--Russell Carleton, via this Atlantic piece on studying team chemistry. I try to think of the right model to understand the part of me that procrastinates, seemingly intimidated by relatively innocuous tasks , and the part of me that makes it tough to consistently control my eating. Jonathan Haidt "The Elephant (and the Rider)" is one metaphor that covers it. But also it feels like an inner child, or maybe a hungry dog - a dog that knows what it wants and can be extremely clever about getting its own way,
I think the other thing to remember is whatever it is, it's a system that's a bit deaf-blind (ala Helen Keller) possibly not enjoying the same rich sensory input that our rational selves have, nor the framework of language to help make choices about it, but rather is responding to the bodies response to its immediate environment. So you have to be so careful about how you train it! Run away from a challenge, and this system "learns" that it's a challenge worth running from - super scary (however minor it 'actually' is) and so lets crank up fight-or-flight. Or food is delicious, and the future unknowable, so lets frickin' eat...
That's some of what the quote is about - in practice, gimmicks we use for kids might work all thorough our lives.
Expounding on this topic for a Letter for Future Cora:
Some people use the "Elephant and the Rider" metaphor - the Elephant being our emotional self that provides all the energy, and honestly, may be where all the capacity for pleasure and enjoyment is, vs. our intellectual/rationale/linguistic "Rider" that THINKS it's running the show, because it's SO good at making explanations for what the Elephant decided to do, but it's not, it's usually just holding on for dear life, albeit with some capacity to urge and coax the elephant to where it knows the two should go.
Anyway, it's tough to train this elephant, and like a kid it's prone to picking up cues and the "wrong" lesson. Like, if there's a minor task at school or work or whatever, and it seems a little scary - you're worried you might not do a good job (and if you have "fixed mindset" like I do - the feeling that intelligence and other traits are something you have via genetics or whatever, not something you can grow - not doing a good job might be pointing you're a fake! A Phony! A fraud!) and you back away from the task, go do something else for a bit... well your elephant learns "man, that's a scary thing worth running from, I better get all systems ready to run next time". (An elephant's fabled feeling about mice comes to mind...) And lately I've been thinking how the elephant might not be seeing the world through my eyes, or having the framework of language to build its "thoughts" around. So, like, it doesn't see the delicious snack available at work, but it sees the rest of my body and my rational mind noticing the delicious snack at work, and accordingly launches a campaign to get me to eat it...
Want to hear a hot take?
Despite what modern core nihilism will tell you, the accidental nature and inherent meaninglessness of life as a biological phenomenon does not mean that our efforts are pointless but instead allows us all to determine what we personally desire out of life. It means we are free to pursue what our hearts desire, and so enables each of us to find our own unique meaning.
Also love is real.
And the majority of people in the world are inherently good-natured.