Peeling the Onion
In order to be rational, you need to understand what drives you to be irrational...
When we free ourselves of desire, we will know serenity and freedom.
Before you can make sense of your life, you need to understand yourself and why you think and do the things you do. To help with this understanding, I have developed the following model of what constitutes “You.” Once you understand it, you will better understand the hidden motivations that drive your decisions and actions.
“I”, the voice in my head, is an amalgam of several minds that I call my lizard mind, monkey mind, and rational mind. Knowing that these separate minds exist and their purpose is what allows me to attempt rational control over my actions. It helps me 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, or what I call the 4 Fs (Fight, Flight, Food, and Fucking).
My monkey mind is the source of my emotions and is focused on itself, its emotional needs, and its place in the social hierarchy. 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, which attempts to interpret both what I do (my monkey/lizard motivations) and what happens in the world. It is the great storyteller, creating rationalizations not only for my actions but also for the actions of others—the "superego" in Freudian terms or (hopefully) the angel on my shoulder.
Suppose there is a key to living a purposeful life. In that case, it is this: to train myself out of rationalizing and toward true rational analysis, not only of my actions but also of how the world actually works, not how I wish it would work.
Understanding the drivers of the voices in my head and that there are layers underneath, each interpreting the inputs of my body's senses against their needs and biases, helps me understand what the judgments 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 and my judgments due to "fuzzy" information that my minds receive. I realize that I am never truly experiencing reality, only an interpreted facsimile as built and filtered by my senses and minds.
All my minds are communicating 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 mental dialog is the key to making (and recognizing) rational vs. irrational decisions and thus being able to make plans for my life that are based on logic and not emotion.