The Social Animal by David Brooks is an analytical description of the unconscious and critical role it plays in the human development as well. This book probes the idea that the unconscious mind is the driving force behind human interaction and main component that makes us who we are. The Social Animal, published in 2011, is one of the many published works by Brooks that have received many positive reviews for his intellectual and emotional approach to tackling the diverse subjects while still appealing to the reader.
He has been a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and op-ed columnist at the New York Times. He approaches the power of the unconscious mind using two fictional characters in a modern setting that represent 2 different ideals of attacking life; their names are Harold and Erica. Utilizing these 2 characters to their full extent, Brooks promotes the idea of how the unconscious mind is the dominating factor that perceives who we are and how we go about life.
According to Brooks the unconscious mind, contrary to popular, is not an empty and dark void in the mind but a “realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longing, genetic predispositions, character traits and social norms”(Brooks, x). It controls the way we interact with others as well as promote our growth through the intake of information about our surrounding environment and that in which we get exposed to. The power of the unconscious responds to our every moment without consciously thinking. Intuition is a great example of how we process through life without having to consciously figure or physically state what one has to do or act.
Harold is used as a situational example, is placed in a high school setting, trotting from clique to clique already aware of the “unspoken norms” which we tend to follow without really knowing or actually stating the rules. Our mind intake the behavior to which we are exposed to and from then we set rules of how to behave without us fully being aware it, thus leading to the ability of adapting to the social aspects of groups.
Furthermore, we also dabble in the general area of emotions being spurred by the unconscious mind as well as learning how to gain control over it. We tend to be unable to control ourselves when we lash out and it’s all because our minds have yet to intake the proper way of dealing with dilemmas or we have witness events that propagate these anger flashes and the lack of self-control. Erica is the prime example of someone dealing with these ‘episodes’ as would suffer from constant anger flashes and then breaking into tears. “Erica, like all kids, was born with a certain disposition, whether to be high strung or preternaturally calm ……Her disposition would evolve over the course her life, depending on how her experience wired her brain”(121). Depending on how we experience certain events in our lives, our unconscious mind morphs it into a more applicable situation such as breaking down after anger flashes or creates self-hating attitude.
The mind not only morphs our unconscious reaction to behavioral dilemmas it but it’s also useful for noticing patterns and internalizing them. Because we notice these patterns we unconsciously begin to create stereotypes, especially those regarding patterns that might not even exist. This is the driving force in the process of passing judgment on certain outcomes we believe will hold true. As we along with our stereotypical judgments we begin to see the limits of our unconscious, we depict certain outcomes and become bewildered when we are wrong, leading to high-risk calls that may not hold any promise.
This book has showed me how to think in a new angle as well being able to understand my mind better than I had before. It has taught me to trust my instinct more and allow for me to attack new challenges in a new light as well as comprehend the nature of these future hurdles. The author really tackled this topic very well and has made it comprehensible and easy to understand the complexity of the human consciousness and its importance in our life.