The will and the self

It’s early morning and you’re warm in bed.  You don’t want to get up but you have to.  Imagine there are two selves, the one that wants to stay in bed and the one that wants to get up.  Which one is doing all the talking?  (I mean, all the mental, conscious activity, not actually talking aloud.)

I think it’s the one that wants to get up.  The sleepy self is not talking in the conscious mind.  The sleepy self seems to be more in the body.  You might say it’s your primitive self whereas the mentally talking self is the one that remembers obligations and promises and worries about being a lazy, irresponsible, failure of a person.  That is, the talking self is the one that is self-conscious, that believes in its own identity.

Nevertheless, the  sleepy self is very powerful.  Both selves affect behavior.  You might sleep in a bit more or you might get up.  You might go for a run, or you might just go on your phone.  You might eat/drink/snort that substance or you might refrain.  All the time, one self is the “real” self – the conscious, talking, planning self.    The other self is kinda silent but strong.

Which self to trust?  This is something I’ve always been confused by when people talk about will power.  Whose will?  Clearly, the people talking about will mean the conscious talking will.  Not the will of the other self.

But consider.  Today I was furious at my little son because he played instead of getting ready for school when I had made it clear several times that he needed to get ready, and I had specified the actions and I had put out the things for him.  He had not controlled himself sufficiently to get ready.  Or, put another way, he had not imposed his conscious will on himself to obey me and the social requirements of the day (getting ready for school).

Similarly, when the alarm went off this morning, I wanted to sleep more.  But I had promised my husband and my supervisor to get all this stuff done.  I had to get up.

The conscious talking mind is the mind of social response and obligation.  The mind that tells you to diet and exercise, to smile and be polite, to stand and wait.  It is the mind of planning but also the mind of servitude.

The difference comes out more strongly when you are a parent.  The child needs to conform to social expectations; the child needs to be loved and protected.  Which self to trust?



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