Minding our development

By Majirioghene Etemiku

Three individuals – Burrhus Skinner, Carl Gustave Jung and Sigmund Freud – are the usual suspects whenever theories of personality are discussed. Each has his strong area. As a matter of fact, each suspect has tried to put their own ideas forward as vigorously as possible to the extent that an ardent student can easily discern a point of convergence of their erudite postulations. For me, I have often found Sigmund Freud’s analysis of why we are what and who we are very interesting. In his seminal work, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud set out a concept to explain how the human mind works. According to Freud, the human mind has three layers of operation – the Id, Ego and Superego.

As human beings, there is often a dark part of our lives which nobody can access. I have one and you have one as well. Freud said that it resembles the brain of a child, which will crave for something and insists on getting it or we raise hell in tantrums or we sulk. ‘It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality…it is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organisation, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual/primordial needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle’, Wikipedia has said of Freud’s idea of the Id.

But as we mature, we find out that there’s a chasm between what’s real and unreal, and between what’s obtainable and what’s not. We begin to get practical. We separate the short from the long term. Freud says that this is the surface of the personality, the part you usually show the world. This part of our lives is fashioned after the disposition of an iceberg. We see only the tip, while the mass of our being lurks down there under the silent but deadly waters of our existence. Freud says our Ego is vis-à-vis the Id is like a man on horseback holding and steering a horse out of control in check. Cool as this may sound, this part of our being is under the jurisprudence of our environment, our need for perfection and the primordial instincts of childhood. The other, the Superego usually wants to be perfect. It is our conscience, that part of our lives which tries to make up its mind between good and evil.

At this moment of our lives as a nation, we usually put the blame of corruption at the doorstep of mismanagement. But as a matter of fact, we are all basically corrupt people with very few exceptions – black or white, Jew or gentile. A lot of us are driven by base instincts, the Id, and we either mask or hide these instincts because time and chance have not given us availability and opportunity. We want this, and we must have it even though we have not invested in the factors for the production of that that we crave for. Corruption therefore is a craving based on either the development or underdevelopment of our minds. A poor man – and I use the word ‘poor’ without its pecuniary connotations – who gets within the corridors of power and has access to public funds will dip their fingers in the public purse. So will a ‘rich’ person. It’s all up there in our minds: the desire to build big houses, and buy fancy cars and drive around with beautiful women is driven by a craving. A craving is a thing that you always do without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop. According to Duhigg in The Power of Habit – why we do what we do and how to CHANGE (Random House Books 2012), cravings are basically driven by routine A routine is what is carried out consistently over time with the anticipation of a reward. A policeman who is poorly paid will still go to his beat knowing that on that his beat, there will be delinquents whom he can exploit. Once we allow our cravings to control us to the point of making them a routine and get rewarded somehow, corruption therefore becomes a strong habit. Habits are not demographic, gender sensitive and have no respect for class, race or creed. Once a habit takes hold, it becomes a parasite feeding on a host, and begins to ensure the survival of that host only because it wants to survive.

Development will not take place if our minds are not developed first. All development comes from the mind, whether physical, spiritual or otherwise. But we must break the deadly habit of corruption by adhering to certain principles outlined in Duhigg (2012), to wit, that a habit can break if we change its loop of occurrence. Typical habits survive via a chain wherein there is a craving routinely executed and which mostly produces rewards. In his golden rule of habit change, Duhigg suggests that if we must, we must keep our cravings for the good things of life whatever they may be because some of these craving can be drivers of change. But he insists that we all must insert a new routine. We must try to do things differently, break the routine transform our minds. A smoker will not quit smoking if there’s no alternative that will replace the reward the smoker gets from smoking.

Etemiku writes from @DsighRobert.