|The tripartite brain
||[Jan. 4th, 2014|10:34 am]
Here, I’ll confess something. There is something wrong with my brain. Or brains. I use the plural, because there appears to be several different people in charge throughout the day. As if my brain read the book Sibyl and decided to adopt a more functional version of multiple personality disorder. Although let's do a total mash-up of psychological theory, drag Freud in, completely obsolete, except that it uncannily fits here. Except of course, my Id, Ego and Superego are perfectly amicable and have simply split the day up between them.
In the morning, I am all Supergo, jumping….wait, that was a couple of years ago, um, hauling myself at a reasonably fast rate for a gimpy old lady out of bed, no snooze alarm for me, thank you very much, eating a healthy breakfast, packing a healthy lunch, filling my workbag with correspondence and bills that I’ll take care of over lunch, making sure the kitchen is clean, litter box is done, trash is out, thermostats and lights are all set. And I’ve learned to spend mornings on meetings and planning and e-mails, rather than long projects or writing papers or training or analyzing data. Because Superego thinks it’s never quite done. There’s one more piece of info to chase down, better check the data one more time. Maybe run a correlating report. Superego thinks we have all the time in the world to make it perfect. Superego thinks I can get four hours of work done in four hours. Because Superego is in complete denial about ringing phones, urgent e-mails, drive-by questions and socializing. Plus impromptu meetings, bathroom breaks and fire drills. Superego does a lot of magical thinking and skates along the edge of reality, rose-colored glasses, firmly in place. It’s got to be the morning thing – things tend to go legs up a bit later in the day, typically, so when you’re only up and about in the morning, you have room for boundless optimism. No, wait, we’re talking about MY Superego here…measured optimism paired with confidence in my superhuman ability to enjoy a diet lunch and get tons of work done, ignoring all distractions. As a third party, you probably don’t want to spend a lot of time with Superego. She knows exactly what needs to be done and how it’s going to go down. I suppose that can be comforting to some, but probably not if your plan was to chill or be idle. There is no chilling around Superego. None. Maybe if you’re a cat. But she’ll still harbor resentment.
Sometime late-morning, though, Superego checks out, and Ego looks at that healthy lunch and sighs. I’m sure that a tiny portion of bean stew and plain lettuce salad with a couple of strawberries as a snack seemed like a good idea in the morning, with a bellyful of breakfast, but now it’s pathetic and sad looking and Ego has to spend a fair bit of time deciding to do the right thing. Ego really wants to head out and buy something way more tasty and filling. Ego’s usually pretty good at resisting, but Id pops her head in the door from time to time: Hey, expletive THAT, man. Do you know who deserves a burrito? YOU do!
Ego can usually hang on to the controls for most of the work day. Ego knows that I’ll happily plunge into interesting work, or anything that involves ferreting out information or data or patterns but will need a carrot on the end of a stick to get me to do anything boring. AKA, most of my planned workday. Perhaps also a stick on the other end, sans carrot, to keep me going. Ego does a lot of bargaining with the rest of my brain, so I try to schedule negotiations when Ego’s around. If Ego can get me to fill out endless stupid, poorly designed forms that no one’s going to even use without plunging a knife into my temple, Ego can convince a supplier to hand over every shred of excess margin. Ego is one wily bastard, using all sorts of manipulative techniques, because she’s got to manage Superego and Id on either side. Ego’s the easiest to deal with – seeing both sides of an argument, finding merit in various approaches to problems. But if she wants something from you, she will have it and you may not even notice it’s happened. I’m glad I have work to point her at. Although days off with nothing planned or scheduled are very problematic for her.
Ego can usually hold Id off until 5…sometimes even until after dinner. But Id resists scheduling, as you would expect, so sometimes the CheezIts code is played into the snack machine, the filters fall off and inappropriate language begins before the workday ends, other drivers are excoriated for not using turn signals, and dinner becomes take-out, rather than the healthy, lovely vegetables and whole grains waiting at home. Sometimes Ego manages to hang on long enough to bypass takeout, but if Id’s raging, then it might just be big steak, screw the veg. Thankfully, other than occasional outburst of energy, Id is lazy and would rather languish on the couch than get up and get another glass of wine. So lazy that Ego and Superego can badger her into chores and other accomplishments. But Id can’t do math for beans, let me tell you. Which is why I can handle numbers all day, eyeballing patterns and making estimates and forecasts, and yet, at dinner in the restaurant, I stall when it comes time to calculate the bill. Id would rather listen to the conversations, look around the restaurant, do ANYTHING but apply her brain to dividing the check by 5, or figuring out 20%. That pause is my Id, humming and tapping her foot, waiting for Ego to rouse herself and stump up the stairs to the brain attic and take care of it. There’s not a lot of mental heavy lifting my brain’s doing in the evening.
Maybe that’s why I love to write: they all rouse themselves for that; it’s the only thing they have in common and the time I feel most unified and powerful.