The Politics of Your Mind
Rationality, pre-rationality, and post-rationality.
Men are political beings. You already knew this because your brother-in-law reminds you of it whenever he gets fired from one of his office cleaning jobs.
This doesn’t mean men are evil or the world is unfair, as is the implication. It simply means we tend to put the interest of our group before facts. Our group could be any group—an ethnic group, family group, college group, or it could mean our political party group.
Facts are great, but sometimes facts get in the way of what our group wants, and we let our political natures win out in order for the group to survive.
Whether you want the Republicans to beat the Democrats, or you’ve had friendship for years, or you love your family, you inevitably conceal facts from yourself to make your groups work for you.
For instance, I’ve convinced myself my girlfriend isn’t completely annoying. “Aren’t all girls completely annoying, anyway?” I say to myself. Now our group—our relationship—works better.
A good way to conceal facts is through window dressing. If you’re a Republican, tell yourself how bad the Democrats are. This is a good one because you’ll be right. And if you’re a Democrat, tell yourself how bad the Republicans are. This is also a good one because you’ll also be right.
It’s okay. Politics is going to happen—politics needs to happen. A group would destroy itself if it looked at all the facts, and we need groups. Just don’t let your political nature get out of hand and become a Cleveland Browns fan.
Better yet, use this principle to understand the world. When you come across a group, ask yourself what it must be hiding in order to exist. When you know facts must be concealed for a group to function, you’ll know to purposely conceal the facts you want concealed. This way, you can use the group to your advantage.
But this is only politics among people. It’s interpersonal. It’s external.
There’s another kind of politics—the politics of your mind. It’s intrapersonal. It’s internal.
Our mind becomes political with itself when we feel a strong emotion. The emotion will tend to take precedent over facts. Instead of looking at facts that contradict our emotion, we look for facts to rationalize the emotion.
Where groups are present, we inevitably dissociate from the facts. When feelings are present, we inevitably dissociate from the facts. It’s how humans work together. It’s how we work with ourselves.
Like external politics, your internal politics is okay as well. It’s going to happen, and it’s right that it does happen. So let it happen.
When we fight it, we become disconnected from our emotions, and from ourselves. This is the nature of the “serious young man” phase I see all the time, and what I went through myself in my early 20s. I saw my emotions as inherently a distraction. I lived by reason alone. I was trying to be, as Carl Jung would say, rational. I thought only what I wanted to be in control was in control, and I made myself feel however I wanted to feel. When rationality didn’t work, drinking did.
Even with drinking, the emotions don’t stay down for long. When we keep them down for too long, they express themselves in disfigured ways, and on their own terms. It’s like how a priest tries to suppress his desire for women, it inevitably morphs into the desire for altar boys.
If, however, we become too engrossed and dominated by our emotions, rationality takes a back seat. The emotions are released without filter, much in the way a child will throw a tantrum whenever he feels like it. This, as Jung calls it, is pre-rationality.
Good thing there’s a third way.
As we use groups for our benefit to master external politics, so too must we use emotions for our benefit to master internal politics. As we can use groups to work in our favor, so too must we learn to use emotions to work in our favor.
We do this by letting ourselves feel emotions without being controlled by them.
As Perseus tames Pegasus, as a dam tames a river, as Daniel Plainview tames an oil well, we tame our emotions. Only then can we look at the emotion for what it is. Only then are we capable of using emotions as a guide to action, as a guide for self-awareness. Our emotions are a zip file—they’re packed with information. They are filled with truths reason alone could not discover, and they can be used to act in ways reason alone could not conceive.
When we use rationality to unpack emotions, we find a new kind of rationality. This, as Jung calls it, is post-rational.
The healthy, male psyche is nourished by this integration of reason and emotion, these supposedly disparate parts of our mind.
This integration, the process of post-rationality, is what I describe in the most distilled yet comprehensive way in Man's Guide to Psychology.