January 24th, 2021: Beginning Thoughts
I grew up with the concept of a "real self" and a "false self". The "real self" was set in stone. It was who you were, in your private thoughts. The "false self" was mostly a social self. Being fake for people. That sort of thing.
Is that true, though? When I'm in the dark, narrating a fictional story, I feel new selves. I don't know if they're coming into existence, or just revealing themselves, but they have all the architecture of a personality. They're complete. I interact with them. Dialog is possible in one mind.
Are these false selves?
And what makes the self I am when I am alone, in my thoughts, real?
Outside of society, the self I am --- what happens when it becomes, or reveals, new selves? These aesthetic psychodramas of other lives I could have lived, other selves I could have been --- what implication do they have for my "real" self, if such a thing exists?
And I'm not looking at this to revise materialism. I want to understand the neurology of it. But people in dreams become entirely new selves, or encounter selves that never existed in the real world. Writers know this even better. So, perhaps there's a deeper definition of "self" than one which can be categorized in terms of true or false, real or constructed. I'm intuitively feeling like the self is like water, taking the shape of wherever it is placed, but also like an enclosed garden which takes the "seeds" or "impressions" of its encounters and creates new things within itself.
It could also be that there are always many selves at work, swimming around in the unconscious, and the "real self" is just one which happens to function best in switching between the different contexts of the waking state.
And another question: what about the selves that arise in the context of role-play, or virtual identities? People who have less inclination or potential to live a "real life" in the "real world" often end up taking on fantasy personalities through video games, virtual environments, role plays, etc. But those fantasy identities are often reported as more nourishing and desirable than the "real world" self. If these new contexts can awaken more desirable selves, or cause the creation of such, what does that mean for our concept of self?
I'm going to read Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto and see what she says. I'm not interested in the political aspects, as I'm pretty much pessimistic about humans getting over their desire for domination and hierarchy, but there's elements in it which talk about self, identity and technology. This is what interests me. I want to know what technology might tell us about what we are, revealing it to us by showing us how we change in contact with it.
January 29th: Maps
A few thoughts recently occurred to me:
The "self" seems to operate (at least partially) as a network of connected likes, dislikes, fears, desires, ideals, talents, deficiencies, etc. Perhaps understanding the details of these maps in a map-like way --- as in, as a collection of attributes --- is part of gaining a better grasp on the nature of the self.
The other, more insideous idea, is that the self is (partially) a mental position (viewpoint) within a complex web of hierarchies. Neurologically we're keyed in to constantly observing our social status and seeking to "fit" within whatever niche gives us a comfortable status level. For some people, that means rising in status all the way up to the presidency, movie star, billionaire, etc. but many people seek less ambitious status-placements. And, of course, the status placement we want is contingent upon our value system. Some people may not want ot be billionaires because they don't place a value on wealth. They may seek to be a leader of people, instead, because they value influence. (Arguably many people have influence which far outstrips their wealth).
This idea is partially born of the data that the sense of self becomes less distinct when there is less social reinforcement. As in, status is social. If we lived in a purely non-social environment, we would have no concept of status. So if status or status-position (whether high or low or middle) is a large part of our sense of self, then no longer being in a position where status matters (such as isolation) may erode the sense of self.