Bike Psych Motorcycle Publishing
MENTAL TOPOGRAPHY by Brenda Bates M.A. CH.t

Most motorcyclists are familiar with topographical maps. Topography is the science of mapping different types of the earth's terrain. The mind also has its own topography. Understanding the mind's topography is helpful in understanding the equations that make up our personality. As individuals, our decisions and choices change course, meet at psychological intersections, and navigate twists, turns, and obstacles that make up the sum of our personality. Over time, just as the weather and other conditions may change the terrain, so, too, can environmental and genetic factors change the topography of the mind.

The choices we make and how we navigate life's obstacles are all expressions of our individual psychology. Even choosing to be a motorcyclist is a choice that is a psychological extension, or a materialized expression, of our identity. While many psychological factors are involved in choosing to be a motorcyclist, the most basic understanding of how motorcycling is an expression of our identity can be found in Freud's theory of the id, ego, and superego.

The id resides in the innermost subconscious part of the mind. It is concerned with immediate gratification, and seeks satisfaction and pleasure with no consciousness of how its pleasure-seeking impulses may affect others, or even the self. Let's say that Ed owns three bikes: a dirt bike, sportbike, and a touring bike. The dirt bike most likely represents Ed's id. Dirt ridding is a wild, untamed adventure with virtually no rules. And jumping hills is a feeling of wild abandon, all aspects that are sure to please Ed's id.

The ego is often called the seat of the personality. The ego develops within the first several months of life. Eventually, the ego takes on a commitment to the world outside of the self while still maintaining a tie to the id. The ego is able to reason and understand logic. Ed may see himself as an individual who is represented by a sportbike's style. Sportbikes are commanding, daring, powerful, and perhaps hooliganlike. If Ed is unable to express these qualities in the daily grind of the workday, he may well be drawn to sportbikes because, to him, they represent a psychological manifestation of these personality traits.

In this topographical model of the mind, the superego serves as a sort of hovering third eye that oversees the demands of the id as well as the logic of the ego. Like the id, the superego can be unreasonable and unbending. The superego sticks rigidly •to rules without seeing shades of gray. The superego is concerned with society's version of right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, Ed's third bike may be a nice, presentable touring bike. The bike that represents his superego would certainly not have a flashy paint job or loud pipes. Oh, no! That would be horrible for Ed's superego! Ed's superego bike would be as respectable as a motorcycle can possibly be in the eyes of society.

To further an understanding of how the superego, ego, and id work in unison, let's say that Ed finds himself riding over a bridge through a storm with high winds. Ed's superego attempts to supervise his ego, which understands that Ed is in a potentially dangerous situation, and the id, which knows nothing but emotion, in this case, probably fear. The supervising superego recalls riding safety tips that Ed has learned through a motorcycle safety class, and then demands that Ed follow these instructions to a T.

Since theory is often different from reality, in some cases textbook knowledge may not be as applicable as say, past experience or an understanding of a particular bike's abilities. Ultimately, it is Ed's logical and flexible ego that negotiates between the "must do" commands of his superego and the memory bank of skills that may be more appropriate in his current situation. It is Ed's ego that must decide how to ride over the bridge and through the storm.

If Ed owns only one bike, it is still easy to see how Ed's id, ego, and superego have been topographically imposed upon Ed's one motorcycle. A good example of this may be to say that Ed owns one of BMW's GS series bikes. The GS tends to combine the needs of Ed's id for wild abandon, his ego's need for a commanding presence, and his superego's desire to be respectable.

No matter how many bikes a person may own, a careful look at anyone's motorcycle will give you a glimpse into his personality. So, go for a ride and express yourself. Your personal sense of individuality as well as your self-esteem will be grateful to you for giving it an adventurous outlet!

This article appeared in the January 2010 Road Bike Magazine.
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