Wednesday, July 23, 2008
As a pre-teen, I was considered to have a focus problem and was promptly put on Ritalin. The drug drastically focused my attention and as a result I was able to plow through mountains of boring reading and writing. I just did what I was told to do, like a task. While it got me through school and most of college, I’m starting to see that it came at the cost of developing and feeling confident about personal ways of thinking.
An article in this week’s New Yorker partly explains why by looking into the work of neuroscientists Mark Jung-Beeman and John Kounios.
The right side of the brain deals with, among other things, linguistic nuance, connotation, emotional charge and metaphor, and also insight or “Aha” moments. In order for the right side of the brain to be able to reach into its depths, we have to be relaxed.
“The relaxation phase is crucial.’ Jung-Beeman said. ‘That’s why so many insights happen during warm showers.”Or in the pre-sleep, post-wake-up state. The brain is “unwound,”open to unconventional ideas. It’s a state of concentration that nevertheless allows the mind to wander, to free-associate. So, this is why we often have insights when we’re involved in an activity that is not related to a problem we’re trying to work out: because we’re awake but not overly focused.
Can't say I've spent a lot of time unwound.
The article continues:
“Many stimulants, like caffeine, Adderall, and Ritalin, are taken to increase focus[…] but according to Jung-Beeman and Kounios, drugs may actually make insights less likely, by sharpening the spotlight of attention and discouraging mental rambles. Concentration, it seems, comes with the hidden cost of diminished creativity.”
Fascinating! So, food for even more therapy.