It's evening, Chuck's mom and dad are on my office couch. Mom asks, "Why does my son's mind work that way, why the fear and confusion that make it impossible for him to solve a problem? That make him put his head on the desk as soon as he meets a barrier? (1)
"It's like this. His mind often works like an ordinary light switch. You press on the toggle in small steps, suddenly the light is on and it stays on regardless of how much further you push the toggle upward. Press the toggle down in small steps and the light suddenly goes off, all the way off, when you reach halfway. The light get no darker even if you continue to push the toggle down. His mind needs needs to work more like a dimmer switch, one that has a wider range where the light is neither completely on nor off, responding in proportion to the pressure exerted.
"Kids, and many adults react like a light switch, moving from one extreme to the opposite and back again with their feelings and thoughts. Your son does it too. Neither extreme is good. Our job is to build that middle range, where he is neither silly nor hopeless, where he can consider all his options and make fewer and less extreme decisions. You do that whenever you teach him to take a breath, to "change his channel," or to take his time. His mind has a chance to settle and for its sections to check with each other.
"He also depends on the rest of us to keep him in the middle range. We all use our friends and families to give us advice, to make us wait, or to help us think of all the possibilities before making a decision. Your son, because of immaturity or impulsiveness, may be limited in his internal ability to check multiple points of view before he gets happy or depressed; he will have to depend on you and on his friends or his girl to keep him out of trouble."
Dad looked puzzled.
" For example, a true story about eight ducks, all my friends. I approached as they were on the lawn near my path in the back. One reacted loudly, arose, stepped further away, and flapped his wings. Four remained seated but quacked softly at one second intervals. Three didn't move and kept their opinions to themselves. The reactor sat back down. (2)
"A bright man named Stu Kauffman figured out that anytime you have too few influences on a decision, you get extreme reactions. It doesn't matter whether you are discussing molecules, a child's mind, or star systems. It doesn't matter if all the crosstalk is within a single mind or between committee members. Increase the input from multiple sources and decisions slow.
"Gosh, I've been working hours and hours on these ideas and have written 20 single spaced pages and am still not done. If only I could write it as simply as I described it to you."