24th February 2012


Listen up y’all it’s Sabotage!

”Don’t get me wrong.” Those words sound apologetic. A subtle paranoia. You should, by my ”articulate rhetoric,” get me right. You should conceive of a Real me, of one who is already a virtual representative of Me-ness, but nevertheless an authentic Re-presentation.

Deception and authenticity have been on my mind. I’ve been coming across, both through time-filling interneting and casual conversation, a discussion of Willpower. Here are two articles that pretty much are vacant book summaries by reputable sources, but if you follow Malcolm Gladwell or listen to Radiolab or Freakonomics I’m sure you’ve already heard the discussion of Willpower and free will that is regurgitated into some vague ghost of an idea of what we now know on the topic.



What fascinates me is the duality model that this notion of will power puts forward. Here we have the pre-frontal cortex of the brain as the Super-Ego, able to make rational decisions and executive commands and then there’s the ”limbic” system that drives our deeper ”impulses” staring as the Id. We have the savage nature of our desires, the objet petit ”a” and the ”non” du pere, the nurture of social virtures of the pre-frontal cortex. Nature as the authentic, nurture as sublimation, as a romantic tamer of the wild drives. And I cast willpower as a nurturing force because it seems rather socially arbitrary what gets count as ”off limits” in various cultures.

Willpower is fatigable. It can be exhausted by one too many ”acts” of the will. What happens when we over work the will? We ”give in” to those ”base” desires. What counts as off limits is hilarious though. To Mormons here in Utah coffee would not even be considered as an indulgence. They would feel a rush of abandonment to sleep in on a Sunday morning instead of attending 3+ hours of church or feel they have gone too far saying ”hell” instead of ”heck.” I’m sure we all have these barriers that are set due to various responsibilities and conventions. I don’t want to attack them (but I did, didn’t I? Perhaps my Id sneaked in that one resentful jab to Mormonism). I want to point out the question, what counts? What are our authentic, primal desires and what are our rational responsibilities? And why are we so well trained to ”sabotage” ourselves?

Essentially all this rhetoric is re-casting Freud and Lacan in new ”neuro-science” language. Who is this Other that is so willing to sabotage our higher ordered desires at the sacrifice of ”what we really want”? What does an ”authentic” desire look like? We contain multitudes, I know, Steppenwolf, blah, blah, the subconscious as Other, as fragmented and barely on the tip of are tongue, I know. It exhausts me to think about it.

Do we see this Saboteur as our ”true self”? Do we see it as more authentic? Or is the ”one in control” really us? What’s fascinating is that this Other seems to have an ability to get us to do what it wants. It finds its way around doesn’t it? It finds ways to deceive and ways to seduce. The seduction is finally complete when we feel we are making the rational choice on our own accord, not on the Other’s hidden agenda. It is hidden right? Although I think we can feel its pull when we over-work, stay too long at the gym, or realize that we are cleaning our rooms just to get out of siting alone with ourselves.  Self-reflexive paranoia.

Why don’t we allow ourselves everything? Jesus, it’s not that simple is it. It comes down to brains again, doesn’t it? Some brains can deal with temperance and others…well you know, just a taste is too much for them. 

Tagged: LacanFreudneuro sciencewillpower