In my first blog on hypnotism and business I tried to explain some of the basic realities underlying our new understanding of trance and its similarity to the REM (rapid eye movement) states experienced during sleep.
In this article I would like to go a little deeper into the structure of the brain and how it affects how we perceive change and how we react to it.
In order to explain this I will take a simplified view of the structure of the brain so that we can look at principal components. For the purposes of this conversation this means we divide the brain into three broad sections; intellectual brain the conscious part of that and the limbic brain or primitive brain.
The part we think of as ‘I’ which is conscious and through which we relate to the world around us and to others is actually quite a small part of the brain. Attached to this is a vast intellectual resource a great deal of which we don’t appear to use very much.
In addition to this there is the primitive brain or limbic brain. The key influential part of the limbic brain is the amygdala often referred to as the depression flight / fight centre. The additional parts of this are the hypothalamus and the hippocampus. The hypothalamus is responsible for releasing a number of different chemicals and neurotransmitters into the bloodstream. The hippocampus contains primitive behavioural patterns most of which are survival based.
The limbic brain is all about survival. For this reason it is a negative mind. It conceives of everything in terms of how much of a threat it might be and if we think about it this is exactly what it should be doing as its main function is self-preservation.
It is an obsessive mind such that it is always checking for potential danger and will keep on reminding us if it thinks that something is a risk. It is also a vigilant mind constantly on guard.
When we operate in the higher brain we generally get things right because the higher brain is positive and usually makes a reasonable assessment of reality. Also in contrast to the primitive brain the higher brain is capable of innovation. The primitive brain is only capable of responding to circumstances using the patterns which it finds in the hippocampus. So the primitive brain will never create new and innovative solutions to problems.
Research in the US military has shown that the more pressure service people are under and the more anxious they become the more they move into operating from the limbic brain. This is accompanied by a major reduction in the effectiveness of their assessment of situations and their ability to create adequate responses to them.
It’s easy to see the relevance of this to change, one of the most fraught topics in any organisation.
For a start change is identified as a potential threat. The first thing the primitive brain does is to check for survival threats. Almost without exception when any change programme is introduced into an organisation the common reaction is to start functioning in the limbic brain.
Training in being able to access trance states where the focus is on functioning in the higher brain could potentially help people to adjust to change as it occurs.
Before this becomes a new way for managers to accuse staff of having bad attitudes and before the claim “you’re operating from your primitive brain” becomes a common indictment of other people’s behaviour, it is worth considering that frequently change programmes have been designed and motivated by people operating from the primitive brain themselves.
In this case the design of change may be the first place we need to start in ensuring that we can apply the capabilities of the higher brain to arrive at a reasoned and reasonable analysis of what the current situation is and to create an imaginative and viable solution or strategy for forward movement.
So if change-makers want to prepare the way for beneficial change and development then the ability to derive imaginative and innovative solutions (which the unconscious part of the higher brain is excellent at doing) would seem to me to be a distinct advantage.
So learning the skill of accessing the capabilities of realistic assessment and systemic solution formation may well be a great place for them to start. Trance is the ideal state in which to do this.
This could result in the development of change plans which are not based around primitive brain thinking and do not, because of that, immediately communicate themselves as a survival threat.
This could produce much more successful organisations. Of course it does mean a major break with the macho tradition of slash and burn reorganisation. However it is probably long gone time that we began to question the real business value of organisations being a stage for the acting out of primitive brain dramas.
Tomorrow’s super successful next-generation organisations will be those that embrace more conscious working, deeper collaboration and greater utilisation of all the capabilities of their people.
The recent developments in the studies of neuroscience and trance suggest very real and practical ways in which this fundamental life skill can contribute to increased profitability at the same time as creating a more civilised workplace.
What’s not to like?