Yesterday, we talked briefly about the different learning styles and mode of response that are expressions of the various stages the survival nervous system travels through (you can read more about that here if you want to catch up on the latest). As a continuation of that, I thought it would be interesting to bring up the often-maligned concept of multi-tasking, and how we are often encouraged to do one thing at a time.
If we cycle back to yesterday’s conversation, you will see that how we respond to feedback or criticism varies depending on where our nervous system is sitting. The same is true of the conditions we feel that we require to be able to concentrate, or really put our all into the task at hand.
The reality is that your brain and body thrive on sensory information, so much so that if sensory information is limited in some way (as is the case when we spend too long in the survival response) we will only ever respond to what’s in front of us with a sympathetic reflex. What this means is that if you have limited sensory input, your brain has limited information to go on to decide how to appropriately respond to the situation in front of it. As a result, it errs on the side of caution and fires off whatever dominant pattern (fight/flight/freeze/collapse) is the favourite of the moment.
When our nervous system is balanced and responsive, we can handle many different pieces of input coming at us in the same moment. We can handle it because it is our unconscious brain that is sorting, prioritizing and discarding for us; we are feeling our way through the situation rather than thinking our way through.
Conversely, if we require silence, or limited input to take something in, we are operating from a sympathetic learning mode. In the survival response, our focus narrows. We become more tunnel visioned. And this ability for the brain to only process limited input then carries over to every other experience we have when we are operating within and out of that mode.
We are natural multitaskers. It’s a bi-product of multi-feeling, multi-awareness capacity we have that’s innate to the parasympathetic system.