Armchair Psychology

Erin Pugh - Senegal


March 2, 2020

Hello! I have seriously neglected this blog for the past several months. Mea culpa. But today is my birthday, so I think I deserve some absolution for that. Now that I’m nineteen, the secrets of the universe have finally laid themselves before my eyes. I know exactly who I am and why I’m on this planet—just kidding. I’m exactly as clueless as I was back in September. I feel naïve admitting this, but I expected a great deal of personal clarity from this year, an epiphany even. Instead, I’ve changed in subtle ways that will take years to fully unpack. The more obvious changes revolve around how I show up in the world: I’ve picked up some habits/skills I want to carry out of Senegal like tailoring, cooking, and yoga; I’m much more mindful of how much time I spend staring at screens; I finally read as much as wish I would (something like 60 books so far); and I also miss America (shocker, although I don’t regret missing the election coverage) and its generally excellent infrastructure (public transit! libraries!). At the risk of grossly simplifying things: A lot of nations tie their identity to ethnicity as the result of having largely homogenous populations. In Senegal if you’re different, everyone knows it and will remind you constantly. I’m grateful that in America, despite our overwhelming inequalities, everyone can find a space to be themselves. 

I came across this quote by Freud recently: “When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.” I don’t have much to add—Freud can generally speak for himself—besides that I have a good deal of big decisions in front of me. This method speaks to me precisely because I usually revel in overthinking. I was obsessed for a while (and probably still am) with deconstructing my subconscious. But human nature (especially on an individual level) doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion. Eventually we have to let go of strict definitions and become comfortable in a more liberal view of individuality. Usually this involves religion, meditation, or some other ritual. I’m still looking for the right practice myself.


Erin Pugh