Often in the face of the unexpected, the first response is disbelief or denial. You hear reactions like “wait, wait, wait, what did you say? That can’t be right!” etc. The unexpected evokes befuddlement, denial, irritation. Negative reactions to the unexpected are typical of a passive mind. I wrote last September about how Active Minds Make It Happen. Today’s entry highlights the active mind’s fascination with, rather than the resentment of, the unexpected.
Static Map of Reality
Passive minds want phenomena and people to behave predictably within pre-packaged perceptions of the world, a static map of reality. They are suddenly at sea, lost, when their accepted map of other people’s personalities, for example, is altered by new information. They need everything and everyone around them to be comfortably predictable.
Predictability saves the passive mind from the jarring impact of suddenly adjusting to something unfamiliar (whether it’s a family member changing political party, a friend getting a different haircut or changing style of clothes, someone getting a new hobby, a coworker eating something different at lunch, a friend announcing a wedding, or a divorce, a revolution in a foreign country, a parent changing a longstanding habit, a vegetarian friend suddenly eating a hotdog, or any other change from the largest to the smallest).
The Active Difference
The difference between an active mind and a passive mind is that an active mind is stimulated by unexpected behaviors of people and phenomena. It is automatically registered as an opportunity for seeing a new facet. The sudden change might be fascinating, or mildly interesting. But for an active mind, it is never jarring or befuddling. What stuns a passive mind gears up an active mind.
Elasticity of Mind
Perceiving a new facet of someone or something, no matter how small or large, is met with perceptive and active reassessment of past ways of organizing one’s surroundings. It used to be called “elasticity of mind,” the ability to adapt to and accommodate changing facts and impressions. This is a quality of an active mind. Unexpected information at odds with past assumptions is stimulating rather than jarring.
Conversely, a passive mind is typically irritated, defensive, confused, or in denial in the face of the unexpected. Information at odds with past assumptions is jarring. The unexpected thing hits a passive mind like a bonk on the head. Passive minds reel under an emotional gasp from the unexpected. It’s as though the passive mind feels injured, and needs time to heal from the blow, before it gradually wraps itself around the new development. Whereas the same sudden change feeds the active mind, nourishes it with stimulating process.
The passive mind responds to the unexpected with, “Huh?”; The active mind apprehends the unexpected with, “Aha!”
A passive mind navigates through life with a static map. An active mind navigates through life with a fluid set of perceptions always alert for redefining and realigning.
An active mind instantaneously wraps around the unexpected event, in the very moment it occurs, and reorganizes its concepts on the fly. The active mind is in constant motion perceiving facts, registering impressions, organizing information, reorganizing concepts. So it easily comprehends and sorts out the unexpected without skipping a beat.
Analytical Grasp Instead of Emotional Gasp
If you are easily unsettled by the unexpected, try changing your reaction. Make yourself respond to the unexpected with focus and curiosity. Try an analytical grasp instead of an emotional gasp. It is a change from passively “being pushed around” by the unexpected, to being actively engaged in the lives of others, and in the events happening around you.
This entry partly from my book
Potential of an Active Mind: How to Recapture the Magic of Everyday Life
© copyright Robert Rose-Coutré 2009, 2011, and 2012