Defined Words: packing, unpacking
Your brain functions based on neurons synapsing together to form links between pieces of information. You have the ability to synapse many things to a single idea, or neural cluster, including a reminder if you come up with an idea but don’t have time to think it through. We can use almost anything as a reminder to trigger the neural cluster when we have more time: a post-it note, an alarm set on your phone, a string tied around your finger. Each of these reminders is a stimulus that is meant to trigger a specific neural cluster to jump back onto a previous train of thought, or neural path.
Creating a reminder is a great way of packing a neural cluster. The reminder lets you shift your consciousness away but maintains a connection to that idea. Packing a cluster is a helpful way to keep track of more information than consciously possible while continuing to accept new stimuli. If you’ve ever labeled or categorized anything, you have packed that neural cluster and left a physical reminder to stimulate it later.
If you can pack a neural cluster, then you can spend time unpacking a cluster too. Unpacking usually requires more effort but is a fantastic skill to have. Neural clusters usually start out very general and abstract; as the cluster gains more synapses, it becomes more specific. The neurons synapsed to the cluster can be visual, auditory, verbal, or anecdotal, to name a few.
If we were to explain this concept using a neurograph, our packed concept would be represented as a single point connected to many other neurons. A concept that needs to be unpacked would still need to make connections to other clusters to become completed. Not only do the newly synapsed neurons allow for a better understanding of an idea, but now it is more likely to synapse to other clusters in the brain.
That was probably confusing to read, so let’s put it into more generic terms. Say you have a problem at work that you can’t seem to think of a solution for. You stand up to take a quick break and find your friend doing the same. You begin to describe your problem to your friend and halfway through your explanation, you figure out the solution to your problem. Among computer programmers, it’s common to try and explain their code to a rubber ducky when they are stumped. Explaining their problem in simple terms can help give them a new perspective.
The process of you connecting your problem to the language and grammar clusters in your brain to form sentences unpacks the cluster. An unpacked cluster has a better chance of linking to other ideas which is exactly what happens when you suddenly realize an answer.
Talking isn’t the only way to unpack a cluster, though it is one of the most effective methods. Writing is another method since it can synapse language and grammar, as well as spelling and the motor center. Anyone who has ever kept a journal or diary understands how much you can learn about yourself as you write.
One of the reasons that talking and writing help to unpack is because it slows you down long enough to have second opinions on your own thoughts. We’ve all started sentences that we change halfway through, and yes, text messages count. The time it takes for our brain to access the necessary neurons to accurately portray a thought with words gives us more time to reconsider the thought from a new angle. Sentences need to be finished; it’s a need that forces us to finish our thoughts.
Sometimes unpacking requires a sounding board from another person who can call you out on your logical errors; it’s often helpful to think out loud with a friend. When thinking to ourselves or writing in a private journal, logical errors are more likely since you are focused on the cluster and have less of an outside perspective.
One way to solve this, if you prefer not to share intimate thoughts with friends, is to develop an internal monologue. Many of you probably have the ability to do this for short periods of time while some of you may have already automated the process meaning there’s always a voice in your head.
An internal monologue can be helpful because it gives you a second perspective so you can have a conversation with yourself. One side of the conversation is made up of verbal thoughts while the other is made of speaking words. Both require synapses to the language center so both slow down your thinking. Slower thinking gives you more time to be your own sounding board. Some of you may already do this in the form of prayer, with God taking the name of your internal voice.
When there is a neural cluster that yearns to be unpacked, it continues to be triggered. There’s a reason that people who go through a breakup only ever want to talk about the breakup: the cluster hasn’t been completely synapsed. Sometimes you want to explain a thought to someone but you realize you don’t even have the words to explain it to yourself. I encourage everyone to spend some time unpacking their brain. Talk, paint, write, anything to build more synapses to a cluster that can help you to synapse it to more ideas.
Remember, you have a character cluster representing yourself and all your experiences are linked to it. If you spend some time unpacking your experiences and synapse each to your own character, you can get a better understanding of yourself from an outside perspective. It’s up to you to find the method to help you answer that all-important question: “Who am I?” Choose your favorite way to unpack your own thoughts, experiences, and opinions and never stop exploring.