There's an emotions-Wookiee riding shotgun in your head

We teach kids (intentionally or not) that they are a “self.”

Let’s leave aside the question of how to teach them that there is no “self” - what about teaching kids that they have two selves?

Specifically, there’s the driver (which is the “you” who you think you are, the cold logical one) and the emotions passenger. They are constantly talking to you and affecting what you do - sometimes indirectly (“pull off at this exit, I’m hungry”, “turn the AC onnnnn!!!”, “I’m playing music now”), sometimes directly by grabbing the wheel. They are a large, powerful person, can overwhelm you if it comes to a fight, and are sometimes very wise; ultimately you’re in charge, but the two of you are a team. I’m calling the passenger a Wookiee because Chewbacca seems to fit all of these pretty perfectly.

When you are born, they speak a different language than you. Your happiness, success, and sometimes survival depends on your ability to learn to communicate with them. This is what “emotional intelligence” and “soft skills” mean.

So many things, especially interpersonal conflicts, would be so much easier to explain if you had this framework. Instead of saying “I ____”, replace that with “My emotions/Wookiee _____”. Learn when to take the Wookiee’s advice into account, and when they don’t know what they’re talking about. Learn when to tell the Wookiee to quiet down because you’ve got to drive for a while… and when to let the Wookiee win.


h -

I think it’s a bit more commonly called the “lizard brain.”

Dan -

Yeah, same thing really. (or “System 1” if you’re Kahneman.) Not trying to be an Internet Guy Claiming That I Discovered Something; I meant it more like “this is a useful metaphor for me.” I find it helpful to think about your emotions as a separate creature, so it’s clear that there is something that’s “not you” but is trying to communicate with you. It’s not a part of your brain that is broken (and how would you deal with that, anyway?), it’s another worthy good friendly creature that’s trying to tell you something. (I know how to deal with friendly-but-sometimes-misguided creatures.)

Daniel -

Nice post! I like the Wookie choice :)

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