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A Psychoanalytic Theory of Motivation

“We choose not randomly each other. We meet only those who already exist in our subconscious.” - Sigmund Freud

Have you ever met someone that truly inspires you? What was it about them that was special or unique? Why does that quality about them inspire you? Would they be an inspiration to others you know? Or is the inspiration particular to the person you are and the goals you strive for?

An Elder once told me that winter is the time for deep reflection; a time when stories are told and reflective learning takes place. This reality seems heightened in the far north where the sun rises just after noon and sets shortly after. The long, dark, cold days are a stark contrast to the 24 hours of daylight we experience in the summer. There’s no time for sleep when there’s light to fish, pick berries, harvest roots and leaves and gather provisions for the months of bitter cold and darkness when nothing grows.

I am sitting in the darkness, reflecting, thinking about this reality and Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of motivation, the structure of the subconscious and its role in human behaviour. Freud believed there are three levels of consciousness 1) The unconscious mind which exists outside of our awareness always. 2) The preconscious mind, which includes all information that we are not currently aware of but can be recalled. 3)The conscious mind which is our current state of awareness. These all have an influence on our motivation to do things and also the people that inspire us.

Motivation, behaviour, awareness, inspiration, reflection…….

It’s winter break and I envisioned my family in some euphoria hunting caribou, skijoring, hiking in the back country, eating delicious food, playing with our sled dogs, streaming movies, skating on our pond behind the yurt. Most of these events certainly could have occurred but we got Covid instead. Also my grand wish of getting electricity for the Christmas break was broken by an electrician that never showed. So here we are bedridden in a 20ft dark yurt. I can’t recall the last sunlight or blue skies and we barely have the energy to get outside at all. Really only to pee in a snowbank out back. And to be honest, it’s feeling like an extra challenge squatting and shivering in -30 temperatures overtaken by this virus.

With the achievement of gaining one bar on my phone with my hand raised high, I posted a few pictures of our yurt life on Facebook. It felt like the right thing to do to gain some encouragement. Some of the comments that struck me: “You’re lucky to live the life you do.” “Aho! The life of an Elder.” “Now that’s the life!” And I have to think about this commitment and the motivation behind it. What part of my subconscious mind brought this on? This type of freedom I thought I was seeking, requires so much responsibility.

Extreme snowfall warning. The snow is piling on the yurt. Condensation builds from the added insulation and water spots start to form. Ironically, extra large ones form above each of our pillows and the water starts to drip on our faces as we lie motionless. No one has the energy to move but we need to go shovel the roof because worst case scenario, the weight is too much and the yurt will collapse. This is our only home. No electricity, no running water, no television, no radio. Books, board games and each other is all we have. Everything else is dwindling in supply. I’m finding it entertaining to reflect on everything we are running out of to amuse my mind……propane, wood, water, gas for the generator, candles (we burn on average 10/day), food (we travel 600km in one direction for affordable groceries and stock pile), patience for each other (living in such small living quarters can certainly be a challenge), money (development in the north is costly. We’re at the end of the road. There are limited nearby shops and prices are much higher than elsewhere in Canada), $150 today to plow our road and driveway, naivety (to think this would be affordable on a single income), money for shipping fees on Amazon (free shipping to anywhere except remote northern communities- I suppose this is understandable but $50 just for shipping! Better need something real bad.), batteries (for headlamps-an absolute necessity when you have 21 hours of darkness a day), time (I’m always busy doing chores instead of spending time with my son), air in my damn air mattress (a regular mattress won’t fit through the yurt door), the list goes on.

Someone has to split some wood. Who has enough energy to swing an axe right now? The puppies need to be fed three times a day. The water needs to be carried out from the buckets that are full under the sink. Who has energy to get up and blow out that last candle so it doesn’t burn the yurt down? Someone needs to go shovel off the other buildings in the yard, don’t forget the canoe and shovel out the vehicles.

“That’s the life!”- Anonymous Joe. Now isn’t this perspective interesting in comparison to the reality I just outlined? I certainly don’t disagree. I chose this life. I enjoy every moment, every challenge, every struggle. But I do somehow wonder if anonymous Joe associates a yurt with relaxation and a carefree life or…What’s the connection? What’s the motivation? Who is the inspiration?

“Aho! The life of an Elder”- Anonymous John. Is it the longing for living off the land?

“We choose not randomly each other. We meet only those who already exist in our subconscious.” - Freud

We really only ever meet those that are worth meeting for us. Those with a shared interest of some sort that catch our attention long enough to continue the conversation….until suddenly we find ourselves inspired or sharing something meaningful to us as individuals. Despite all of the material items we are running out of, reflecting on this psychoanalytic theory of motivation and the structure of the subconscious, I have to think of the dreams I had as a university student of living in a yurt in Mongolia, exploring the Arctic, dogsledding and meeting someone that shared my interests of travelling and experiencing traditional lifestyles across the globe.

Day 6 of being bedridden. It’s noon, the dogs are singing outside and the yurt condensation just woke us with a breath of new life. I feel a renewed strength from the drip of water. Here I am in a yurt with sled dogs singing outside, beside my husband, who just happens to be someone I believe I dreamed up.

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1 Comment

Dear Melissa,

I am new to your was

recently forwarded to me by a really special relative of mine.

I really enjoyed your article on the comparison of the conscience vs subconscious mind...

and your wonderful description of living the yurt lifestyle in the frigid temperatures of the majestic north.

very very inspiring,

thank you so much, I really did picture myself there as I read along visioning your triumphs

and your strength.


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