Sunday, 29 March 2015

Our Two Selves

Who/What is the stronger our Want-Self or our Should-Self?

How often do you find when decisions are being made, our want-selves take over and we do things that ignore the ethical implications of our actions.

Psychologists say we have different systems for wanting things and liking things. So some of the stuff we really want, and spend a lot of time pursuing, doesn't give us as much satisfaction as we thought it would once we've got it.

This explains why children will spend weeks nagging parents to buy them a guitar or a pet but quickly lose interest once they have it.

One of the most ubiquitous problems in daily life is achieving self-control.

We need to control our natural urges to eat too much, to smoke, to drink too much, to gamble too much, spend too much, watch too much television, get too little exercise and even to work too much.

Here, again, we seem to have two selves at work: an unconscious self that's emotional and shortsighted and a conscious self that's reasoning and farsighted.

We have trouble controlling ourselves in circumstances where the benefits are immediate and certain, whereas the costs are longer-term and uncertain.

When we come home tired from work, for instance, the benefits of slumping in front of the telly are immediate, whereas the costs - feeling tired the next day; looking back on our life and realising we could have done a lot better if we had got off our backside and played a bit of sport, sought a further qualification at tech, spent more time talking to our partner/children/friends etc - are not so clear-cut.

Similarly, the reward from eating food is instant whereas the costs of overeating are uncertain and far off: being regarded as physically unattractive, becoming obese, becoming a diabetic, dying younger, etc.

As everyone who has tried to diet, give up smoking, control their drinking, save or get on top of their credit card debt knows, it's hard to achieve the self-control our conscious, future-selves want us to achieve.

"The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn."
~~ David Russell

These are a few of my small treasures on the window sill in my kitchen.


Christine said...

Want self and should self...good way to describe self control. I think there is a happy balance in between that we could strive for.

miruspeg said...

Hi Christine
Learning to distinguish between wants and needs, necessaries and frivolities, etc., is an ongoing struggle. I am disciplined in many areas most of the time, in some areas some of the time, and then there are times when I just let go and do at least one of my wants. I'm only human. Everyone I know has something they aren't disciplined about.
Peggy xxxx

Marja said...

It is my question at the moment which bridge to cross and which to burn. We received bad news today and I admit that I for the first time in months was guilty of overeating. Did it work. It does work short time and I know I will be able to discipline myself tomorrow again.
I totally agree about the want and the need.
I feel I've got that reasonably under control but this time I choose for the needs of others actually but have no clue how to do it.
A confused friend

miruspeg said...

Sorry to hear you received bad news Marja and don't be too hard on yourself for comfort eating, it is certainly necessary sometimes, like smoking, to calm ourselves.

I'm sending my light and love to help you through your difficult time.
Big hugs
Peggy xxxx

bill lisleman said...

As you might have noticed, I often relate to a phrase found in a song. Your post reminds me of Sheryl Crow's song "Soak Up The Sun" in which she sings:
"It's not having what you want
It's wanting what you've got".

miruspeg said...

Hey Bill
I often refer/relate to the lyrics in songs too.
I like the ones you have chosen, very pertinent to this post.
Take care
Peggy xxx