Linear & Nonlinear Reasoning
Stages of development
The next stage of development we move into as older children and adolescents is that of analyzing, reasoning and trying to make sense of things that we perceive. For many this comes in the form of logical and linear reasoning as this is what is mostly reinforced in our schools and culture. It is black and white and views progress as moving from point A to B without deviation from the line. It is focused on finding cause and effect relationships in which 1+1 must=2. While others develop abstract or nonlinear reasoning. In this type of reasoning things don’t move in a sequential fashion or progress on a straight line from A to B, but instead may move from A to P to O to D. There are infinite shades and dimensions of all colors and things move out in many directions from one point. A singular cause and effect relationship is a mute point as everything is influencing and effecting everything else, 1+happiness+an apple might=2. People often categorize this into left brain vs right brain activity, where left brain is linear/logical and right brain is nonlinear/abstract.
Anyone who has spent time with a young child knows their insatiable hunger to know why things are the way they are. This is rooted in a fundamental curiosity to know the outer world with which we find ourselves abiding within. As young children we are little explorers with awakening mental capabilities that we use to make sense of what we see, feel, hear, taste and touch. Developmentally we move from putting things in our mouth and touching things with are hands when we are infants and toddlers to using our mind to ask questions about things and formulate thoughts about what we sense. Once we think we know our outer world well enough we stop asking so many questions with that child-like curiosity and we now have many developed assumptions based on what all of the adults in our lives have told us about the world. We are not really aware of these assumptions as we’ve simply absorbed the information given to us and made it into a concrete and factual world which we now live in.
While many people have a higher tendency towards logical, linear reasoning as that is what we are taught as primary, most people have aspects of both types of reasoning. However as a collective we tend to lean towards what the culture accepts and expects and find ourselves locked into linear reasoning even if that isn’t our natural default or tendency. We go for what “makes the most sense”, “is logical”, which is implied to be the “higher, more prestigious order”. Whether or not that is actually true or valid is up for debate, but the logical mind tends to be quite rigid, singularly focused, at times righteous and has a hard time coloring outside the lines. For it to see itself, and for you to see it in yourself, can be challenging because it must be proven to with facts, data and direct cause and effect or else it remains closed, skeptical and judgmental.
Addiction to Reasoning
Shifting into presence
While reasoning, linear and nonlinear, are fundamental developmental milestones to this human experience many people get locked into and addicted to reasoning, especially linear reasoning. We tend to need to know why things are they way they are rather than simply experiencing them. We feel a compulsion to figure things out particularly when undesirable occurrences are showing up in our lives or bodies and we feel frustrated when we can’t make sense of it all. We think if we could just figure it out, have some reason or answer be revealed to us, then everything would be ok again.
While linear reasoning absolutely has its place say for example when organizing your house, structuring your day or creating an action plan for something very specific that you want to achieve or create, in the realms of healing it often gets in the way. Our near complete obsession with thinking and figuring it out postpones our healing like nothing else. Why is this so you might ask? It is because all healing happens in the present, in fact healing is a return to the present, and when you are thinking you are not present. Our minds have a really sneaky way of convincing us that if they can just have a few more thoughts or think about something for a little longer than they will get closer to some kind of knowing that will benefit them. This is why we develop an addiction to our thoughts in the first place. We think that our thoughts and reasoning will benefit us more than simply being present to our experience. That somehow our thoughts have the answer separate from our direct experience of whatever it is that we are experiencing. We have learned to become so reliant on our thoughts that we can’t even imagine or trust that there is another way. We often perceive being present to our experience as inactive and being in our thoughts/head as active and productive. As long as our minds are active we feel success or as if we are moving towards success, but to still our minds and experience simply being with feels boring or empty, unproductive, or like a waste of time, especially when we want answers.
The other piece to this is that our minds have agendas. When life isn’t looking/feeling like we want it to the mind looks for a way out rather than a way in. Getting out of our experience is impossible and yet we will try at all costs to do so when we don’t like what we are experiencing. Getting into our experience is the process of presence. To feel and see what is here without turning away from it is what allows for healing and eventually transformation to occur. We are so busy being in our heads avoiding the aspects of our lives that we don’t want to feel and yet feeling them is the key to healing them. Remember avoidance is simply a protective mechanism, a way that we can check out of our experience rather than into it, because sometimes what is here is too uncomfortable, more uncomfortable than our continual avoidance of it.
Being in your experience provides all of the energy and information that you will ever need. Your capacity to feel the emotions and sensations that are present in any moment, particularly the ones you resist or don’t like, is what allows them to be part of the whole rather than separate in a concept or thought. This integrates them back into the unified whole of which they never really left, only your thoughts kept them separate. It is from this place that you can see a larger perspective. This is where the energy and knowingness for actions, transformation and change occurs. There is no more figuring out. There is simply knowledge of how to proceed and what must occur now. If you find yourself “not knowing how” then you’re not present yet because when you are present you always know. Here self-doubt ends and self-knowing is inherent.
Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado