what's up inner dog?

June 24, 2019
Studies show placebos are twice as effective as they were 25 years ago. What does this mean?? People have higher expectations from drugs I guess? It really, really makes you wonder what it means, and how we can take advantage of it.

I'm thinking too of the Eureka effect and the anecdote about Poincare having an important mathematical truth revealed to his conscious mind as he stepped onto a bus. (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance talks about that) So just like Placebos get some parts of our brains to heal us our subconscious minds can solve difficult problems...

(At least, I think it's our brains healing us - I mean a lot of medical problems get cleared up by our bodies on their own, but I wouldn't expect the "just leave it alone" solution to get so much better over 25 years - unless we thought people were living that much more healthily, I guess?)

So the subconscious is this weird dark thing! There are so many ways of looking at it- I'm not sure if they're all talking about the same phenomenon, or if it's the same in all people, but man! I know historically my conscious, narrating brain takes credit for being "the real me" - and so much so that this subconscious self seems like an "other" - an inner child, or some wild id, or the elephant in the "elephant and the rider" metaphor - and maybe it has to do with lobes, at least sometimes? That it's our non-verbal lobe... Split-brain studies are so wild - our physical brains have the capacity to be two almost completely functional people! What is going with that? And how can we best leverage the situation?

More and more my other self feels less like an inner child and more like a loyal and clever but poorly trained dog... in particular a dog always on the lookout for snacks, at least when I'm in the kitchen at work... the emotional tricks this pup plays to get treats that the analytical brain knows I could easily do without. (heh, googling I find some signs of therapy that looks to inner dogs instead of inner children )

So step one was realizing my "inner voice", the part that talks and can use language, wasn't quite the same as "me". And the obvious answer to that was to think of myself holistically - either as one thing with two sides, or at least as two subentities, co-equal in authenticity and dignity.

But maybe that was a mistake? Maybe step two should be leaning into my rational self as the realest me? Trying to think through the implications of that - I (my narrative self, that is) is forever adverse to taking authority - I don't want to enforce my judgements over others because I might be wrong, and it's deeply important to me to be in line with the "objectively true" universe (at least one ex realized this would mean I'd be a good buddy-dad but maybe not a great father, and I think they had a point.) But maybe this is one of those cases where the speaking, rational self needs to step up, and take authority.

But - if the unconscious me is almost a separate entity, and I treat it as such, I worry about the effects of it coming to resent the conscious me! It's tough to confirm the trust and loyalty of my inner-pup, it lacks the tail-wagging body language of real dogs....


You know, all my life I've lived with cats, and I like 'em, but that lifestyle was chosen for me, not by me. Sometimes I think it would have been good for me to have grown up with dogs a bit more. I'm not sure which is closer to my spirit-animal; I mean I really see something of my need for space to pursue my own projects in cats aloofness, but also I think I have that goofy loyalty and need for feedback I associate with dogs. (yes, I know cat owners can point out the cuddly loyalty of cats, but I'm speaking in broad stereotypes here.)

Thinking more about the idea that it would be a big mistake to label the unconscious / subconscious as a single thing - I just remembered the single part of my unconscious mind that has most allowed me to punch above my weight, intellect-wise - my "get the gist", skimming subsystems, the ones that allow my eyes to merely dart over a paragraph and do a pretty damn reliable job telling me what's important in there, summarizing the feel of the interactions and directing me to go back to bits that didn't quite register. (And of course the partner subconscious systems that apparently piggyback on my vocalization systems to type -- thus all the horrible spelling (especially for vowels) and the strange typos like "by" for "my").

I have to assume these systems are distinct from the part of my brain that drive me to the chocolate covered pretzels in the kitchen at work. But it's so dark in that skull it's hard to be certain...

Modern web development pic.twitter.com/p84IVkC2aQ

— Jared Palmer (@jaredpalmer) June 23, 2019

An even better version
When life gives you hurdles, trip over those hurdles. Let your legs become tangled in a series of hurdles that you drag behind you. Crawl with your giant collection of hurdles towards more distant hurdles