The Illusion of Self


by Alireza Nurbakhsh

Each of us tends to think of him- or herself as a distinct being, a “self” that is both separate from other people and separate from our bodies and our perceptions, thoughts and feelings. We consider our “selves” to be individual beings that live from one moment to the next, continually having mental experiences that we see as belonging to us.

Indeed, our assumption that we exist as distinct beings is so embedded in our psyches that it is almost inconceivable for us to seriously examine the notion that this perception of “self” could be false. After all, we remember certain events we had in our past which suggests a continuing consciousness that is aware of perceptions, emotions and thoughts that it considers to be “its own.” In addition it appears to us that we can at any moment become aware of our mental and emotional states by turning our focus inward. Not only can we desire something but we can also have the awareness of that desire; moreover we can remember our having that desire. Through such awareness and remembrance we come to assume that we are individual beings, separate selves that are distinguishable from our bodies and our mental states and from other people.

Photo © Peter Jamus 2011

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