Jordan Peterson - Why it's so Hard to Sit Down and Study/Work

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Your attention, for example, is mediated by unconscious forces -- and you know that, you know that perfectly well.

And this is another Freudian observation. You know, if you're sitting down to


for example, your conscious intent is to study.

But you know perfectly well that all sorts of distraction fantasies are going to enter the theatre of your imagination

Non-stop, and annoyingly, and there isn't really a lot you can do about that except, maybe, wait it out

You know, so you'll be sitting there reading and your attention will flicker away. You'll think about

I don't know

Maybe you want to watch Jane the Virgin on Netflix or something like that, or maybe it's time to have a peanut butter sandwich

Or you should get the dust bunnies out from underneath the bed

Or it's time to go outside and have a cigarette or maybe it's time for a cup of coffee

Or it's like all these subsystems in you that would like something aren't

Very happy just to sit there while you read this thing that you're actually bored by and so they pop up and try to take

Control of your perceptions and your actions non-stop, maybe you think well this is a stupid course

Anyways, why do I have to read this damn paper, and what am I doing in university and what's the point of life?

It's like you can really well

You can really get going if you're trying to avoid doing your homework

and and and then you might think well what is it in you that's trying to avoid because

After all you took the damn course, and you told yourself to sit down. Why don't you listen?

Well because you're you're a mess that's basically why you haven't got control over yourself at all

And no more than I have control over this laptop

Okay, so there's the memory function of the unconscious

And there's the dissolutive function that's an interesting one the unconscious contains habits once voluntary now

Automatized and dissociated elements of the personality, which may lead a parasitic existence. That's an interesting one

I would relate that more to procedural memory

You know so what you've done is practice certain habits

Whatever they might be let's call them bad habits, and you like those things to get under control

But you can't so maybe when you're speaking for example

You use 'like' and 'you know' and you say 'um' a lot and you practice that so you're really good at it

And you'd like to stop, but you don't get to because you've built that little machine right into your being right?

It's neurologically wired and it's not under conscious control and anything you practice

Becomes that; it becomes part of you, and that's another element of the unconscious; a different part, and then there's a creative part

Which is that... Well? You know you're sitting around and maybe you're trying to write something or maybe you want to

Produce a piece of art, or a piece of music, or maybe you're just laying in bed dreaming

And you have all these weird ideas and especially in dreams. It's like...what? Where do those things come from and even more strange

One of the things that's really weird about dreams and almost impossibly weird is that you're an observer in the dream

It's like a dream is something that happens to you. Well, you're dreaming it, theoretically, so how is it that you can be an observer?

It's almost like you're watching a video game or a movie

But you're producing it, at least in principle, although the psychoanalysts would say "Well, no, not exactly. Your ego

Isn't producing it; your unconscious is producing it. It's a different thing." It's a different thing and, of course, Jung would say well

It's deeper than that; the collective unconscious might be producing it

It's in some sense

It isn't you


Or it isn't the you that you think of when you think of you?

and that's the ego from the Freudian perspective - the you that you identify with - that's the ego and

outside of that is the unconscious, the id

That's more the place of impulses, and you could think about those as the biological

Subsystems that can derail your thinking, right, and that govern things like hunger and sex and aggression and your basic

Instincts is another way of putting it

And it's a reasonable way of thinking about it because these are subsystems that you share with

With animals, you share them certainly with mammals, you share most of them with

reptiles, you share a lot of them with amphibians, and even going all the way down to crustaceans, there's

commonality, for example, in the dominance hierarchy circuits

And so these are very very old things and the idea that you're in control of them is

Well, you're not exactly in control of them, and I would say the less integrated you are

The less you're in control of them, and the more they're in control of you, and that can get really out of hand you know


Can be like with people who have obsessive compulsive disorder for example?

Which seems to be, I would say, that dissolutive elements in some sense of the unconscious, the way that it's portrayed here

Poor people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, they can spend half their time doing things that they can't really control

And they have very strong impulses to do them, and it's very hard on them to block them

You know, they they'll almost panic if those things are blocked and then you have people with Tourette's syndrome

you know that they'll be doing all sorts of weird dances and

spouting off obscenities and imitating people without being able to control it and

Sometimes a little bit of anti-psychotic medication can dampen that down, but it's as if there are these autonomous

Semi spirits inside of them that grip control over the behavior, and make them do things, and you

know you find that to some degree in your own life because maybe

You've become very attracted to someone even maybe you don't want to be attracted to the person, and then you find yourself

You know texting them when you know perfectly well that you should be going to bed

And you know, you're in a grip of something

And you can't control it and that's all part of the unconscious and all part of what Freud was studying