it’s in the 1%

I come into my own at Xmas, smug in the knowledge that I’m a veteran of the Tsunami of primitive emotions triggered by the festive season. Dabbling in psychoanalysis agreeably means that I’m at a distinct disadvantage at dinner parties but it also means I’m well practiced at regression. A yogi of infantalisation.


The blood and guts of the Oedipus Complex laid bare over the sprouts and stuffing?


I’m on it.


A leakage of bile and envy at a traditional family function?


Let me tick that box for an entire generation of unmarried women.


I’m not suggesting for one second that I hate Xmas. I appreciate the opportunity to take up my spiritual journey of lying on a sofa eating crisps for 24 hour stretches. The opportunity to regress with friends rather than in 50 minute blocks with a qualified professional. Seriously better than a 3am with BFFs Karaoke and Kahlua.


This is the season of unsupervised regression and a return to more primitive ways. In order to contain my anxieties about a mindless fall into hedonism I have attempted to buck the trend of failing a combined physics with chemistry with biology o’level by learning about neuroscience.


I know, a Lady should know when she’s defeated but whatever, here’s what I learned from a neurologist called Mark Solms who in addition to being a neurologist and psychoanalyst has great pecs and does a good turn at public speaking.


In the festive season some of us might be tempted to switch off the old mind and let rip with the seven instinctual systems hardwired into our brains.


The ‘seeking’ system is a familiar one to those of us who are going to find it crippling to put our work down and drop the busy-busy-busy of being a superhero. Targets get replaced by playstation keeping us safe from the pain of having to face up to a) the reality that its never enough and b) that to slow it down a bit opens us up to a potential glitch of optimism. The existential itch that cannot be scratched.


Tucked away in the central amygdala is the instinctual system of fear, an innate response to things that are unknown or not under our control. Often our response to threat is to create some psychic benzos to numb ourselves from the anxiety. Going ‘on ice’ something that many of us consider at Xmas in exile from work. Yes, dear reader, Xmas can be a lonely time and sometimes we block it out by replacing the turkey in the deep freeze with our hearts.



The good news is that one of our instinctual systems is to play. Finally a redeeming feature. Kinda. This is not the Disney model of play, its the one where competitive Dad goes mental when he doesn’t  win scrabble and you realise that your gene pool has no sense of humour. Whatsoever. According to Solms this is yer 60/40. Games are about the rough and tumble which at some point will end in tears. And if you need to win more than 60% of the time people stop enjoying it and will stop playing with you. Put the triple score down dad.


Christmas is not for the faint hearted because its the ego bruising stuff of realising we’re all chimpanzees. But hark the heralds there’s a saving in the 1%.


What distinguishes us from chimps are our prefrontal lobes which can override this instinctual hardwiring. The part of the brain that can inhibit us, hold us back and help us to think about consequences and each other. Socratic as it might be, this capacity to be conscious of the self and the other is not cracker-wisdom, rather the potential for a happy holiday.


Putting yourself 100% on ice goes against the science because its in the 1% that we can come to know the otherness of the other and with it feel benevolence and Love.


Next year Surviving Work will start the year exploring this 1% and our collective capacity for Love. You are cordially invited to join us on this journey which, with typical subtlety, we are calling #LoveAmateurs. From January we will be asking you what you want to know about love and trying to cobble together some answers. This will culminate in an event at the Freud Museum in London on the 13th February.


Better than Karaoke and Kahlua. Happy Christmas.


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