Monday, November 02, 2009

Selves and selves and selves

By happy fluke a friend, Jon Newman, posted a thread on SomaSimple about Sandeep Gautman's blog, The Mouse Trap, and links to several posts about the many selves we each carry around. I was delighted to learn that someone has bothered to study their existence, hypothesize their functions - I don't have to do it all by myself (haha, lame joke).

Listed below are the particular posts Jon found, and thought were compelling enough to bring onto a physical therapy board. They are compelling, because even when we are tootling along in a well-integrated, functioning state, working for a living providing services to health consumers, etc etc., we are dealing with psyches which might seem glued together on the outside but which might feel shattered to pieces on the inside. I've preferred to see this shatteredness as merely kaleidoscopic, interesting and even lovely, but I can appreciate that a sudden plunge into the depths of self/selves might feel shattering to people at first exposure to it. It was that way for me at first, too.

Anyway, for those interested:
1. Development of Infant Consciousness
2. Splitting of the self: "me" and "I"
3. Five kinds of self/self/knowledge

I had no idea there was a field called Philosophical Psychology, with its own journal, but there is. Someone named Ulric Neisser wrote a paper way back in 1988 and delineated Five kinds of Self-Knowledge. In his blog, Gautman has outlined them:

The ecological self is the self as perceived with respect to the physical environment: I am the person here in this place, engaged in this particular activity.
The interpersonal self, which appears from earliest infancy just as the ecological self does, is specified by species-specific signals of emotional rapport and communication: I am the person who is engaged, here, in this particular human interchange.
The extended self is based primarily on our personal memories and anticipations: I am the person who had certain specific experiences, who regularly engages in certain specific and familiar routines.
The private self appears when children first notice that some of their experiences are not directly shared with other people: I am, in principle, the only person who can feel this unique and particular pain.
The conceptual self or ’self-concept’ draws its meaning from the network of assumptions and theories in which it is embedded, just as all other concepts do. Some of those theories concern social roles (husband, professor, American), some postulate more or less hypothetical internal entities (the soul, the unconscious mind, mental energy, the brain, the liver), and some establish socially significant dimensions of difference (intelligence, attractiveness, wealth). There is a remarkable variety in what people believe about themselves, and not all of it is true.

No mention in there of the over-extended self.. which women end up becoming a lot of the time.. I think (with my private self) the over-extended self may house a bunch of the subselves which can cause trouble. Perhaps it depends on the sort of "specific and familiar routines" in which one engages. I think it's the one our "role" is housed within. Of all of them, it's the one that changed itself right under my nose, and seems like is busy plotting a coup with my conceptual self these days.

Also, no mention that I can find of how each of the discretely labelled selves experiences time passing. I have a hunch that a key to re-integrating them is to get them all back on the same clock again somehow.

As an aside, recently neuroscientists found brain cells that keep track of time with extreme precision in macaque monkeys. Everything gets a time stamp. See MIT news story, A Head of Time.

If the brain is an oscillator, predictor and simulator, I can see how easily one's sense of self/selves can develop a few timing problems and need "tune-ups" on occasion.

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