Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Moral Mind Trap

Lately I’ve been struggling. It’s a kind of mish mash of feelings, somewhere between fear of offending, feeling like my thoughts aren’t good enough, and a feeling (justified or otherwise) of not being able to bring my thoughts to the forefront of what it is I’m trying to write. For someone who writes, it’s kind of paralysing.

The mind is a strange beast. Intuitively (especially in this age of computerisation) we imagine it to be very simple. The standard (naive) mental model is something like this: input goes in, intelligent man (because of course we have a completely different prevailing mental model for women) applies his carefully constructed logic, and decisions come out like manna from heaven. Who would question the results of rational thinking?

But the reality of the situation is of course much deeper than this, and much more dangerous for our misconceptions of the process. I’ve talked before, for instance, about the different voices that vie for control when we think, such as for example (as Freud termed it) the superego. This is just the tip of a very large iceberg of ignorance, hypocrisy, and just plain bad thinking. Not to be deterred by the vastness of the problem however, that’s exactly where we shall begin.

Freud described the superego as that part of our mind that seeks to impose moral ideals onto our conscious thought. It’s not an actual part of our brain hardware, but rather it can be thought of as a piece of software that is intended to protect us. You can think of it as the squishy gray version of antivirus software (unless you find the thought of squishy gray things slightly erotic, in which case your superego has been informed and has got his eye on you). You probably know it under several incarnations: the conscience, the little angel on your shoulder, self criticisms (like repeating catch phrases that an influential figure from your childhood might have said), or that image of father that comes to me at night and insists I spank myself for all the bad deeds of the day (I “swear” I just tripped and fell into this harness). Mostly (at least as Freud theorised) it is even unconscious, that feeling of dread you get when doing something that may not be in the publics (and therefore vicariously your) interest.

For the most part the superego is a super neat guy. It’s the part of our brain that stops society from descending into chaos. Don’t rape people in the street, don’t eat your sister, don’t murder your neighbour (no matter how annoying country music is…but that’s another story).

When distorted through trauma or extreme oppression (which I suppose is a kind of trauma as well) however it can become a destructive force in your mind. It seeks to punish you for natural feelings, to the point where you are not making decisions in life from a position of clear rational thought, but simply out of trying to avoid the wrath of the superego. Left unquestioned, or even worse, reinforced by certain seemingly rational behavioural patterns, and we become its slave.

This becomes a real problem for society, because the next step (once the thinking has ceased) is to turn the fear outwards. Hatred very often is fear inverted. It’s almost certainly not true (in spite of being completely comforting to imagine) that most people hate something because they secretly desire it themselves (like the classic “You’re only homophobic because you’re gay”). But there may be a shred of truth to the concept. More likely, when confronted with something that contradicts someone’s personal moral code, the superego steps in and starts a conversation that goes something like this: “Are you sure you’re strong enough? Maybe you’ll be doing that next. And if you do I’m going to whip you like a butter pancake. If it was me, and I sincerely mean this as a suggestion devoid of any threats, I’d stop that person.”

We don’t like to think about this effect. Part of the superegos makeup is to punish us for even thinking of discussing it. The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club. The second rule of fight club is you do NOT talk about fight club. Well fuck the rules. I’m talking about fight club.

For the sake of the argument I’m going to coin a phrase. It may not be of my devising since it most likely comes from my subconscious which may have come from others writings. Regardless it’s a term I often use in my thoughts. I call it a mind trap.

A mind trap could be defined as “a series of (seemingly) logical statements, which taken together form an unbreakable circular argument, that specifically ensnares our thoughts so that we can’t break our pattern of thinking without extreme effort”. I’ll also add that usually we are oblivious to the mind traps that ensnare us, primarily because the logic seems so sound and rational. It’s often not a passing thought but a fundamental way of life. It will be seen (by the person ensnared) as a part of WHO they are, and therefore by definition to escape said mind trap is to deny oneself (this is even a mind trap in itself).

There is a common mind trap I’ve observed, and it goes a little something like this. Thomas is good. We know Thomas is good because Thomas does good things. How do we know the things Thomas does are good? Because Thomas does them. To question Thomas’s actions is heresy. Thomas said so. I call this the moral mind trap.

This is one of the most insidious traps a mind can fall into. Since morals are so fundamental to our identity we will fight to defend it. It will come as a personal front for another to suggest we question our reasoning.

Taken alone, I suppose, this isn’t the most terrible thing someone could fall privy to. A well balanced mind could probably overcome Thomas. It’s when the superego becomes a fan of Thomas that the problem arises. That is when hatred is born, both inward and outward. The moral mind trap becomes the holding pattern the superego uses to divert our incoming critical thought. By diverting our regular rational thought, terrible things are done in the name of reason and decency.

My name is Tyler Durden. This is my story.

“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives.” – Fight Club


Analyse This

I thought I’d just put this down here and see what people think. Freud said dreams are wish fulfilment. I’m not sure if this is true or not, or even if that’s a statement that can be proven one way or another, but it’s a good way to start thinking about your dreams anyway. That being said, analyse this.

I had this dream when I was about five. I had a lot of strange dreams from a very early age. This is unusual apparently. Most children have fairly simple dreams like getting the cookie from the cookie jar (which is partially what lead Freud to his theory). Not me however. The more disturbing dreams I’ll leave for another day, but today it’s the dream of the giant chocolate crackle. Yes, this is one of the LESS disturbing dreams.

Obviously one can only ever relate a dream starting at the point they remember. So don’t take the beginning as statement of fact but it’s a good enough place to start.

At the time I was very good friends with the neighbour child whom I went to kindergarten with. The dream starts with my mother asking the two of us (five year old children) to go down the street to buy bread and milk. Oh just by the way, I was living in Bairnsdale at the time. I have good memories of living there even though I only lived there for about a year an a half.

On the way to the store we walked past the local football field and a game was in progress so we decided to stop and watch. There was a lot of people in the crowd, which if you know Bairnsdale is a little unusual since its kind of a small town, but maybe my memory is just hazy.

The football game was progressing and that’s when things got weird. I heard screaming from the crowd and the next thing I knew people were running for the exits. I looked to the source of the screaming and saw a giant chocolate crackle. Not just an inanimate chocolate crackle, but one with a face and arms and legs, as was in the marketing for the cereal at the time.

It was in a total rage. Something like a tasty version of the Incredible Hulk. It definitely seemed like it was a male crackle but clearly that wasn’t the case because the cause of her rage became immediately apparent. She was, in fact, having a baby. And god forbid anyone who was near.

The whole thing resolved fairly quickly and we both decided to continue with our task. We bought the bread and milk and continued home. A great time was had by all.

So what do you think? Any ideas?

How To Be A Man

One day, maybe, I’ll talk about my “first love” (if you can call it that), or as she is more commonly known, Beelzebub. But today is not that day.

I do remember something she told me though when she decided we should break up (or at least shortly after…it was one of those long drawn out pointless endings, much like the latter seasons of The X Files, including to the point that my life involved a curious life form that was inexplicable to science). I don’t remember the exact words. It was something along the lines of “I can’t love you” blah blah blah…I mean who really listens to these things anyway, right? But I do remember one thing she said that stuck with me for the greater part of my adult life. “You’re not a man.”

I guess at the time it wasn’t something I’d really thought about much. Maybe she had a point. I certainly spent a lot of time thinking about it after that.

So when I write an article on the topic of being a man, I want you to know that it comes from seventeen years of deep thought. Ignore my directions at your own peril (unless you’re a cis woman or transgender man in which case I’ll leave the decision up to you).

I’ll get to the directions in a bit, but first I want to explain how I arrived at this conclusion. I will say one thing though: it’s simpler than you might think. There is just one golden rule, which, when understood thoroughly, will have you bouncing it with the manliest of men.

So here I was, coming off a relationship that I had thought was true love, and feeling crushed and worthless. I had to change. I couldn’t let this happen again. So I set myself on a path of self improvement. I would become the perfect man so that no woman could reject me any more.

To be fair, I guess I was part way there already. I’d mastered the skill of suppressing emotions. I think I learnt that from my father. To be honest he never talks about his dad much, but I suspect he learnt these skills from him. That’s very important to being a man: never ask questions. Your job is to follow orders and look good doing it.

Maybe that’s what I was missing. I mean, I suppose I was good looking in a Christian Slater, creepy skinny guy kind of way, but is that really manly? I’m fairly sure, from pictures I’ve seen on television, that a real man has arms like tree trunks, a brain like sawdust, and (not to press the metaphor too far) a nice piece of wood. Well ok, maybe I have one out of three.

I “tried” getting fit. I really did but my other problem (being intellectual) meant that exercise was just incredibly incredibly boring. Which to fix first?

I have found some exercises that work for me. I am a mean rollerblader. Still, I imagine people would call that a little too “metrosexual” but surely if I’m careful I can keep that hidden while I get the body that everyone will want. Oh that’s another important part to being a man: keep secrets about everything. This has a synergy with the above mentioned keeping your emotions inside. If you DO happen to (heaven forbid) have any real emotions be SURE not to let anyone know.

I also, later on, went through a phase of studying (wait that doesn’t sound manly at all) training in kick boxing. It’s actually pretty fun (not that I experienced any happiness mind you, I want to be clear on that). The added side benefit is you can kick the ass of anyone you are ordered to. This is important. A man should be ready to sacrifice himself in violent fury whenever someone else’s safety and/or whim calls it to action. Also if you could be just a little bit angrier it wouldn’t kill you. Remember this: the measure of whether something is acceptable or not is solely on the measure of it not killing you (quickly anyway…a slow death is very manly or so I hear).

With the physical side more or less taken care of I had my unseemly intellect to take care of. I tried drinking, and it worked to a point. I would binge drink, and…well I’d love to have something witty to say here but honestly I can’t remember much. I do remember waking up one morning to discover that I’d driven home the night before, mud all through my car. I didn’t “actually” remember the driving but when I saw the mud in the car and the mud on my pants I put two and two together (not that I’m good at maths and if anyone tells you I am rest assured that it’s all lies). I guess it didn’t kill me so it must have been a good thing, but still I decided maybe I could find healthier alternatives.

I ran out of ideas.

And so, I reverted back to the previous techniques: suppression and lying. Sure I could have my own personal thoughts (call it my secret shame if you will) but if I just don’t talk no one will ever need to suspect that I am not, in fact, the manliest of men.

The transformation was complete. How could I possibly fail? I had become the perfect phallus right?

Strange though. Who would have thought that no one would like an emotionless, aggressive, lying, uncommunicative dimwit?

I went back to the drawing board and I think I’ve discovered the answer. I’m going to let you in on the secret. All you need to do, in order to be a man, is follow these simple steps.

1) Be born with both an X and a Y chromosome.

See, I told you it was simple. Heck, you probably don’t even need that. Who is anyone to question when a (previously) woman decides she is a man?

When I discovered the secret it blew my mind. All these years of being told what to do and what to be, and the answer was there right in front of me.

Being a man is something you are, not something you do. That thing that I had been lead to believe was “being a man” was really actually “being a phallus”. A big dildo for the pleasure of others. Don’t get me wrong, I like dildo’s as much as anyone but they’re something to use, not something I want to be.

Actually, screw that even. Forget everything I said. Be whoever you want to be, because you are a miracle. In spite of overwhelming odds, our one planet amongst millions of stars, one species amongst millions of species and in spite of all those who have lived and died, you have survived. Your very existence is a big middle finger to the universe. So make it whatever you want to.

I, for one, am going to stop with all these rules. I don’t need to be a man. I AM a man.

So fuck you.

The manliest of men.

Next week: