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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Pacing: Understanding the Brain

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


May 27, 2013

Robert Sylwester, a prominent brain researcher, gives us insights into understanding the dynamics of the brain in pacing:

When our emotional/attentional systems report a serious problem, our first line of either defense or attack tends to be reflexive. Powerful reflexive response repertoires are unconsciously activated. Our slower reflective problem-solving system is simultaneously alerted, and it can soften or even override our reflexive system’s response if it can quickly come up with a better solution, or negotiate a delayed response (such as to count-to-ten when anger flares). Conversely, we tend to activate our slower reflective system to solve challenging problems that don’t carry the sense of immediacy that activates the reflexive responses that impede reflective thought.

The process of pacing, as a tool set in the Problem-Resolving Map, assists the brain in giving its attention to the reflective systems. Without a coach to support the flow of energy to the reflective system, individuals may need other strategies to resolve threat.

This week note your responses to stress and threats. How does it affect your thought processes? Make note of times when you feel reflexive and times when you feel reflective. Consciously make an effort to pace others to support the flow of energy to the reflective aspect of the brain.

Source: Sylwester, R. (1998, October). The Downshifting Dilemma: A commentary and proposal. New Horizons for Learning.

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