Insight from Barry Mapp

In this insight piece, Barry shares insights from the field of neuroscience, accelerated learning and the recent work of Iain McGilchrist. New understanding of neuroscience provide helpful learning on how we as individuals can flourish. It also provides profound and exciting revelations on how we can adjust our ways of thinking and working to better serve the common interests, wealth and wellbeing – and build a world where all can flourish (the vision of the CSF. Do get in touch if you would like to explore this further).

This insight piece was written as an introduction and accompaniment to a session given as part of a workshop on this theme which is a key focus of enquiry within the CSF and area of developing expertise within the community.

Lessons from the Human Brain to help us work together collaboratively and better serve our common interests

The session looks at how the working of the human brain can either hinder or help us to work together to achieve common aims. It addresses how we often find ‘like-minded’ people working against each other rather than working with each other. How currently, despite all our best efforts we find ourselves being part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

By studying the workings of the human brain we all learn something about the nature of reality and some of the paradoxes we see in the world today.

Each hemisphere of our cerebral cortex (upper brain) perceives the world in a different way i.e. perceives reality differently. Not only that, but the lower part of our brain (sometimes referred to us the ‘primitive’ or ‘reptilian’ brain) also perceives reality differently from the upper brain and often is at complete odds with the foresight coming from the right hemisphere. The completeness of our ‘world view’ will be influenced by how well the perceptions emanating from the different areas of our brain are co-ordinated. If one part of the brain has ‘dominance’ then our overall perception is reduced. Only in very extreme circumstances is it a good thing for one part of the brain to dominate.

We are all aware that every individual perceives the world slightly differently because we each have a unique mix of values, beliefs, assumptions (absorbed from parental, social, peer, cultural source differences etc) that influences our perception and frames our ‘world view’.

However we may be less aware that how we ‘see the world’ and see ‘reality’ also depends on how the parts of our brain work together (In this sense the brain provides a useful metaphor – some of the conflicts we see in the outer world may indeed be replicated in our inner world!). When parts of the brain come to dominate the perception role and take over the total control of our thoughts and actions then this distorts our grasp on reality.

In particular our ability to think clearly (see the wood from the trees) and to think with an open mind is severely restricted when the left hemisphere is overly dominant. Also if our lower brain becomes overly dominant, reality becomes severely distorted, locking thoughts into narrow reality, self-interest and ‘do or die’ survival mentality (not helpful when seeking to work together co-operatively). Also ‘old habits’ that we thought we had rid ourselves from, come to the fore when the lower brain dominates. This part of our brain sees all issues at black/white, either/or, right/wrong, good/bad and reality is not like that. We can see that much of the political thinking in time of so-called ‘crises’ comes from the lower brain.

Only when we better understand the working of the brain, together with a better understanding of how held beliefs and assumptions influence reality (and prevent us having an ‘open mind’), will we be better placed to tackle the important issues that confront mankind today.

Author: Barry Mapp  

Barry Mapp is skills facilitator and owner at the House of Learning. He worked for 22 years as a scientist in the NHS and also for several years as a Quality Consultant Advisor to a Health Authority. Since 1997 however Barry has been a trainer in the field of personal and organisational development