Rational Thinking - one of the cards from the in8 Cards resource packBack to School

With a return to school for many this week, it may seem obvious that one of the aims of our education system is to develop our children’s ability to think rationally.

Rational Thinking is an innate capability or resource with which all humans are equipped at birth. How well it works for each person depends on many factors – but we all enter this world with this ability to greater or lesser degree.

The present government’s emphasis on ensuring that all students achieve a basic understanding of maths provides evidence of this aim to encourage development of this essential capability.

Not the Whole Story

But the way we reward skill in this area has always seemed to me a bit one-sided. After all, every single product in our world is the result of someone’s vision. Somebody had the imagination to create every single one of (even the technological) creations that fill our homes and lives. And although a rational mind is required to plan and develop any new idea, the process starts with a very different resource: imagination. Rationality, critical thinking and analytic thinking alone never created anything. And what about intuition? What about our innate ability to know when something is true. Do these vital modes of thought even count?

Measuring Against a Single Scale

When Michael Gove talks about measuring the ability of children as early as in primary school, he appears assume that it is meaningful to put up a single scale of measurement – then assess each child’s ability against this single scale. And the scale used in our education system is biased strongly in favour of intellect. 

It is no surprise to me that some of the most creative and successful people did not score particularly well on this arbitrary test of ability while they were “in the education system”. As a therapist I consider that an important aspect of my work is to recognise the genius in each of my clients, and sometimes to help them to recognise it too. I have never met anyone who is not exceptionally talented in some area – but sadly, all too often their skill does not match what society expects and rewards.

I like the way Sir Kenneth Robinson puts it in this RSA animated TED talk.

When it Doesn’t Work

One of the key organising ideas that we use here at in8, is that our ability to think rationally can be severely impaired when we are emotionally aroused. Put bluntly, strong emotions can make humans functionally stupid.

This is one of the reasons that we use relaxation techniques to help people regain their natural ability to think clearly.

But we also help you to identify other ways to approach whatever challenges you currently face. The answer is not always to be found in simply thinking harder about your problems. Like any powerful tool, the rational mind can work wonders when used properly, but can also cause great damage when misused or used inappropriately.

If you have difficulty thinking clearly, or have a problem which requires more than analysis, please contact us at in8 to find out how we can help.

A New Approach to Living Well

You came into this world equipped with a powerful set of resources as well as your ability to think rationally; the ability to build rapport, your imagination, dreaming, the ability to know through story, metaphor and patterns, your emotions (which drive you forwards), your ability to stand back and see the bigger picture and your long term memory which helps you to learn. And when life is going well, whether you are aware of it or not, you are using these vital capabilities on a daily basis to get your innate needs met. When things start to go wrong, you can be sure that you are either struggling to obtain something that you need (such as attention or control), or misusing one of these innate resources.

If you would like to know more about this approach to well-being, you may want to attend one of our low cost in8 Cards workshops which we run each month. Please contact us to reserve your place today.