“illusion of a completed, unitary self”

The Voices Within:
The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves
by Charles Fernyhough
Kindle Locations 3337-3342

And we are all fragmented. There is no unitary self. We are all in pieces, struggling to create the illusion of a coherent “me” from moment to moment. We are all more or less dissociated. Our selves are constantly constructed and reconstructed in ways that often work well, but often break down. Stuff happens, and the center cannot hold. Some of us have more fragmentation going on, because of those things that have happened; those people face a tougher challenge of pulling it all together. But no one ever slots in the last piece and makes it whole. As human beings, we seem to want that illusion of a completed, unitary self, but getting there is hard work. And anyway, we never get there.

Kindle Locations 3357-3362

This is not an uncommon story among people whose voices go away. Someone is there, and then they’re not there anymore. I was reminded of what I had been told about the initial onset of voice-hearing: how it can be like dialing into a transmission that has always been present. “Once you hear the voices,” wrote Mark Vonnegut of his experiences, “you realise they’ve always been there. It’s just a matter of being tuned to them.” If you can tune in to something, then perhaps you can also tune out.

Kindle Locations 3568-3570

It is also important to bear in mind that for many voice-hearers the distinction between voices and thoughts is not always clear-cut. In our survey, a third of the sample reported either a combination of auditory and thought-like voices, or experiences that fell somewhere between auditory voices and thoughts.

* * *

Charles Fernyhough recommends the best books on Streams of Consciousness
from Five Books

Charles Fernyhough Listens in on Thought Itself in ‘The Voices Within’
by Raymond Tallis, WSJ (read here)

Neuroscience: Listening in on yourself
by Douwe Draaisma, Nature

The Song Of The Psyche
by Megan Sherman, Huffington Post

4 thoughts on ““illusion of a completed, unitary self”

  1. I noticed that, immediately after the last two posts were posted, a couple of followers unfollowed my blog. The other post was about culture of trust, diversity, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary, either for this blog in particular or for public discussion in general. I doubt they unfollowed my blog because of that post. In that case, this was probably the offending post.

    I can sort of understand. This topic may seem kind of far out. The questioning of mainstream identity can make some people feel uneasy. I realize this topic doesn’t win followers. It seems bizarre or even crazy to many people. And still others simply can’t connect to it or see why it is significant. Yet this is the type of thing I consider more important than most other topics I blog about. It cuts to the heart of our shared humanity. I’m not sure how to communicate this, though, in a way that others can understand.

    It’s a difficult topic. Not just because it is complex and confusing. Moreso because it isn’t what most people want to talk about. In cutting to the heart of our shared humanity, it pries at the loose stones that form the foundation of modern society. This doesn’t just make people uncomfortable. It’s a bit frightening. What if we aren’t what we assume ourselves to be? What if the one thing that we feel most certain about (i.e., our identity) turns out to be false, illusory, or misunderstood?

    This was a simple post. It is mostly just a few quotes from one book. I could have softened it a bit by writing an intro to explain why it is relevant. I could have tried to give it a larger context or a more personal context. I’ve done that before with similar posts. But I decided to let the author of this book to speak unfiltered by my words. If I thought my words could have added something that I haven’t said before, I would have done so.

    I wish posts like this could open up debate about hard issues. That doesn’t seem to be the case, most of the time. The questioning of self and mind, of human nature, such questioning is a radical act that potentially leads to revolutionary results. The American Revolution, for example, was preceded by similar questioning of identity. It goes far beyond mere academic speculation. The fact that this line of thought is becoming ever more common indicates that change is already occurring, that the ground has already shifting under our feet.

    (I couldn’t resist throwing in some context.)

    That can be a bit unnerving to think about. Or maybe for others it just seems boring. I just have a hard to imagining anyone who would bother to follow my blog being the type of person that is bored that easily. It always makes me wonder what people find interesting, compelling, or not… and why that is the case.

    I guess I never know why most people follow my blog. And why they stop following it. Both recent posts are representative of what I blog about on a regular basis. So, what would cause someone after they were posted to decide to unfollow my blog? What seemed different about those posts than dozens of other similar posts I’ve had written before them?

    • And it is amusing that immediately after writing another post a couple followers were added. It seems that my follower count always goes up and down with certain posts. It’s not all posts, but when it happens it is usually immediately following. It doesn’t particularly matter. It just gets me wondering what people are exactly responding to.

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