Tuesday, November 23, 2010


What would you do with a brain if you had one?

Modern psychiatry is a branch of medicine based on the combined inspiration of several great men.[1] It is necessary today because all our labor-saving, stress-reducing modern conveniences keep breaking, or they’re stolen, and there are so many idiots out there, and it’s driving us all out of our minds.

Freud and the Fragile Egosystem
The great-grandfather of modern psychology is Sigmund Freud. Mr. Freud spent his early years studying the physical aspects of the brain. He studied the spinal ganglion, the cerebellum, that blob-like thingy, and the cranial nerves, but he could never remember the names of all the parts for the final exam. He decided that the brain should be defined as having three parts with short names that everyone can remember: the Id, the Ego, the Super Ego, and in the case of Rush Limbaugh–the Ego That Ate Manhattan.
The Id is the division of the psyche that is totally unconscious. It is where your brain stores the name of the person to whom you were just introduced. The Id is the source of instinctual impulses and demands for immediate satisfaction of primitive impulses such as overdosing on chocolate, looking at the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine with thoughts other than of amused disgust, and demanding to hold the TV remote control. If you pay too much attention to your Id you’ll go to hell.
The Ego is the division of the psyche that is conscious. It is the part that turns off when you are in a meeting after lunch and someone turns on an overhead projector. In the normal person the Ego is in touch with external reality. The Ego controls thought and behavior. It’s dormant in teenagers.
The Super Ego is the part of the psyche that is formed through the internalization of moral standards. It censures and restrains the Ego. It is mostly unconscious, especially in Hollywood. The Superego is composed of the Ego ideal (the person you could be if you lost thirty pounds and stopped swearing during football games) and the conscience (the part of your brain that makes you feel like sewer scum for discreetly eating a couple of stolen grapes at the supermarket).
Around 1900, Freud published his magnum opus,[2] The Interpretation of Dreams. He asserted that dreams are the door to your unconscious sexual feelings. For example, you know the dream where you’re walking down the street in your underwear, and no one seems to pay much attention, but you’re desperate to locate your clothes? Freud interpreted that dream saying, “Entweder haben Sie zuviel Sübhackfleischrosineapfeltorte gegessen oder es ist doch kein Alpdrücken und Sie sind in Teufelstadt zu Trunkenwildhedonischkostümfest.”[3]
Freud also theorized that many apparently meaningless acts are motivated by your hidden and conflicting wishes. Without realizing it, you say and do things that reveal your inner self. Let’s say you see a lovely woman lean over to take a drink from the drinking fountain. You might walk up to her and say, “Hi. I’m Walter. Boy am I single! And I accidentally noticed that you are an attractive member of the opposite sex! And I wasn’t really looking, but your Freudian slip is showing.”
Freud’s theory makes it clear that what you just said reveals the need for enrollment in charm school and possibly the need for a good attorney.[4]

Oh, to be Jung Again
The stern grandfather of modern psychology is Carl Gustaf Jung. Jung is famous for having a picture in the encyclopedia that looks like he just accidentally smoked a pipe with curry powder in it. Jung became a famous psychologist after he wrote a doctoral dissertation based on the study of his cousin who was a medium. Frankly, a better psychology study could be based on my cousin who is an extra-large.
Jung theorized that we all walk around every day with a lot of repressed memories stored in our unconscious. This is bonkers. In my teens and early twenties I did many stupid things trying to impress girls, things that I have tried desperately to shove into my unconscious, but no!
There I was. Well dressed — cool looking. Flowers in hand. And her boyfriend answered the door. Aaaaahhhhhhh! Her boyfriend! And what did I do? Like a lemming, I followed him inside. I don’t want to think about it. But I do think about it. It was the most awkward fifteen minutes in the history of the universe. Those memories continue to surface and rattle around in my brain when I’m in the shower, driving, sitting in the dentist chair, EVERYWHERE! So Jung was obviously nuts.

For Whom the Dog Drools
One of the step-uncles of modern psychology is Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. In 1901, he performed a classic experiment with a dog named “Pavlov’s Dog.” Every day he rang a little bell and fed the dog some food. Then one day he rang the bell but didn’t give the dog any food. The dog drooled. Pavlov became so excited that he wet his pants. He had just proved that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. He brought people in to show them how ringing bells make animals want to eat.[5]
Pavlov modified his experiment and sometimes rang two bells with slightly different tones to confuse and irritate the dog. The response was just what you would expect. The dog hired a lawyer and took Pavlov to the cleaners for inhumane treatment of research animals.
In 1904, Pavlov’s dog won the Nobel Prize and buried it somewhere in the back yard. The dog is entombed in the churchyard at Ryazan, Russia, and it is said that on foggy, moonless nights when the church bell rings, if you put your ear directly on the ground above the tomb, you can hear drooling.
Pavlov next extended his theories of animal behavior to human psychology. His theories indicate that if you are repeatedly bombarded with irritating, irrational stimuli you are most likely watching daytime television.
Pavlov’s fascination with digestion was not limited to drool. He is credited with pioneering the “window in the stomach” procedure in which a permanent opening is made in an animal’s abdominal wall to allow continuous observation of the digestive process. Such observations have proved to be a superior alternative to watching The View.
Psychology is an interesting career to consider if you enjoy working with crazy people. Everybody works with crazy people, but not all of us like it. Thanks to psychology, crazy people have a chance of being cured rather than simply promoted.

[1] And most women.
[2] Big penguin.
[3] "Either you ate too much mince-meat pie, or it’s not a dream and you’re in New Orleans for Mardi Gras."
[4] We use this term loosely.
[5] This explains why Santa Claus is chubby.

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