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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Deal-breakers

Every mating-age person, men as well as women (I believe), has been asked or thought about what qualities his or her spouse should possess. This is one of the best example of the separation between the conscious and unconscious mind. I have never, ever seen anyone's list of "What I want in my husband (wife)" to be truly what they end up with. If you have such a list, you might as well tear it up because the likelihood of your conscious and unconscious lists matching each other is no better than random. (I have no research to back up this claim, so it is my opinion.)

And the funny thing is, the unconscious list always wins. Maybe the word "always" is too strong and absolute. Maybe it is "nearly always." People do end up with what they want. It is not to say that some do not go with the conscious (rather than unconscious) list of what they want, but conflicts with the unconscious wants usually kill the marriage quickly. In nearly all cases, people believe (falsely) that they are happily married because they adhered to their conscious list.

For example, a person may fit all of the written criteria of a perfect spouse, but one tiny defect (for example, a body odor that you dislike, eating with his mouth open if it bothers you, or a mole on the face or too many freckles) can elicit enough visceral disgust to erase all those great qualities you have said you want.

This is why it is entirely useless to draw up lists of qualities you want in a spouse. Because nobody knows what they want --- unconsciously but decidedly. Yes, it may be unfair and stupid that we humans have so little access with our unconscious thinking and have to rely on the half-deaf, half-blind conscious thoughts.

Unlike Freud’s theory, the separation between the conscious and unconscious minds is not caused by active suppression by social norms and childhood/adult learning. It’s just the anatomy and physiology. The human brain is very, very far from a perfect machine, fancy as it already is. Poorly designed and poorly made. Sort of like Windows Vista --- good enough to do some computation, but also full of glitches and inefficiencies and deficiencies.

So all we have is this thin layer of consciousness, a tiny accessory within a giant machine. It can barely pick up what others think and feel and knows only a little more what the rest of the brain thinks and feels. What it doesn’t know, it just makes it up: cobble together some stuff from the outside and some fragments from within and make up a coherent fairy tale to entertain itself. Of course, it firmly believes its own importance. There is no brain but the conscious brain, it thinks. It is wrong, of course, but it is hardly able to know that, because it is not very powerful or smart.
So what’s the point? What’s the point of having criteria for your mate? No point. The true criteria are those your unconscious mind keeps, and your conscious mind can’t even read them. The only thing one can do is follow one’s gut. When your gut tells you something is a deal-breaker, that you cannot stand it, you’d better trust the gut. It is the most powerful thing that controls you.

Also because one is dominated by the unconscious (at least in the case of long-term relationships), it is no use to make predictions on things you have not experienced. Without actual experience, one would never know a certain quality or characteristic bothers you. For example, you would never know a pair of very big feet or the ability to speak Italian ("A Fish Called Wanda") will turn you off or on until you actually see and touch the feet or hear the Italian phrases ringing in your ear. The unconscious mind is excellent at making snap decisions at the moment, but is extremely feeble in predicting the future, especially when there is no past expereince to base the prediction on.

The same goes for making friends, choosing a car to buy, and other choices in life. If someone or something disgusts or repulses you, accept that and move on.

That is not to say that the unconscious is never wrong, but rather that it is much more accurate than the conscious. In addition, someone or something that repulses you today may no longer do so a month or 10 years later. Your unconscious cannot predict that.

There are many people out there that I cannot stand. I used to think that it was not nice and I might be too quick to judge. However, I should have more faith in my own instinct.

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