The neurosciences' take on an initiatory journey: What happens to the brain of the cyclist who sets off on a solo circumnavigation of the world? She had just turned twenty-seven, found the time long, the environment too narrow. Béatrice MAINE then imagined cycling around the world. A few years later, trained in neuroscience, she allowed me to revisit her adventure to evoke the cognitive and emotional transformations associated with this three-year journey.
Photo taken on the Tibetan plateau, February 2008
L’global workspace, defined by Jean-Pierre CHANGEUX and Stanislas DEHAENE proposes five families of neural subsystems to access consciousness. In fact, each time a decision is taken, each time conscious movements are set in motion, this space is mobilized. We are going to go around its five dimensions by imagining Beatrice's journey. By analogy, you can look at how these dimensions are impacted in situations of managerial and collaborative "breakdowns", which are sought after by many organizations.
Open your perceptions. Our senses are more numerous than we think. Sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste...are complemented by the sense of body, proprioception, sense of rhythm and sense of balance. The latter, essential for cycling, is also essential for experiencing managerial and collaborative transformations. The search for a new balance is at the heart of these approaches. Beatrice, curious and intrepid, has decided to put her nose to the wind and open her senses to other horizons. There is no need to argue about the potential perceptive openness of this journey.
Disrupt routines and enrich his memories. Graduate school claims to transform us by knowing. Going through an experience that confronts ignorance is good for mental health and creative ability. The latter is based on the observation that our knowledge is obsolete. Our memories, perceptive, semantic, episodic and procedural, are the foundation of our identity. However, they also serve to prevent us from changing, forming the basis of our subjective truths. Having become efficient, and therefore routine, they are unconsciously activated from morning to evening and from evening to morning (they work while we sleep). They lead us to imagine the future with the past without us being aware of it. For it is the same neural networks that serve to recall the past and to imagine the future. Beatrice has accepted the unpredictability of the future. She has taken the risk of moving into the unknown, of having to interact with people of different cultures and languages, without fear of heckling her beliefs and confronting her mnemonic routines.
Experiencing the emotions of stressful situations. Movements and emotions are intimately linked. Fear invites flight, anger invites aggression, distress invites withdrawal, desire to move forward. Jack PANSHEPP showed how emotions and movements come from the same continuum. Desire is at the base of the discoveries, dissatisfaction (anger) supports the effort of the imagination. Ekonon GOLBERG reminds us that we have never seen a satisfied genius. Living the adventure of discovering the world - alone - is an emotionally demanding path that can be described as initiatory. The desire, at the source of this path, also needs the energy of dissatisfaction generated by a subjective evaluation of a life that is considered too monotonous...and an environment that is too predictable. Yet we will have to overcome fear and take care of ourselves. Accept the stress generated by certain situations, avoid taking refuge in distress and depression. Assume fear while seeking the resources of ontological security. Do not be afraid to trust and seek comfort from generous and caring people.
Learn to pay attention to diverse criteria. Automatic attentional priorities are directly dependent on the beliefs and signs of recognition received in childhood that have structured the reward circuit housed in the heart of our brain. The resulting "drivers" invite repetition. Discovering other worlds, other places, other cultures requires to question the attentional automatisms. Knowing how to take into account different practices and values, being attentive to others and adapting to their frame of reference is vital in such an adventure. The diversification of criteria is a critical point in ecological, technological and social ruptures. Our education, thanks to mirror neurons, influences our perceptions, inviting us to copy the intentions of authority figures. In a trip around the world, the encounter with other "mirror systems" is a profitable exercise for these empathetic neurons. This experience opens up to otherness and the acceptance of differences.
Directing his life trajectory based on a search for evolution. The intention that results from our conscious and unconscious motivations supports our actions. To put oneself in the movement, in the flow of surpassing oneself, ...in the love of life, ...is without context at the heart of Beatrice's adventure. Each one of us, in our own way, is in an existential quest. Neurosciences through their discoveries confirm that our brain has been shaped during our learning of all kinds and that complex interactions determine our ambition. Knowing how to consciously set ourselves in motion towards what gives meaning to our experience is the path of those who are at the heart of the progress of human evolution, especially when it is based on collaborative relationships.
Curiosity, creativity, risk-taking, collaboration with strangers... Beatrice offers a stimulating model. In this period of re-creation, her courage and pugnacity can inspire those who feel cramped in today's reference systems. Encourage them to question their beliefs and cognitive automatisms that keep them in the business-as-usual Rather than avoiding challenges, seize challenges. Persisting in the face of failure, seeing efforts as a path to mastery, committing to a new level of achievement and development, are key qualities in times of profound change.