Simultaneous Intelligence

Robert Brooks always made me feel what I did was worthwhile. I can't say I know him personally even though we were sometimes in the same rooms. Brooks is a psychologist, teacher, parent. I was a teacher, a parent, a trauma survivor, and a student of his work. When Brooks and I were beginning our careers, it was axiomatic that people who suffered trauma as children would act out that trauma as adults. This conventional wisdom was the result of the visibility of people who acted out their trauma as adults.

Brooks realized that the world was full of trauma survivors living adaptive and functional lives without mental health intervention. We had metabolized the trauma. As a result, we weren't counted. Brooks saw us.

Brooks wanted to understand what made the difference. It turned out, in the stories of adaptive and functional trauma survivors there was at least one admirable adult who saw us for who we were. Brooks was one of those people. My life's work has been to be one too.

One of the important traits of psychological maturity is the ability to hold opposites. Holding opposites is the ability to recognize that two things can be true and contradictory at the same time. Brooks saw that we could be empathetic, adaptive, and functional while having grown up in an environment that was the opposite. I'm going to make a statement that is a big opposite for this student of cognition: we needed a soulful connection with another human. This allowed us to develop simultaneous intelligence.

Brooks uses three words that contain multiple opposites: develop simultaneous intelligence. Brooks and his thinking partner, Sam Goldstein, define simultaneous intelligence as the development of awareness and engagement with how seemingly disparate pieces of information fit together.

There are several interesting concepts deriving from these three words. The first is develop intelligence. They posit that intelligence isn't innate and fixed. It's something we can be taught and learn. Then there's simultaneous. We can develop the ability to engage multiple ways of knowing at the same time. These multiple ways of knowing give us multiple points of view into complexity. As explained by Brooks and Goldstein, this is put to the service of understanding, interpreting, and solving problems.

The word, develop, is both the start and the constant. Brooks and Goldstein say to develop simultaneous intelligence "ask questions, consider alternative explanations and solutions, talk about biases, ask open-ended questions, and encourage thinking in new ways."

To that I would add, bring your soul into it. Once again, it's an opposite for a rationalist grounded in visible and measurable data. I can't find that Brooks talks about the soul, but I saw his soul in his work, and feel it from him to this day.

Writing this takes me back to Professor Tagliabue, an earlier teacher who embodied and ensouled this.

from The Great Day John Tagliabue

a sort of song is the way I like education

My intelligence becomes freer

the exam booklet has left me not with

an answer to an exam question

but with a series of poems that cannot

be graded any more that the

blades of grass or the dancers

at a picnic; I see some

weeds growing out of the lake

near the shore and bowing to

the wind they are telling

all poems what the

teacher knows all green as he bows to his

students forever stunned and seen.

Warm regards,

Francis Sopper


Robert Brooks:

Sam Goldstein:

John Tagliabue:

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