neurogenesis

25 there is no set route

It’s 7am and someone is blowing a car horn.

A moment or two later they blow, for longer.

Another moment passes and the horn is blown a third time – even longer still.

It sounds like the driver is picking someone up and can’t be bothered to go knock on their passenger’s front door and wait.

The thing is, waiting isn’t about doing nothing.  If we want it to be, waiting is about making a space for something to happen.

Another moment passes and I hear a car coming around the corner, so I’m wondering if this is the born blower.  As the VW Passat makes it’s way past my home, I can see that the passenger is holding a white mug of something hot.

This isn’t just about impatience on the part of the driver, it’s also about relationships: the relationship between a demanding driver and their passenger, and the relationship of the driver with all the residents who were probably trying to sleep in on a Saturday morning.

I know I need to learn how to wait better.  Not to rush and push, and not to hold back for too long, either.  Whichever way I get it wrong, I have to wonder what I miss as a result – remembering, waiting is a space made for things to happen.

Patience involves relationships and relationships involve trust:

‘[I]t is through cycles of … testing and response that we build what we eventually call a more intimate relationship.’*

We’ve learned to send out test signals all the time to see how someone will pick them up and respond.  If they’re refused or missed or ignored, our next signal will be different – perhaps more formal, less revealing, superficial.  If it’s received openly or elicits some favourable response or there is understanding then we’ll share something a little more personal:

(‘This mutual process of testing continued until a level is reached where either or both parties realise that if they reveal more it might not be understood or accepted.’*

Neurogenesis is the ability of the brain to produce new neurons.  It’s staggering to think that this scientific insight is less than twenty years old.  When I began my working life, it was thought that the brain couldn’t produce new neurons, but could only add to the old ones.  Now we know the brain never ceases in its evolving:

‘The brain, far from being fixed, is actually in a constant state of cellular upheaval … the brain is constantly giving birth to itself.’**

For more than thirty years, the scientific community was unwilling to accept the findings of several scientists, including the importance of the environment for producing new neurons: ‘A drab cage produces the drab looking cage,’ reflects Jonah Lehrer, on the discovery that the more stimulating an environment the greater the production of neurons. **

The person to connect all of this work is Elizabeth Gould – who’s now become one of my heroes because I see the world she opened up is the one I work in with others.

If impatience is about relationships, and relationships are about trust, and trust is a great environment for people to evolve, for neurogenesis to take place – constant evolving is probably the closest thing we have to freedom.

What are you waiting for?  Perhaps it’s to make a space in which someone can evolve even more.

(*From Edgar Schein’s Helping.)
(**From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.  Elizabeth Gould connected something she had come across but thought was a mistake, with the work of Joseph Altman, Michael Kaplan, and Fernando Nottebohm.  Lehrer is connected the life and writings of George Eliot with this very recent neuroscience: ‘Eliot was right: to be alive is to be ceaselessly beginning.’)

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