Inventing the Self

I share, therefore, I am

November 20th, 2013 · 3 Comments

Lately I have been on a Facebook and Instagram budget.

Scratch that.

Lately I have been on a psychological patch, one that helps me reduce the obsessive compulsive attempts to update my feed or post a new photo of the day. And I think I have been making great progress.

Which brings me to the discussion of my response to psychologist Sherry Turkle’s view on the ‘self as we want it to be.’ In some ways I agree with her stance on the idea of the “Second Self,” but I feel that there is a sense that we won’t be able to reclaim ourselves or pay less attention to the technological avatar. It is true that this community is obsessed with the latest gadgets, craves for social media buzz and people of varying age groups have the constant need to operate on a tweet or obtain the most “likes” on their personal page. In fact, it’s the the same behavior that I am trying to lessen in my day-to-day activity. Turkle makes an interesting point that we feel the need to be in control, and the tangible ability to erase a word or post the perfect picture demonstrates the desire to present ourselves in an almost perfect reflection. The moment were she mentioned the notion of ” I would rather text than talk,” it spoke volume for me because I know a few people in my life who are notorious for choosing the text pad over an in-person conversation or even over-the-phone communication. The short change of real conversation is a real social issue and the idea of forging new identities through computation is a bit pathetic, but we all do it at some point.

Even though majority of her points are agreeable based on current, social behaviors, I have a problem with the way that Turkle underestimates the human ability for change. At times (in both her reading and the TED Talk) it felt as though we (her readers and viewers) were like a child being scolded for something that is non-intentional but certainly controllable. Just as though we have the urge to control our lives, we can turn that sense of control into changing our habits and doing more to switch from the avatar to our normal selves. Multiplicity  is certainly at play here and it is our mission to level out our different personalities, one of them being the technological self. But there has to be a sense of confidence that we as people can do so, and unfortunately I don’t get that vibe from Turkle. I mean, she criticizes her young daughter about her analysis of the real turtle at the museum. Come on, she was a kid. On the other hand, I think her examples did offer some humanistic perspective to her argument which I could appreciate.

Let me clarify for the record that we are not only what we share.

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Understanding the Voices

October 30th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Hearing voices is not normal, especially for individuals who have never had the experience. But for people who live with AVH the interaction of themselves and the ‘voices’ is very real. The initial response for addressing this psychological interference is simple: medicate the problem and insist that the episodes need to be handled aggressively. It’s probably a relief that there are new approaches to dealing with AVH and both McCarthy Jones and speaker/psychologist Rufus May offer empathetic alternatives to the voice-hearing phenomenon.

Let’s begin with May’s discussion. He presents two particular ways that voice-hearers can lean seemingly normal lives, one of them being Mindfulness. The fact that a voice hearer becomes keenly aware of what’s happening and makes the attempt to positively address the voice(s) rather than being frightened or trying to desperately to get rid of the condition assists with the episodes. Even further, he makes this interesting statement that the voice(s) should be treated as colleagues to which the person has to understand their reasoning for existence. This is wildly outside the normative approach of psychological treatment because, frankly, why should an individual make conversation with the voice(s) when literature insists that they take drastic measures to not eliminate the “problem?”

But after listening to his talk, I’m not sure if the voice(s) are actually problematic. In fact they can be considered helpful resources to determining the underlying reasons or causes for why these inner selves are disturbed. The intent to learn and grow from their presence in the mind can certainly be helpful to the voice-hearers even though there is not enough computed evidence to suggest that. The camaraderie of these individuals & voices through means of these networks and movements are enough to allow them to function in their lives and eventually overcome the episodes, in due time of course.

McCarthy gives a bit of a contrast to May’s perspective, even though it is not directly stated. The entire article is dripping with empirical evidence and case studies as to how AVH is developed in the brain. Through stimulation of different regions of the brain, it is reported that certain places, when triggered, produce the gray matter that suggest the presence of AVH. When I was reading this, I thought, if psychologists are able to identify disturbed regions that indicate AVH, there might be an inclination to medicate or perform direct treatment on those areas to remove this so called problem, which is, essentially, exactly how this issue has been addressed.

Which brings me back to the idea that this mindful thinking process looks like a productive alternative. And I’m all for techniques that go against the status quo because that’s the only way this called psychology can potentially progress.


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Studying the ‘voices’

October 16th, 2013 · Comments Off on Studying the ‘voices’

I find the study of individuals with psychiatric diagnoses to be fascinating, and both Wray and McCarthy provided us with a diary of explanation for the everyday life of voice-hearers or schizophrenics. One text is more observational and than less creative than the other but they both capture the sense of what it’s like to perform daily function and interact in the ‘norm’ society.

For McCarthy the information is very linear and resembles the format of a patient-doctor study. One interesting note that she mentions in regards to voices is the fact that individuals who hear voices develop relationships with their counterparts and verbalize conversation as if it were a real person in front of them. Sometimes there is a change in identity. These are certainly not new analyses because I’m sure we’ve witnessed this type of behavior at some point, but I appreciate the way in which McCartthy puts it into perspective. What’s even more insightful is the fact that we can link majority of her points to the character of Wray’s Lowboy.

As a young paranoid schizophrenic, Lowboy believes that the world is in danger of climate change and he has the answer to cooling everything down (i.e loss of hope). The fact that his setting is in and out of the train stations sets the tone for the type of out-of-this-world behavior and the mind-blowing conversations that he has been himself and his alters Skull & Bones. What I thought was also interesting is the sense of  experiences with medication for both Lowboy and Heather (i.e maybe the sense of loss of homeostasis). On page 42, he says “The explanation was plausible and clean, an educated guess, the kind that they approved of at the school. A Clorazil-flavored answer, he said to himself. Clorazil with the Thorazine on top.” In fact the drugs become creative motifs throughout the story which was just brilliant. Also, the fact that Lowboy also speaks in code is great because it plays on the idea of his own identity as an individual even though he s considered unstable.

Without getting too detailed (because let’s face it both texts will allow you to do so) I will conclude with the fact that both McCarthy and Wray go hand-in-hand in observing the behaviors and identity of self when it comes to psychological disruptions.




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Understanding the Myth

October 2nd, 2013 · 2 Comments

The conversation of narration and the self in the reading for this week were, to me, very insightful. Lazlo’s piece focused on the psychological (and rather technical) argument of the ‘root’ of knowledge regarding the self and the symptomatic value of this understanding through .  This took me back to the course that I took in my undergraduate class where we studied the personality with diagrams and theories, which is a similar approach that Lazlo uses. What were really compelling were the two short reads from Dan McAdams as he explored the idea of storytelling, narration and the self.

Before I venture off into the positive components of his pieces, I wanted to address an issue that I had with his use of the word “myth.”  The word here is used to describe the personal encounters that individuals face that assists in establishing the idea of self, however, I was initially turned off by his word choice. Myth refers to a fictitious events that are generated by the senses but in the story of Margaret Sands, this was a tangible narration of her life story, one that was real even if she herself didn’t want it to be. I puzzled at this point throughout the reading of Personal Myths and the Making of the Self because he makes it a point to repeat this notion, especially when he describes verbal accounts as “internalized personal myths” and the reference to imagoes. Despite the fact that I appreciated the inclusion of Margaret’s story and the segment on the narrating mind, I couldn’t get past the association of myth and personal encounters. It just didn’t seem logical and a part of me was disturbed by the possibility that the my life its experiences are merely mythological.

At that point I had to take a step back, order a coffee and make an attempt to figure out a method of reasoning as to why he would make such a comparison.

After another run through of this and Story Characters, I came to realize that I was over thinking the logic and possibly taking it too literal. McAdams makes a useful point that each of us has a narrative mind and that mind produces stories involving characters and plot based emotional and environmental exposures. In a way our lives are the stories that the self elaborates. Our psychological thought processes make us aware that these experiences are real but they can still be considered the fabrication of our mind’s conceptualizations.

This was a creative revelation for me and I was happy to have that sort of experience with his writing because that’s what makes good writing.

Just to touch on a few other things that I found interesting, I sensed a bit of Damasio in the idea that McAdams agree that the identification of self through personality is fostered on the environment. Also his pieces also focused on the discussion of illustration, imagery and tale-telling which is a perspective that we don’t always here about in the discussion of mind and self.

More importantly, I now understand the myth.


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The ‘Conscious’ Performance

September 17th, 2013 · 3 Comments

During our first session, we discussed briefly the work of Antonio Damsio & Jill Bolte Taylor, and  and their dedication to the study of the brain and consciousness. It was evident that their perspectives and demonstrations on Ted Talks were uniquely different. Taylor’s discussion was a demonstrative in every way: the moment when she brought out the human brain to display the hemispheres, to her prolific performance that reflected a collaboration of knowledge and emotion both physically and emotionally. It was memorable, and then it was time to move on to Damasio’s piece. To my disappointment it was not as moving but rather, a mundane reading that was built on detailed facts and I felt as though I was sitting in a lecture room merely listening out of respect for his contributions to the study.

You can draw the conclusion that I was not really much momentum in his work for this week. But it turns out that I was a bit too judgmental. Damasio is, respectively, telling a story in both the piece Self Comes to Mind and The Feeling of What Happens.  Of course he sticks to storytelling with the ‘textbook style’ writing with sporadic diagrams and the abundance of questions as if we were taking his course. However, I thought it was so refreshing to find imagery in his work.

For one, he creatively compares the conscious mind to a grand symphonic piece which I think is a brilliant observation and an even more clever analogy:

“The grand symphonic piece that is consciousness encompasses the foundational contributions of the brain stem, forever hitched to the body, and the wider-than-the-sky imagery created in the cooperation of the cerebral cortex and the subcortial structures, all harmoniously stitched together, in ceaseless forward motion, interruptible only by sleep, anesthesia, brain dysfunction or death.”

Damasio also describes the consciousness within a ‘revelational’ perspective as well, one that follows the moment that the performer presents himself to an audience. I think the following passage really depicts the attempt to conceptualize the profound nature of consciousness:

As I prepare to introduce this book, however, and as I reflect on what I have written, I sense that stepping into the light is also a powerful metaphor for consciousness, for birth of the knowing mind, for the simple and yet momentous coming of the sense of self into the world of the mental.”

It is interesting to compare the different ‘performances’ surrounding the conscious mind. We have one individual who blows us away with her candid display of the interference of “the universe” and the euphoric feeling that moves in and out of an almost life threatening episode. The alternative is an individual who does nothing to entertain but is found to have a way with words that keeps the reader interested in learning more about the topic.

Overall both strategies are convincing, but I am  more pleased with the fact that I was able to see further into Damasio’s  work.

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