The real Cold War is the one within us.
We live much of our internal lives in a constant state of total war between our conscious and subconscious selves.
The conscious self loves order, plans, to-do lists, objectives, and deliverables.
The subconscious self just wants to live, laugh, love.
Rituals are the way we mediate conflict between the two.
Most of our lives are spent in the subconscious.
This may startle you, but no need. Your subconscious is actually pretty smart.
You can think of it as trusting your gut, or being in flow. When you’re driving a car, you’re not hyperanalyzing every tiny decision you make. You just do it.
In this subconscious state, we passively respond to suggestions and stimuli without having to consult our higher faculties or reasoning and judgment at every turn.
To return to the driving analogy, stop signs are red because they are the perfect stimuli to instruct our subconscious to pay attention.
For the most part this works great.
Thinking is expensive. Too much thinking can cause paralysis by analysis. So it is great that we are able to trust our subconscious with most things.
However, every once in a while our subconscious can betray us.
This is where rituals come in.
Rituals are how our conscious self anticipates and responds to the mysteries of the subconscious mind.
You can think of rituals as policies enacted by central planners (your higher reasoning) to help guide the messy murkiness of a subconscious that they have yet to fully understand.
For example, I have a morning ritual where I go outside for a walk under the morning sun and do a few stretches. Since I started doing this, I notice I tend to have more energy throughout the day.
I don’t fully understand the benefits of why this works for me. I just know that it does. I learned it somewhere, I adopted it, and I noticed results. So I kept it.
This started off as an observation, then became a practice, and now I’ve elevated it to a ritual.
I don’t have to engage in a war every morning between my conscious self trying to motivate my lazy subconscious and the latter resisting. I just do it. Because it’s ritual.
Here are a few distinctions I’m playing around with: