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Schmeltz's picture

It makes me question the

It makes me question the "stuff" of the self -- how can we have any sense of self awareness if we are not aware of most of the ongoing functions of the nervous system?  And at the same time, how can we function in any other way but with ignorance to this thorny reality?  If we embrace the uncomfortable notion that we are mostly products of our unconsciously- functioning nervous system, what happens to our individuality, our sense of self, our ability to understand -- or begin or pretend to understand ourselves -- so that we might understand others?  ... egleichman

This notion of the self being completely constructed by the nervous system initially seemed uncomfortable to me as well until I got to thinking about it.  I mean, think about if we actually had complete control over our own nervous systems.  Imagine that we could start and stop each and every neuron in our body at our own command.  Well, how would that work?  How good of multi-taskers could we really be?  Would we ever get anywhere?  Imagine if we were in control of the nervous system rather than the system being in control of "us".  I think this would just be painfully overwhelming.  As it is, with my nervous system being in control of me, I still become overwhelmed when in the presence of too much exciting stimuli.  I cannot imagine how it would work if I were consciously determining the entire series of responses.  I wouldn't know where to start or stop.  A simple response would take so much effort because you would have to think about it - you would have to go through each neuronal step, generate each action potential, to engender a movement or response that the nervous system can generate in a matter of seconds.  I think it is fortunate that we do not possess complete control and I think it is fortunate that we are mostly products of our unconsciously functioning nervous systems.  What a excruciating time we would have if it were all conscious functioning.  However, I do not think I would go as far as to say that we are merely products of an unconsciously functioning nervous system. I would like to think that somewhere in this nervous system there is adequate room for self (if not an actual self than at least a sense of one), individuality, and the ability to understand ourselves a little more.  I think it is liberating that I do not know what is going on all the time with me and with my surroundings.  I'm a little too overstimulated as it is.  I think it is freeing to think that I am not responsible for all my feelings, my bad days, my irritation, my unawareness, my lack of understanding of my self, or even for my self.  I like that there is "stuff" of the self that may be beyond my grasp, yet I also like to think that some "stuff" of my self is able to be controlled and/or understood.  I think it's a beautiful balance.  I do not think our sense of self has to be jeopardized in light of a "unconsciously functioning nervous system".  


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