Sensory overload and Unimportances

Axiom 58 of Scientology states:

Intelligence and judgment are measured by the ability to evaluate relative importances.
Corollary: The ability to evaluate importances and unimportances is the highest faculty of logic.

One application of this axiom that L. Ron Hubbard developed is the objective process of Education by Unimportances, which used to be on the Student Hat course.

“To teach someone a subject just have him select out the unimportances of the subject. He will start to think everything is important but coax him on with affinity, reality, communication and good control and he will eventually come up with something unimportant, that is, you are teaching him how to drive a tractor. He will find the coat of paint on the crank unimportant. You acknowledge and ask him to find something else unimportant. Keep at this, repeating it and repeating it, and eventually “allness” will start to disintegrate. He will select down to the most important controls of the tractor and the next thing you know he can drive a tractor! He won’t have a craving to know anxiety and won’t be nervous at all. You are teaching by de-evaluation of importance”.

As well as its use in education, this little process could be of use to autistic people in dealing with the sensory overload that can occur in environments with many confusing sights and sounds competing for attention. This is because we don’t automatically filter or ‘censor’ perceptions – if someone is speaking within earshot, we can’t avoid hearing them, for example. The reason may be an attitude of fearfulness: as if it might be risky to dismiss any incoming sensory data as unimportant. Sensory overload can lead to mental confusion, mistakes and even extreme misemotion such as anger or tears, sometimes called a ‘meltdown’.

I wondered if the process of Unimportances might be a remedy, at least for some people. It’s many years since I’ve had any problem with sensory overload but I can easily turn on the phenomenon if I want. Would spotting unimportances in present time turn it off?

I tried this out one day in a shopping mall, a place as autism-unfriendly as its designers could make it. To begin with it was a cavernous space in which sounds reverberated from all directions. Hard shiny surfaces were all around. And worse, it was filled with multicoloured signs and shop windows all competing to call attention to themselves, and with people all moving in different directions and talking at once.

So I sat down on a bench and passively opened up to all the sights and sounds until they made me feel uncomfortable and disoriented. Then I began running ‘spot something unimportant’, conceptually rather than verbally, as a repetitive process.

This remedied the disorientation and discomfort in a few minutes. A few more minutes and I was starting to get some theta perceptics. I was looking through the thin painted or laminated colours of the shop fronts and signs to the unfinished concrete and steel, dirt and cabling behind. The mall owners expected customers to consider this tawdriness as unimportant, and so pretend not to be able to see it. But now I was just fascinated to be seeing through (in both meanings of the phrase) their game.

Maybe this would be workable for others, maybe not. It’s just a suggestion for further consideration.

As a sidelight, it might also be pointed out that for many years the Church of Scientology has been running this process in reverse on its students and staff. To force them under threat of punishment to treat all LRH writings as equally (and infinitely) important stymies their ability to think with the data and apply it intelligently.

“It is interesting that a person who has never selected out the importances of Scientology, or any subject… has a history of being punished within an inch of his life.”

Reference

Hubbard, L. Ron (1975) Dianetics Today (Publications Organization: Los Angeles). ISBN 0884040364

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