The Mind

Literal Vs. Lateral minds: Understanding your thought constitution

Mark Goudie
3 min read

You can change what you think, but you can't change how you think

There are many doctors, specialists and motivational speakers that will tell you that it's possible to change what you think about, but what they don't tell you is that you can't change how you think.

Although each of us think differently in detail, at the top level we can segregate people into two categories.

  • Nuero convergent thinking structure: Literal, vertical, orderly, priortised, top down
  • Neuro diverse thinking structure: Lateral, horizontal, disordered, unrelated

Understanding your thought constitution will make you aware of how you react in situations, how you are affected in relationships and how it influences your day-to-day decisions. Both constitutions have their strengths and weaknesses.

Neuro convergent - Thinking Structure

A Neuro convergent sees the world vertically and is able to easily priortise concepts, ideas and situations in to relevant order from the top down. It is named "typical" because it has been deemed the majority and society has been designed to suit this structure of thinking.

Neuro diverse - Thinking Structure

The Neurodiverse think laterally, every idea/concept is held at the same importance on a horizontal plane, the lateral thinker struggles to prioritise the order of importance of information. Because all thoughts are on a horizontal plane everything is equal and they can find it easier to connect unrelated ideas, usually they are creative and great problem solvers.

Neuro convergent thinking structure Vs. Neuro diverse thinking structure

Thought structure strengths and weaknesses

Based on the idea of literal and lateral thinking, we can theorise some possible outcomes. These outcomes below can be influenced by the individual's beliefs, trauma experience, environment and awareness.

Neuro convergent strengths

As Neuro convergent thinkers prioritise ideas from the top down they find it easier to create structure in their lives, therefore they are usually more grounded. When a thought arises they give it a priority and determine whether they need to deal with it immediately or save it for later.  This means that they find it easier to focus on specific tasks.

Having an orderly thought structure means that they see the world in black and white, right and wrong, therefore things are very certain.

With top down thinking, the Neuro convergent can process more information quickly, making them very efficient learners and potential intellects. Read article: Intellect Vs. Intellegence.

Neuro convergent weaknesses

By prioritising concepts and ideas so rigidly, the Neuro convergent develop very strong opinions and judgements that can become fixed. By fixing ideas they are unable to be creative and think outside their current thinking.

When you fix ideas, they become suppressed and stop growing which can lead to a very strong belief system both positive and negative. If a Neuro convergent struggles to re-priortise the importance of trauma and are unable to provide it new meaning, then they can suffer immensely. This can develop deep-seated insecurities and over time if not dealt with will develop into anxiety and depression. Read article: Conflict dynamics: It's within you.

Neuro convergent and Neuro diverse struggles are very different, but their wounds are the same.

Neuro diverse strengths

Due to the lateral structure of the Neuro diverse, where all ideas are of equal importance, the Neuro diverse find it easier to be less judgemental and more creative. By not being judgemental it is harder to fix ideas, therefore every idea continually grows.

When all thoughts have no clear definition and are not fixed means that the Neuro diverse mind lives in uncertainty. As the Neurodiverse mind is uncertain they can't trust their thoughts as they are frequently changing. Using the analogy of a blind person who's hearing is more in-tune, the Neurodiverse sensitivities are much more heightened and they feel deeper.

With minimal judgement and horizontal thinking, where everything has an equal importance, this mind structure allows the Neuro diverse to relate ideas that are unrelated.

Neuro diverse weaknesses

When you live in uncertainty for long periods you can feel panicked and not grounded, which can cause extreme anxiety and depression.

With every thought grows and nothing is fixed, it takes more energy for the brain to process. Idea processing combined with being sensitive, the Neurodiverse needs to process a lot more information and can get easliy overwhelmed when they are with groups of people or under pressure.

When you struggle to prioritse information and thoughts pop into mind randomly then it is very difficult to focus on one task for long periods, therefore cannot retain or recall information as effectively as Neuro convergent.

The intellectual Learning challenges for the Neuro diverse.

In this grade 7 maths question:

"Sally goes to the shop with $6.50 and buys 6 lollies. She then gives one friend 4 lollies and the other friend 2 lollies, how much is each lolly and secondly how many lollies does Sally have left"

Sally - The Shop - $6.50, 6, Lollies etc.

The lateral thinker cannot prioritise the order of importance and therefore struggle to see the equation. When they see this equation they are questioning - Who is sally?, What sort of shop is it? What type of lollies are they. etc, their focus has been lost from what is asked of them.

Societal Expectations

If you think about this concept as people can be split into vertical or horizontal mind structures, then you could say that there is potentially 50% percent of Neuro convergent and 50% percent of Neuro diverse. Currently it is considered that the majority is Neuro convergent, but it makes sense that it should be balanced. What if the Neurodiverse are suppressed and haven't been shown how to tap into their strengths? and they just look like poorly functioning Neuro convergent. This would explain the rise in autism. Read article: Intellect Vs. Intelligence

We live in a society / learning system that is very narrow and only caters to the strengths of a small group. Can you imagine if we were taught how to discover our strengths and weaknesses at a young age then given the tools, experience and resources to thrive.