GOOD DECISIONS BAD DECISIONS
The running commentary that is controlling my hand right now, the articulate voice in my head, still has to run every decision by the silent alarm system of few words but is in full control of things like breathing, my heart rate and my, very nervous, nervous systems. It can compel me to act despite any and all of the upstairs brain protests. The downstairs brain can veto common sense at any given moment.
What is interesting is how these two entities within me respond to each other. When I have done something truly good I can reflect on my actions and see the evidence of my good work. When I remember something good I have done, whether that be taking a photograph I am proud of or cleaning the bathroom, anything with a tangible positive outcome; ‘I’ did that.
‘I’ did that.
I can even justify an honest mistake as long as I call it my mistake. I can be standing at a bus stop, waiting for a bus, knowing that everything I am doing right now, I am doing right. I look down and my flies are undone. I am wrong. How long I have been wrong is something I may or may not reflect on later. Right now I do up my flies and I am right again.
It’s just how being alive and self aware has to work; a constant updating of being right, assuming right until presented with incontrovertible evidence otherwise and given that evidence, undertake self-correction. Yet this notion of ‘right’ is amorphously subjective; what if ‘I’ just decided that my flies are supposed to be undone?
If I try hard enough I can justify anything I have ever done to anyone else;
To anyone else.
That depends on how honest I am being with myself.
In the moment between now and the future, everything everyone does is right because of the agreements we make between our upstairs and downstairs brains.
In the moment where either upstairs or downstairs brain has put body into motion, good or bad is not the priority; right is the prevailing motivation as a response to circumstance whether that be eating an ice cream or having to decide what to to with your child when you are surrounded by flames on the twentieth floor of ‘Grenfell Tower’.
The problem with the downstairs brain is that it is seeking remarkably short term outcomes to situations; hunger, thirst, avoiding pain. Upstairs brain is on a diet; downstair brain likes the look of that slice of pizza. Upstairs brain has buried the deepest memories of childhood abuse, downstairs brain is going to teach this bitch a lesson she will never forget.
When I remember a transgression of minor consequence; maybe, ‘I’ can justify it, maybe I can recognise the mistake for what it was, just that, a mistake. Whenever I hear the song ‘close to you’ by ‘The Cure’, I always remember a girl in a hostel in New Zealand that I really should have had a one night stand with. Regret is regret. Some of history’s greatest ‘villains’ would have died regretting not killing more or the people they felt they had to murder.
When I remember a transgression with unavoidably bad consequence, I may stand in a court of my peers and openly declare my fault, accept my culpability, accept the consequences of my actions put upon me by my peers. Yet, even then when I admonish myself, on the inside, the upstairs brain tells the downstairs brain, ‘this was your fault, your stupid, ‘short-termist’ actions have burdened me with this thing that ‘I’, with access to all my memories, have to live with forever.
Look what ‘You’ made ‘Us’ do!’
Say you are driving a car and you miss your turning, do you wind down your window lean out and declare to all present, “I HAVE MISSED MY TURNING!”
No, you admonish yourself, “‘You’ idiot!”, not the caveman version, “Me, idiot.” Such a fascinating psychological membrane that provides a sliver of separation from the good and true person you are right now, that other person, that’s not me anymore.
You see the ‘Smeagol’ in all of us.
Meanwhile, the downstairs brain, like a dog that has made a toilet on the carpet feels sort of bad but only really remembers needing a shit and, within an instant, is thinking about biscuits.
You can always tell a good decision, that something truly positive is happening like stting off on a journey to a better place, when the upstairs brain says to the downstairs brain, ‘Let’s go, we’re doing this!’
“‘We’re’ doing this!”
The next time you are talking to yourself about a decision you made that you might be feeling bad about, try saying:
“I did it.”