Archive for the ‘The Uncoscious’ Category

Taking “Athletes Are Not The Only Ones Who Practice – We all practice being who we are.” On to a deeper level and applying generally accepted concepts seems to be a logical next step. Warning, for those of you who don’t like Freud for some reason, turn away now, we will wait……. Now the rest of you, this is very Freudian in nature. The terms and concepts are gleaned from reading his work and the translation of them.

The Recap
In that previous post, I tried to convey how I believe that we learn our emotions and behaviors by observing those around us. The pleasure principle (which I haven’t gotten to yet) drives this learning process. We only can know the things we have been taught, observed, or reasoned through. Reasoning can only ocur with knowlege already gleaned and combining it. Once we find a desire can be fulfilled with a specific chain of actions we practice them until we don’t have to think about it anymore. At that point it becomes a “behavior”. Since this is Freudian in nature, if you are not hip to the lingo, you might find it more pleasurable reading if you read the link under Freud to personality map.

How we learn and practice
So how do we go from a desire to play the violin to being Paganini? I use his name because an urban legend attached to him claims that upon being discovering practicing without a violin, he said, “The violin is just so others can hear what I am playing. I hear it in my head.” He was known for his fast and furious arpeggios. One doesn’t just pick up an instrument and do that. It takes much repetitive motion. The violin offers a sound, and if that sound is the one expected, it is pleasurable. That motion is committed to a part of the unconscious memory for quicker recall. There is no conscious “debate” or second guessing. Muscians talk about their instruments just talking to them, or “feeling the groove”. Masters of their trade do without thinking. Our “desire to action” processes are happening simultaneously are high speeds. (In respect to the title of this blog, imagin how many things your computer is doing as you read this article. Futher, imagine how many things your brain is doing as well as comprehending this text.) The breathing of air is controlled by our unconscious brains. At this very moment you are doing many things that your are not conscious about. But at one time you were. The “id” only expresses the initial desire and the strength and intensity of that desire. The rest is up to the “Ego” and the “Superego”.

The board of Egos
There is enough evidence to assert that the Superego is the place where conscious reason is preformed. It next to nonexistent at birth and is grown out of the minds experiences. (we call this maturing.) The Ego is considered the CEO/ the executer of commands. It however takes every desire to the superego for consideration. At least at first. Debate and struggle between “id” and “Superego” are common and part of the learning process.

The ego just reacts.
The super ego It has a list of known scenarios and their outcomes, picks one that best suits the current situation, and delivers that message to “go ahead with that behavior/ action” or rejects the desire out of hand. If the ego has experienced the ids request so many times, the request to the super ego becomes “just a formality” or just “paperwork”. BUT remember that which is routine once wasn’t and took much more conscious attention. This is what a “professional” is trying to do. It IS what we all do with our emotions that we commonly use. You do not think about smiling, laughing, or getting angry. These emotions are the result of a debate process had deep in your past. So far that you can’t remember the circumstances for the debate. For reasons of speed of decision it is unnecessary to remember how you got there. Once the memory of that debate is repressed, the response is called a Pavlovian response. The debate still continues on, just at a much faster pace and in the unconscious. Speed is important. Remember for every conscious decisions you are aware of, there are million of subconscious ones happening at computer type speeds.

More like a functional marriage or partnership then hierarchical
However the ego and the superego are generally equal in weight in any decision. (This is a generalization and idealized much like most marriages. Many dysfunctional marriages like dysfunctional personalities do not have equal decision making. Some even let their k”id”s run the affairs.) What happens in the conscious mind can occur either pre or post behavioral decision. By that I mean sometimes the superego carries on a conscious debate, (“do I buy an ice cream bar or a cup yogurt cup?) and then the reasoning is passed onto the ego for approval. (This is the stuff that pathological psychology is made of.) However, sometimes the ego makes the decision and the superego accepts it without debate. (The reason I repeat that is that this is the stuff a therapist tries to reach, but often can’t. It is out of reach for the patient.)

Not all behaviors accepted are functional or even consciously desired.
Think about the CEO who signs a piece of paperwork that shouldn’t have been considered routine, but he was too busy to look it over. (Think one day you are picking your nose in your car, then you look over and see a hot chic/ dude looking over at you.) That occurs in the subconscious. However, the action itself is “Real” and conscious. So after the behavioral choice is made, the ego is forced to “reason” or “rationalize it”. It is a huge violation of security if the ego condones a bad decision. (This is actually a HUGE concept that will be addressed in the future.) So the superego looks for tangible things to “justify” the joint decision. These types of compulsive behaviors are the result of their pleasure outweighing the other option in that situation so many times in the past that they are not considered with respect to the rational of the current situation. (The CEO is busy and has a billion other things to get done, so he just signs without reading. You pick your nose cause it itches, at home who care, nobody sees it.)

Time and urgency is a factor.
A person will carry on a conscious debate and also applying unconscious criteria at a much slower pace over dinner choices. In these cases the superego is apt to generate the most acceptable suggestion. But a ball coming at a batter at 100mph in a random has to be predominantly driven by the unconscious. Both mistakes and greatness occur when the ego reacts. Then there are variations in between. A salesman tries to push into buying a car by appealing to your pleasure of how things look and smell and feel; all while pushing you to sign before somebody else buys it or the deal expires. The behavior is the purchase of a new car. It is made up of many behaviors before the one where you sign on the dotted line. A good decision can only be made though if good decisions have been practiced and making them have been rewarded. (See The Binary Positive Reward System for a more detailed version of my belief on this aspect.)

Learning the wrong way can be harder to undue.

This is true of the person who pursues an instrument of sporting hobby as much as it can to our emotional lives. This is a really big topic and the one I am driving at with this series of posts. If you learn to swing a club or bat, finger a fretboard, or preform a dance step the wrong way first, it is harder to get your decision making team back into the board room to think about this. If you have a program that plays music on your computer, you have to physically change settings in order to get it to play using a new and different program. This is true of our emotions. That which makes us happy, sad, anxious, and feel loved is ingrained in us from the start. If we are taught to have the wrong or inaccurate emotions assigned to external stimulus, then it is hard to change that. We see this in abusive relationships and those people who find themselves in one after another. For now that will have to do. I will just add that this is why it is so important to pay attention to what your child perceives during those initial years of life.

Other Undebated decision
Ego dominate decision are also made when the subject matter is painful or fear invoking and the mind has already worked to repress the events that lead to the behavior. As mentioned before, in many of these cases the mind might now that the behavioral decisions are not necessarily the best ones, functional, or even healthy, BUT the circumstances that lead to that behavior are too painful to recall and reassess. This is more extreme then just picking your nose or twisting your wrist when you swing. The point is that I wish to make the reader conscious that when you react emotionally, it is driven by a history (a pathology) of experiences. This is an understanding that will help one address behaviors in their lives or the lives of loved ones that seem out of control. That is enough gibberish for now I guess.


This is a concept that I will also refer back to. It is one of the profound concepts. Having to refer back is a reality of this thought and self exploration that I am writing this blog (and hopefully book) for. These understandings are woven together like a grass mat. Remove 1 and the whole thing starts to fray and falls apart.

Why athletes practice
I think that all of us will agree that even the best athletes have to practice to remain “the best”. Here is a question that seems rhetorical at first. “Why?” What is it that Tiger is doing by repeating the same swing, or a Verlander “warms up” before taking the mound, Eliot Fisk practices the same tune over and over again, or Armstrong would do anything else but ride in the Tour for? I would get much agreement if I said, “They do it to make the perfect swing, pitch, performance, ride something they don’t have to think about.” They push it to the unconscious. They strive to make the right behavior is just a reaction. How well a batter does against Verlander depends on how quickly he can assess the speed and trajectory of the oncoming ball and the brain transmits the appropriate commands to all the muscles and ligaments. The less an athlete has to think about it, the better he is at his task. Sometimes athletes learn wrong, or are convinced there is a better way. Golfers often “learn a new swing”. It means replacing that which they have ingrained with the new way. This is considerably more difficult.

We all practice being us
I think that I can still keep heads nodding if I say that sports and music are more then just physical but also mental. Aside from the above mentioned motor related mental connection, there is also an emotional related attribute to any activity. For example, I play darts a lot. I am actually not as good as I should be for as much as I play. (ADD might be partially to blame for this.) I know how to hit the bull’s eye every time. Yet at best, when I am playing a relaxed game with people who are just doing it for something to do at the bar, I only hit it 33.3%. That percentage dramatically increases when I force myself to focus OR I am in a clutch game. My whole mental focus must be grabbed and forced into one task. I play with others who do not have to put as much a conscious effort to achieve the same results. To them, the task of throwing darts has been assimilated into their subconscious. The reason I like darts so much is because it takes such concentration that it distracts me from the chaotic and painful life that has surrounded my day to day. That only works because it isn’t that natural for me.

What do you practice
So here is where I try to walk you into a new understanding. Athletes and musicians are not the only ones who practice. In fact, emotionally we have all been practicing (at least) since the moment we were born. We have been trying to learn what behavior to emulate since day one. A desire turns into a conscious debate of all the possible reactions to that desire that we know of. A conscious debate turns into an action. If that action brings us a pleasurable result, it is registered as a “behavior”. We repeat that behavior until it becomes a personality trait. A personality trait is something we do without conscious debate. When a mental health professional is tasked with addressing or changing a behavior, it is their job to trace that process backwards. This is called a “psychological pathology”. When it becomes a personality trait, it is a reaction. It no longer requires conscious thought. Because of that reason, patients often don’t even remember where they learned it. Many times they are not even aware they are doing it.

A later post to discuss the mechanics
Because I want to tackle this in bits, I will hold off on going too deeply into the process of debate and reaction as a concept. But the lesson is that how we treat our parents, siblings, family, friends, spouses, and children are the result of lifelong practice. (doesn’t matter if that “life” is a couple of years or 80 years.) BUT we do things without thinking about them. This concept can be applied to everything from aspects of abuse to lifestyle choices. AND, just as breaking an arm can change the physical aspect of an athlete’s performance, a major emotional break can change personality traits. (Think about what has happened to Tiger Woods since he had that marital trouble.) Sometimes for the better, sometime not. If you are reading this, for the most part everything you do (including reading boring blogs written by crazy laymen about psychological issues) has been practiced in some aspect long before you did it. Then there is “anxiety” caused by trying a different approach. HMMM. More stuff for later.