• Quote of the Day
    "The hardest battle you're ever going to fight is the battle to be just you."
    Leo F. Buscaglia, posted by Daniel

Daniel

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A “Self” Is Like a Unicorn

Rick Hanson, PhD

To sum up, our experiences of “I,” “me,” and “mine” – and their neural foundations – are impermanent, compounded, and interdependent. In a word, the apparent self is empty. This alone should encourage lightening up about it and not clinging to it. But I’d like to take this a step further.

We can have empty experiences of things that do actually exist, such as horses. Just because the experience of a horse is empty does not mean that the horse is not real. But we can also have empty experiences of things that do not exist, such as imagining a unicorn. If there is no creature with the defining characteristics of a unicorn – a horse with a long pointed horn – then unicorns are not real.

The presumed self is like a unicorn, a mythical beast that does not exist. Its necessary, defining characteristics – stability, unification, and independence – do not exist in either the mind or the brain. The complete self is never observed in experience. Subjectivity doesn’t mean there is a stable subject, a one to whom things happen. And the sense of being or having a self is not needed for consciousness – nor for opening a door or answering a question.

Realizing this often begins conceptually, and that’s all right. These ideas can help to highlight different aspects of experience. Then we can observe and practice with the mind and gradually there will be a felt knowing of what’s true.
 

David Baxter

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Some very good points there.

I wrote a paper on this several years ago in connection with social identity theory 1 (to be honest, I can't recall if it was ever published in print or just created for a conference).

We all talk about "the self" as if there were only one, but in reality it is much more complex than that and typically there are several versions of the self. Certain aspects of the self are displayed in certain contexts but not at all in other contexts. I think in my paper I argued that this does not necessarily eliminate a possibility of a "core self" that exists in all contexts but we can only infer that from what we see in the various contexts.

1200px-Social_identity_theory.png

I am currently a father, a grandfather, a sibling, an uncle, a friend, a patient, and a web professional. In the past I have been a professor, a researcher, a therapist, and a public speaker, among other things. I have also been a husband and a partner in various relationships. In each of these roles, people would see certain aspects of me, some consciously selected and others selected unconsciously or subconsciously according to the specific expectations and demands of the role. What I display can also be interpreted in different ways depending on the needs of the person with whom I am interacting.

Anyway, it's a fascinating concept (at least to me :)). Thanks for the reminder, @Daniel.

1 More on Social Identity Theory




 

Daniel

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"Nothing is ever at rest--wood, iron, water, everything is alive, everything is raging, whirling, whizzing, day and night and night and day, nothing is dead, there is no such thing as death, everything is full of bristling life, tremendous life, even the bones of the crusader that perished before Jerusalem eight centuries ago."

~ Mark Twain
 
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Daniel

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"An identity crisis is a marvelous opportunity
to trade in a small and limiting self-image
for a greater and truer one."

~ Alan Cohen
 

Daniel

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“The self is a mystery. In our efforts to pin it down or make it safe, we dissociate ourselves from our complete experience of whatever it is or is not.”

"Far from eliminating the ego, as I naively believed I should when I first began to practice meditation, the Buddha encouraged a strengthening of the ego so that it could learn to hold primitive agonies without collapse.”

― Mark Epstein, The Trauma of Everyday Life
 

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