Intellect vs instinct

Logical Emotion or Emotional Logic

Trrrrrrring! Alexa nags me to wake up but I'm just hearing her for the first time so I'm neither alarmed nor shamed into waking up.

I miss a Zoom session but I wake up in time for a friendly call with Tim Coil who has featured on this newsletter before. If you've read that issue you know he's not a call I'd care to miss. So I jump up, take a cold shower, grab a hot coffee, and saddle in for a tete-a-tete.

We're excited and happy to meet each other. Distance does make the heart grow fonder, though distance here refers to time. In the post-COVID scenario, distance is only measured in time and countries and cities differentiated only by timezones.

The conversation veers around my theme of play, my daily newsletter, my upcoming book, structure, and quality of output, self-critique, and even the wall-projected laser and aurora borealis light show in my room. Yeah well, I'm not gonna show you. If you really want to see it, let's zoom.

Somewhere in the middle of that conversation, Tim reveals his mission to create 100 videos in a quest to create and connect using the full stack of storytelling - text, speech, and video.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. Tim believes his mind works in logic and reason. And that emotion is something he finds harder to express. And that resonates because I love to think of myself and coldly logical and lackluster on the emotion spectrum. And when I do get emotional, my goto emotion is anger, which is clearly expressed. Loud and clear.

I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them. Oscar Wilde

Some people think they're not emotional but they may just not be emotive. Experiencing emotion is one thing and expressing emotion is another. In my case, with emotions like anger, I'm quick on the trigger. But with emotions of affection, I'm almost never expressive. I'm not going to dwell on the psychoanalytical reasons why this is so today. But I will tell you how I manage it best.

Writing. Most of you on the interwebs are comfortable writing. Tweets, tweetstorms, blog posts, articles, long-form essays, and what have you. Many even write daily logs and journals. This begins to get more personal and intimate. But how many of you write intimate letters to loved ones?

Letter writing is an excellent way of slowing down this lunatic helterskelter universe long enough to gather one’s thoughts.
Nick Bantock

Since I suck at expressing emotion verbally, I write letters. I realized that I'm more aware of the depth of emotion as I write. Even better, through the course of this exercise, I understand my reactions are not often grounded in the truth but in my perception of it. And the slow burn letter writing reveals the error of my emotional reactions, offering me a chance to correct it.

Here's a game: Write a letter to a loved one(s) telling them how they make you feel.

Note: It can be good, bad, or ugly. Sometimes people don't necessarily make you feel good, sometimes people make you feel bad and sometimes downright ugly.

I've come to the realization that it's my responsibility to express this to them, even if I'm unable to make them change. While conversations can be scary - I'm scared to say 'I love you'. You may be scared to say 'Fuck you'. We may be hesitant to say 'Sorry' or 'Thank you'. And this is where letter writing makes it easy.

If you're still unsure of this, here's a graded approach:

  • write a letter, and burn it

  • write a letter, and store it

  • write a letter, and read it aloud to yourself

  • write a letter, and send it to the recipient

  • write a letter, and read it out to them

And if you want to get better at expressing yourself, this is all you need to learn to say - I love you, I hate you (fuck you), I hurt you (sorry), I appreciate you (thank you). Use these letters to practice your expression.

A friend of mine Cam Houser likes to use video as a medium and has a course on how you can do the same. Whatever floats your boat, but the principles of expression remain the same.

I think I did take off on a tangent there, so I'll pull myself back to the debate between emotion and reason, between instinct and intellect. Before we dive deeper, I'll just state that your choice only matters if you're going to make decisions based on it.

To me, this is a personal tug of war.

Growing up I was entirely instinctive in my decisions. If I didn't like the guests who had come to visit, I'd throw stuff out of the house to express my displeasure. It's not amusing even if you're a 5-year-old.

Later, I'd leave home intending to run away, only to be dragged back by the ear. Still not pretty as a 10-year-old. And a lot more embarrassing socially and personally.

Adolescence offered sexual and psychedelic exploration as a medium of rebellion. Personal at first and eventually social. I also tasted the power to influence others. Not your ideal 15-year-old.

Instead of charting a course for the future based on interests, opportunities, skills, abilities, and other logical factors, I chose to instinctively get a 'higher' education on my own. As a 20-year-old, I was on the road and into the wild.

As you can see, I've made the majority of my life's decisions instinctively. And the end result was of course death and destruction. Death of my relationships - broken ties with family and friends. Destruction of my body, mind, and spirit. I was an empty broken individual much like Humpty Dumpty.

To cut a sad story short, I did turn my life around and bounced back into a highly disciplined and logic-driven individual who would debate with reason every action of the day. I did not allow a single swing of mood to sway my carefully crafted plan of action. No whim or fancy would disrupt my laser-like execution.

The results of following the perfect plan encompassing a balanced plan was stupendous success across all aspects of life. I have never been fitter, healthier, richer, well-loved, and more successful today at 40, than at any time of my life.

And yet now that I chose to retire, I'm again living without a plan, a purpose, or an end goal in sight. What will happen to this new phase of my life? Well, I can't answer that question right now. You'll just have to wait and see, but as my carefully curated subscribers, you're guaranteed front row seats to the madness and mayhem that follows.

But what's really surprising here is that my decision to return to a life of instinctive decision making was a logical one.

I'm single, unmarried, undivorced, unspawned (is that a word?). I mean I've spawned no children. Poly and uncommitted, I'm untethered. So nobody (lovers, friends, family or relatives) is dependent on me. I'm a simple man whose hedonistic past is long forgotten. I have no grand plans, ambitions, goals, desires, needs, or habits.

So if my experiment to return to a life of instinct over intellect fails, the collateral damage is minimal if at all.

As I was discussing with Tim, I think that emotion and logic are more closely interlinked than we think. My dog JD (RIP) would wait for his food at 1700 hrs on the dot. Never once erring on the time. I always needed an alarm to remember. Pavlov would have a lot to say on this but I think instinct (i) and intellect (I) are intrinsically connected anyway as illustrated below:

Was his instinct better trained than my intelligently organized schedule? Is instinct nothing but a trained response (intellectual or chemical)? Then again, is not all intellect a matter of chemical reactions in our brains, as is instinct. Is it just a debate of cortex vs hypothalamus? Is natural instinct atrophied in domesticated humans and animals?

There are plenty of unanswered questions, but if you do need to make a choice, choose the path most walked on by you in your journey thus far. If you're accustomed to being driven by logic or intellect, continue. If it's instinct or emotion, continue. If you are unhappy with the outcome or wish to experiment, feel free to play.

Remember though, the game may be in your head, but the score is writ in blood.

I paid the consequences of my choices, as will you. As will we all. Instant karma bitches.


This daily may get ad-hoc and I often paint all over the place, so please drop your feedback below, or above or anywhere you choose. Until next time, cheerio ❤️