Sex is the primary motivator of biological life. Stop giggling you immature high school girls- get over it. Now the obvious issue with sex is that if you’re a biological organism, you can’t have any if you’re dead. So sex and death drive human motivations. It’s really not that hard to draw a direct line from any and all choices back to either sex or death. Eat a big mac or a ham sandwich? One of them will make you fat and slow- easier for a predator to catch, as well as making you less attractive. However, it also provides a high amount of energy in the short term, despite its notable lack of nutritional content. The other is cheap, freeing up resources to finance more materiel to attract the opposite sex, or to avoid death.
Now this is especially critical when applied to interpersonal relations. This is a widely understood argument, but I will reiterate it. Essentially, social ostracism is death because some predator will come along and eat you. However, more importantly (in the short term anyway), social ostracism is extreme negative progress in the sex direction because not only does it lower your value, if you’re alone in the wilds then there’s not a lot of opportunity anyway. So the need to “fit in” as it’s called, is hardwired into us as a sort of sex-and-death issue. If we were dumb sacks of meat that would work pretty well in maintaining social cohesion. However, humans are a dual entity. We are a genetic and therefore programmatically biological entity, and those genes also create for us a brain and a prototypical mental organism which then develops. The layers of abstraction up from raw chemical reactions to higher-level consciousness is evident in the brain. At the lowest level is basic chemical interaction like we witness in microbes. Once life becomes macroscopic, it needs an organizing brain and we see small organizing-only brains- think jellyfish. More complex lifeforms need motor functions, as well as organizing and processing ability and we see the first reptilian brains. This is used to process visual input usefully, for example. Then we see mammalian brains which use emotions as genetically programmed situational motivators so the genes can create archetypes of situations which the brain can use to react as the case warrants.
This is the point at which humans would function well in a puristic sex and death motivation scheme. However, humans go one more. We have developed a cerebral cortex capable of higher-level thinking such as logic, art, and constructive or reductive thought. As a result, humans often have conflicting drives between the three “thinking” brains. Our reason may tell us to do one thing, our mammalian emotions something else, and our reptilian brain physical body may want something else. Now, a conflict between just the mammalian and reptilian brain is pretty easy to resolve- you can just define one as always overmastering the other and you can’t go too far wrong. If the reptilian brain always wins then we’d have immense sex drives, be prone to territorial aggression, and react intensely to danger, hunger, and other stressors. If the mammalian brain always wins then- maybe you didn’t guess this- we’d have immense sex drives, be prone to aggression (not necessarily territorial), and react intensely to danger, hunger, or anything else that provoked a powerful emotional response. Put a squirrel in an oven and observe the reaction. Not a great deal of difference. However, if it’s our cerebral cortex in charge, all bets are off. The reason for this is that the cerebral cortex uses association as its primary mode of information transmission. This allows us to construct systems of thinking such as logic and reason, or just random collections of emotional, psychosomatic, and abstract bullshit- for example, religion. Now, it would be inaccurate to say that “lower mammals” use only their mammalian brains. Rats, for example, can learn to navigate mazes, and that’s not an emotional function. So there’s some associative processing going on, but it would be a stretch to say that a rat could understand logic or mathematics or other higher order thinking. Similarly, a rat couldn’t understand religion because its associative circuitry is not voluminous enough. Please note that “associations” are the only operation that a brain is actually capable of, in the same way that 0 and 1 are the only things a computer is capable of. However, by associative thinking I am referring to connecting at least two thought-entities together by association, not associating hunger with getting food or a bell with salivating.
Returning to sex and death- the human brain is actually capable of anything, from being more reasoned than knee-jerk associations, to jetting off on a blind, insane, random romp through fantasy land. So when presented with the opportunity to steal food, in a puristic sex-and-death scenario it would be obvious: scarf away! However, we can decide not to due to some abstract, random concept called “morality.” This is functionally identical to, say, giving a significant fraction of your income away to some entity claiming you’ll be in paradise after you die. It is different, however, in its salient reasoning. The reason why morality is a useful concept is because it gives you a clear functional benefit- if everyone obeys morality, then you can be confident that nobody will steal your stuff and you can concentrate on producing more instead of safeguarding what you have. The degree to which everyone is immoral is the degree to which corruption reduces the efficiency of all human endeavors. Unfortunately, there is a situation I will call ‘pragmatic immorality’ where you are well aware that, in the strictest sense, your actions are technically immoral. However, the absolute payoff is high enough to justify that immoral action to yourself without rationalization. My favorite example is with the button that you press, with a 1 in a million shot of killing someone, but in return you get $1 million. While you could feasibly argue that pressing the button was categorically immoral using equivalence arguments like “that’s like killing someone for $1 trillion,” I am not ashamed to say I would press the button, meh, as many as 100 times. I get $100 million, and am 99% sure that nobody was harmed. The issue with this approach to morality is that each person’s position of pragmatic immorality is different. So, while categorical morality is quite clear, we are willing to deviate from it for personal benefit provided the gain is large enough.
So now we arrive at the true self. I am aware that it appears like all the topics raised so far have no connection whatsoever, but I’ll get there. My thoughts on the true self/false self issue is that a human being is far more complicated than the common perception would lead you to believe. This actually causes us to dramatically simplify ourselves to conform to others’ expectations. I believe that this phenomenon is what causes us to get to know people better over time- at some point in our interaction with them, maybe over months or years, we’ll see a large variety of different sides of that person because they’ll gently push the boundaries on what they permit themselves to be like around you, or maybe circumstances will reveal them. This is why we’re more comfortable around people we’ve spent more time with- because we feel less “rules” pressing in on our behavior that we subtly fear breaking. The fact that this happens on both sides causes a generalized de-escalation of tension, which you translate as liking that person more because you feel better in their presence. Now, I propose that our common model of social interaction is basically fundamentally broken, broken because it evolved randomly based on the whim of whoever wanted to jockey it. Some symptoms are conformity and cronyism, anxiety and tension, as well as just plain meanness. For myself, and people like me, the common method to avoid this is to simply restrict who you interact with to filter out the problem cases, who seem to relish “social structures.”
What do I really mean, you ask? This post has become so cluttered with related but tertiary ideas that I’ll need to do another later. Basically, our current mode of society is for everyone to feel unworthy. Everyone is looking for something to be, desperately begging for a way to prove that they are somehow valid, silently begging to be led. Predominantly, people are unhappy and told that material prosperity will solve their problems- if only they had X, you should go buy that. Your true self is perpetually repressed- just for now- in the name of pragmatism, for that job, for sex, for acceptance, for whatever. In fact, the trend is continuously shifting to younger people. I feel that the last naturally occurring true-self to true-self interaction I ever experienced was in preschool. As early as first grade I was harried for grades, for friends, told to draw “the right way” and so on. Many of the people I meet nowadays have probably never experienced anything other than their current drab style.
You don’t believe me? I’ll talk more about this, but for now I’ll give you a test and you can see for yourself. Right now, get a piece of paper and something to write with. Alright, in the words of Epictetus “First, decide who you would be. Then, do what you must do.” As an exercise this is a little hypocritical because I’m telling you what to do, but hopefully you’ll get the gist. What you need to do is write down 5 characteristics that you think the ideal person, in your conception of them, has. Of course don’t do anything that is logically, physically, or materially impossible like turn the moon into cheese. But make them tough ones- here are three examples: 1) being unflappably honest all the time, or 2) being socially free to do whatever they want- talk to anyone, have a good time, not tolerate second-grade behavior, to cut out people who present too much of a problem, be congruent, be positive, be real. And 3) Be confident, powerful, unashamed of what you want, determined to get it, and you could care less what anyone else thinks.
Get your five. And then, here’s the tough bit. Do them. That’s all.
But! But! But! What’s the problem, crybabies? You’re telling me that the 5 things you thought of are what your ideal person does, and now you’re turning around and saying that for some reason you can’t do them? Is your nature fixed by some agent that you can’t control? If it is you might want to figure out what that agent is and either get rid of it or get the hell over it. You are responsible for yourself, and you have now realized that there is no reason why you can’t be that person, save your own weakness to do so.
Sorry for the tough love. You’ll get over it.