Think Like Socrates

Some 2400 years ago, the legendary Greek philosopher Socrates introduced a revolutionary new way of thinking designed to probe life’s most meaningful questions.  His legacy was not revolutionary for the answers he provided, but for the power that his method gave to others in their own search for answers.  The greatest revelation about Socratic thinking is that one doesn’t need to be brilliant in order to find brilliant answers – one only needs a brilliant way of thinking.

Imagine a university offering 4 different classes on parenting.  The professor in the first class is a man who emphasizes the importance of disciplining children in order for them to become responsible.  The professor in second class is a woman who emphasizes the importance of nurturing children in order for them to become emotionally well adjusted.  The third class is taught by the same professors together wherein they debate which is the best way to parent.  The fourth class is taught by Socrates himself.  Instead of providing answers, he cleverly poses questions to his students in a way designed to elicit collaborative dialogues on the subject of parenting.  In doing so, Socrates teaches something more valuable than the skills of parenting.  He teaches them a better way to find meaningful insights.

What the first 3 classes share in common is their reliance on linear thinking.  These professors have separate points of view which they each profess to be the correct one. In contrast, Socrates teaches the process of reflective thinking, a much more powerful and effective way of thinking when it comes to more complex matters.  This is because the limitations of linear thinking often result in contests between different perspectives, whereas reflective thinking allows for an integration of different perspectives.

The ability to integrate different perspectives is the greatest pathway to insight and wisdom because of its holistic nature.  In the case of parenting, it is the integration of discipline and nurturance that is considered the most effective way to raise children.  And integration relies on collaboration.  The best parents are those who would employ Socrates’ style of collaborative reflection in order to integrate discipline and nurturance in raising their children.

Now that you have the gist of what it means to think reflectively, all you need is a method for doing so.  The most common is through collaborative dialogues with others who have different perspectives (i.e., two heads are better than one).  But it’s also possible for you to have reflective dialogues on your own.  All you need is a basic understanding of the nature of your brain and how to tap into its power more fully.

Everyone is familiar with these two phrases;

The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. 

and, 

On the one hand…but on the other hand…

The notion that our different hands have different perspectives stems from the fact that the different hemispheres of our brains have different perspectives and ways of knowing.  Your left and right brain hemispheres process things in entirely different ways and, just like parents, they can ignore each other, argue with each other, or put their heads together collaboratively in a way that would make Socrates proud.

Generally speaking, your left hemisphere processes information logically and linearly,  while your right hemisphere processes emotions, senses, intuition, and creativity in non-linear ways.  Both hemispheres have much to offer but they don’t always work together, sometimes leaving one conflicted over whether to trust their head, heart, or gut.  Better answers result from getting them to communicate with one another, in effect putting their heads together.  

Surprisingly, the best way to get your two brain hemispheres communicating with one another is by having your left and right hands engage in a written dialogue.  Two-handed writing is an extremely simple and effective way to turbocharge your thinking.   I learned about two-handed writing in 1991 from the works of an art therapist named Lucia Capachionne, Ph.D., and have been using it in my professional and personal life ever since.  It may seem odd to imagine your two hands having a dialogue, but it’s odd in an amazing way.  You can easily learn how to do two-handed from a book written with my own two hands, Whole Mind Healing (Kandle 2000), or from an abbreviated description of the method that can be found by clicking here. 

So there you have it.  Socratic thinking is the reflective integration of contrasting perspectives through collaborative dialogues.  Insight and wisdom can be accessed simply by getting your two brain hemispheres communicating through your own two hands.  All you need to do is get them talking just like Socrates taught the ancient Greeks to do, and then marvel at the wisdom you never knew you had within you.