyboard. If the words are not forthcoming, it is time to read some more, think some more and ask more questions.

Our unconscious minds excel at joining the dots. Our conscious selves can serve them by providing them the right dots to join.

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