Pealing the Onion


“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Richard Feynman, Caltech commencement address, 1974

“I” (the voice in my head), am an amalgam of several minds, which I call the lizard mind, the monkey mind and the rational mind. Knowing that these separate minds exist and what drives them is what allows me to attempt rational control over my actions, or realize when my actions and drives are possibly irrational.

My lizard mind is my primitive mind, focused on survival needs and instinctual reactions. Fight/flight, food/shelter and reproduction. The “id” in Freudian terms.

My monkey mind is the source of my emotions, and is focused on itself, it’s emotional needs and gratification. It is the source of the “me, me, me” narcissism of my thoughts, my drive for social standing and immediate gratification. The “ego” in Freudian terms or the devil on my shoulder.

My rational mind is the source of my rational intellect, that attempts to drive and live a virtuous life in accordance with rational beliefs, values, objectives and actions. The “superego” in Freudian terms or the angel on my shoulder.

Understanding the drivers to the voice in my head, and that there are layers underneath, each interpreting the inputs of my body’s senses against their own needs and biases, helps me understand what the judgements I make are based on.

Underlying all of my minds is my body. The host to my minds and my interface to reality through my senses. Impairments in my body due to age, injury or disease, or just due to the basic limitations of my senses, both impair my understanding of the world as well as my judgements due to “fuzzy” information that my minds receive. I realize that I am never truly experiencing reality, only an interpreted facsimile as built and filter by my senses and minds.

All my minds are in communication with each other, though not verbally, as all are layers in the onion that is me. “I” am the onion, though I am also each of the layers. Understanding what is driving my internal dialog is the key to making (and recognizing) rational vs irrational decisions.

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