One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Adaptive unconsciousness; the power of thinking without thinking

I was thinking that the quick responses of reflex arc had saved me but
psychologists say that I was saved by adaptive unconsciousness,
“When I was 8th grader, I had to go to afternoon tuition classes to improve my
English and Mathematics. In our part of the world, people take nap at mid-day
during long and hot summer days so the streets are quiet. Like every other day,
that afternoon I was riding my bicycle to go to my tuition class. The shops were
open but the street was empty. The sewage canal was blocked and the sewage
water was flowing on the street. I was riding very slowly to save myself from
sewage water. Then I heard the sound of a speedy motorbike coming from
behind. Without any “thought” I just stopped my bicycle and stood next to well
taking cover of my bicycle. I don’t know why I did this but I could see a young
man riding a motor bike that was out of his control. The bike was going from
one side of street to another. I stuck myself to the wall more firmly and holding
tight the handle of my bicycle to save myself. With a slight touch of handle of
motor bike to the career of my bicycle, the bike fell and slipped at its side while
dragging the young man under it, into sewage water. The sewage water
splashed on the walls. It was lovely scene. The shopkeepers come of their shops
and all were laughing. I was just saved by “adaptive unconsciousness”. If I was
my bicycle, certainly I had been hit by this speedy bike.
The young man came out of his bike and stood. The shop keepers were laughing
on him. He stood for a while with his head down and suddenly he took out a big
knife from his pocket and ran towards me. There wasn’t enough distance
between us. Terrified by this unexpected act, I just threw my bicycle on him. He
fell on my bicycle and both on the ground. The shopkeeper rushed to save me.
It was the second time that my “adaptive unconsciousness” saved me in just few
Next year (In 9th grade) I become familiar with “reflex arc” through my biology
class. I thought that I had saved by reflex arc actions of my nervous system. (I f
you are not familiar with reflex arc, following link has a brief description and an
animation; ). Now, I have
learnt that I was actually saved by “adaptive unconsciousness”.
Adaptive consciousness is powerful and effective mental tool, as it is related to
decision making and judgments but in very short time period and without
thinking. Previously unconsciousness was thought exclusively as a store house
for memories, emotions and experiences that sometimes are disturbing to our
consciousness (Freudian unconsciousness). Adaptive unconsciousness was
popularized by Malcolm Gladwell. He wrote a bestselling book by name of
“Blink: the power of thinking without thinking”. I liked the definitive title of
Malcolm’s book and borrowed the name for the title of this article.
“Adaptive unconsciousness” is not just helpful in quick reactions when we face
immediate threats but it also works when our consciousness is not reaching
conclusions and is not able to make decisions mostly because there is not
enough information available for thought processes. This characteristic of
“adaptive unconsciousness really intrigues me.
If you are fond of Indian movies you know that one of the recurring messages is
“listen to your heart”. I was always looking to this message as “romantic” and
“aesthetical” than rational and practical one. But now adaptive psychology tells
me that “listening to the heart” is part of mental processes and whenever the
conscious mind is confused and not really clear (usually because of lack of
information) the heart come forward and help in making decisions that most of
time are right.
Frankly, I practice it because it is embedded in my soul by our family teachings.
Let me share an unforgettable coincidence that my heart was leading me
It took me more than two weeks to prepare my medical report that was required
by University admission office. The people, who are familiar with Pakistani
office system, know what I am talking about. Record keepers do not provide
information and officers are not available at their offices so you have to run
between offices to know how things work and dig information (especially if it is
an “ancient document” of your childhood). According to my calculations I had
to post to the documents in two days so it could reach timely. That day after
finishing my class, I came to office to fill the form and attaché document and
post them. But some talkative students came and started questioning. I hadn't
much time but I couldn’t let them go without answering their questions.
Meanwhile some lecturers came into my office. You can’t say to your colleagues
that you have an urgent work otherwise they think that you are escaping from
serving them a few cup of tea. Soon they started talking about politics. Oh no,
this is the most unlikely thing to happen as politics is an open ended topic that
everyone is “EXPERT” in and it is not going to reach at any conclusion. As soon
as they left my office, I filled the form, made photocopies, put in file and rushed
to Post office. By reaching the post office I found that the main entrance was
closed. The officers were still inside so I asked gatekeeper to allow me to go in
just for few minutes. I just needed stamp and an envelope. The gatekeeper
refused and I lost my temper and pushed him while walking away. On my way
back to college, my heart was heavy. I didn’t have the right to push somebody.
It was my mistake by being late. At home I was taught that “if you receive a
punishment soon after doing something wrong, it means that your soul is clean
and the punishment is a warning from God …. But if you don’t receive any
punishment after doing wrong things, it means that you soul is dirty and
heavens let your wrong doings to be compiled).
My heart was saying that you will soon receive a punishment (You may call it
superstition but if you are brought up this way, Science will not help you
abandon your beliefs). As I reached college I found one my files is missing. In
hurry, I checked them again and again. I have lost the file that I have worked
for two weeks on and was in hurry to post it. My heart was right. God had
punished me for mistreating a gatekeeper. I came again to post office, said sorry
to gatekeeper and asked him if has seen the file. The answer was no. I asked
Parking owner, where I had parked my motorcycle, the answer was no. I went
to traffic police and asked him, if he has seen a pink file. The answer was no. I
gave him my number that in case if someone finds it he could contact me. I
came back to college but didn't know what to do. I hadn’t time to do all these
What was amazing to me was the peace in my heart. My heart was saying that I
will find the file very soon but how? There wasn’t any answer. I decided to go
home. On my back home, as I reached near the school that I was teaching
before starting teaching at college, my phone started ringing. I attended the call.
The caller asked me, “Are you Khudadad?” “Yes, I am”… I replied. “I have your
file. Where are you now?” he asked. “I am next to A-ONE City School” I replied
back. “Oh Yes! I can see you. I am just across the street”. I looked at other side
of street. A boy and a young man were standing on roadside and holding my
file. I was almost to scream. What a coincidence. The young man told me that
he went to pick his younger brother from school when he found that his
younger brother was holding a pink file. His younger brother told him that he
found the file near school gate. When they reached home, he opened the file
and found the form inside that had my cell number, email address and the A-
ONE City School address on it. He came to school but found it closed so he
called me. He was also surprised by finding me just across the street.
Tough this was an amazing coincidence but it is not directly linked to “adaptive
unconsciousness”. What is linked to “adaptive unconsciousness” were “calls of
my heart”. When we say “heart”, we mean “unconsciousness”. Our
“consciousness” says it is “superstition”, “irrational” and “ritualistic” but do not
provide an answer when we confused and desperate. The “unconsciousness”
come to our help and makes decisions. And I would say that they are
dominantly right (they fail in cases where you really do not trust and listen to

If you are interested in having an easy and quick familiarity to "adaptive unconsciousness watch following lecture,

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