Using Your Internal Space

Everyone represents the information that they use in a spatial way, although few people are explicitly aware of this. Being aware of these spatial representations, we can make use of them to get our brains to behave in the way we would like.

Here are some ways to play with the way you organise this internal space.

  1. Understanding without tears. Think about some things that you understand really well, things that you would be able to explain to anyone without even a moment to think about it. Now, where did you locate such things? Were they out in front of you, off to the side, above you, below you, or somewhere else? (Almost everyone knows the answer to this question right away even if they've never thought in such spatial terms before.)

    Now think about things that you've seen but didn't completely understand, such as a recent lecture. Where do you locate things of this kind? (It's almost certainly a different place.)

    Now take an idea that you don't completely understand, and imagine that it's connected to you by a big piece of elastic. Push it from the place where you keep things you don't understand further and further away from you; and keep doing this until it's infinitely far away. The elastic is really stretched, right? Now let it rebound to the other place, the place where you keep things you really understand well.

    Does this change how well you understand the idea? Check it out next time you review that idea.

  2. How do you choose where you sit in class? Think about the way you organise the following information spatially: things you understand well, things you are curious about but don't really understand, things you partially understand, things you are bored about, things you have to keep but don't really want to, and things you don't care about.

    Now when you sit in class, consider the line between you and the lecturer. Does it intersect one of these places? What do you think that means? If you sit in different places in different classes, does the line intersect spaces where you keep different things?

  3. Spinning Icons. Think of a situation that you want to change. First, consider the situation as it is now. Make a vivid mental image of the situation, and then convert it into an icon, just as you would find on the desktop of a computer. Where is this icon spatially?

    Now take the situation as you would like it to be. Make a vivid mental image of this too, and turn it into another icon. Where is this icon spatially?

    Now imagine a large wheel that fills the space between the two icons, so that they are on opposite sides at the rim. Imagine the wheel beginning to spin slowly, so that the icons start to spin around each other on the rim. Imagine the wheel gathering speed, until its rim is a blur and you can't see the icons any more.

    Repeat this a few times. After a few days, see if your approach to the situation hasn't changed.