HEURISTIC OR MENTAL ILLNESS? THE ACT AND EFFICACY OF THINKING OF YOURSELF AS MORE THAN ONE PERSON
Ever had that feeling that maybe there’s more than one you inside your head? Mental “illness” hardly has a monopoly on this sensation – unless you insist on claiming nearly every genuine illuminato from present back to origin was mentally “ill.” From modern geniuses to ancient mysticism, from logicians of colossal repute like Kurt Gödel to protagonists of timeless pedagogical epics like Arjuna, the notion of a singular corpus containing a cloven percipience has been with us since cuneiform and hieroglyphs, since the spoken Sumerian and Egyptian that preceded them; and, by acceptable assumption, surely long before.
Freud broke the psyche down into the tripartite id, ego, and super-ego; Jung organized the collective unconscious into archetypes; the Greeks and the Romans had pantheons, the Hindus their dieties, devas and devis; even in monotheistic religions the impulse to separate and identify is evident in the Christian trinity, Muslim djinn, and Jewish kabbalah.
These massive collections of information, no matter how you feel about them or which if any you subscribe to, are in the simplest sense derivations of one person at some time in some place noticing Hey – I’m starting to wonder how many people are in here! and launching him or herself forward, alone as that special singular corpus – forward, and inward.
I’ve had this thought, but it doesn’t make me special. I’ve heard tweens espouse the same. I’ve seen drug users project separate consciousness onto inanimate objects. This doesn’t make me special either – one of the most fundamental precepts of CBTN is to normalize all of this nonsense, to de-mystify it – to show that millennia of arbitrary, dogmatic philosophastering and pseudoscience and witchcraft have obscured the simple truth:
Maybe these are internal heuristics, not external realities.
heuristic in Technology
heuristic. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 26, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/heuristic
heuristic. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved January 26, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/heuristic
heuristic. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved January 26, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/heuristic
heuristic. (n.d.). The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing. Retrieved January 26, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/heuristic
In the geographical west -Europe and its offspring, from the United States to Australia – we are taught we are one person. I am I, you are yourself; each of us is a human being, and only together we are humanity or a collective consciousness. A person is treated like an atom or quantum of the species; treated as and considered to be the smallest particle of which the whole is composed, indivisible beyond a single consciousness that jerks our flesh around like marionettes as we make our way though our lives, for all the world acting as though what happens to us happens to us and outcomes and consequences ought to be valued based on these whole, lumbering bodies.
I’d say it’s a natural tendency, but it’s difficult to dissever the way we are wired to think and they way we learn to think. From cradle to the grave we are relentlessly inundated with information, methods of analytical cohesion, empiricism, western philosophy, sociology – and I don’t mean just within the narrow scopes of our education or instruction, but in the casual, day-to-day interactions we experience with both others and ourselves.
Certainly there exists a sense of unity within our minds – we have a name, we are inextricably tied to the condition and mortality of our body; we experience emotions and logic all in once place, which sits atop a set of gangling arms and legs and thorax, commanding them to locomotor around and insert food into a mouth and have sex and occasionally excrete waste products. This unit – what I’ve already referred to as a corpus – shares, even if it’s not a legitimate singularity, a lease on life; should one part fail, from organ to immune system to conscious decision-making, everything dies. It seems it is from this experiential perspective the western world has subscribed to the idea we are individuals; we are one and only one human being moving outward through an aether that we call “Reality.”
Yourself is the you you are taught and understand yourself to be. The one human consciousness that is born into, contemplates, and deals with the world. The key idea to remember here is that this isn’t Reality per se, but a heuristic – a way of thinking about Reality that is helpful or useful in your day-to-day existence.
“…for a typical human of 70 kg, there are almost 7*1027 atoms (that’s a 7 followed by 27 zeros!) Another way of saying this is “seven billion billion billion.” Of this, almost 2/3 is hydrogen, 1/4 is oxygen, and about 1/10 is carbon. These threeatoms add up to 99% of the total!” [Source]
Yes, together the organs, neurons, even atoms of your body – by their powers combined! (Captain Planet) – form a single corpus; but as individual sub-units all of these entities or objects are unique and behave by different sets of rules.
Like the mutually exclusive, irreconcilable two methods we have for considering physics (Classical and Quantum Mechanics), so to are there two mutually exclusive, irreconcilable heuristics for thinking about yourself as a person – and the second one is Your Self.
Are you fundamentally one person with 12 organ systems, or 12 organ systems working together in a human container? Are you fundamentally one person composed of seven billion billion billion atoms, or are you seven billion billion billion atoms working together to make a human? Still further, we know atoms are composed of protons, neutrons and electrons, and those are composed of six types of quarks, and those are composed of possibly strings or some other smaller, finite unit ad infinitum.
Your brain can think about this top-down (You are yourself) or bottom-up (You are your self), but not both at the same time, and picking one rules out the other.
All this atom/quark/string nonsense ought to be understood as an analogy for the question of individual versus collective consciousness. By the same logic we can ask ourselves: If humans are made up of smaller, fundamental units, might we also/instead be small fundamental units of something greater than ourselves?
You might call this Our Self. As previously stated, this idea is an old one – probably predating even the interpretation of individuality we now hold in the west; the idea that everything is connected, composed of and alive within the same immutable, eternal substance. Interestingly even modern physics has found some things that fit this description:
- Conservation of Energy
- Conservation of Mass
- Conservation of Momentum (Linear and Angular)
- Conservation of Electric Charge
Though understanding conservation can get a little tricky, the basic idea is that in a closed system the above physical quantities never change. For example, say a car traveling down the highway suddenly slams on its brakes and comes to stop. While the car does lose energy, that lost energy doesn’t just vanish into thin air – some becomes sound energy (brake and tire squealing), some becomes heat from friction (tires on the road), and so on – and if you were to add up these sounds and heat and other changes, it would sum up to the exact amount of energy the car lost by stopping. Energy is never created nor destroyed; it is conserved.
If you’re interested in learning about Conservation in greater detail, check out the link and table below – if not, just jump past it.
From the Wikipedia page on Conservation Law: “A partial listing of physical conservation equations due to symmetry that are said to be exact laws, or more precisely have never been proven to be violated:”
|Conservation Law||Respective Noether symmetryinvariance||Number of dimensions|
|Conservation of mass-energy||Time invariance||Lorentz invariancesymmetry||1||translation about time axis|
|Conservation of linear momentum||Translation symmetry||3||translation about x,y,z position|
|Conservation of angular momentum||Rotation invariance||3||rotation about x,y,z axes|
|CPT symmetry (combining charge, parity and time conjugation)||Lorentz invariance||1+1+1||(charge inversion q→-q) + (position inversion r→-r) + (time inversion t→-t)|
|Conservation of electric charge||Gauge invariance||1⊗4||scalar field (1D) in 4D spacetime (x,y,z + time evolution)|
|Conservation of color charge||SU(3) Gauge invariance||3||r,g,b|
|Conservation of weak isospin||SU(2)L Gauge invariance||1||weak charge|
|Conservation of probability||Probability invariance||1⊗4||total probability always=1 in whole x,y,z space, during time evolution|
It’s weird to think about, but assuming physics is correct you also then know the following:
- Everything is made of energy.
- Energy is never created nor destroyed.
- Our bodies and minds are made of energy.
- We are all made of the same thing (Energy).
It’s therefore possible even by the laws of modern physics that what we see before us – Reality, populated by ourselves which you observe as “yourself the individual” – is really the construct and goal of Energy, which may very well be the one and only “living” entity or entities in our universe, to which we are simply much larger and slower-moving units or tools no different than anything else made of mass. This is essentially thinking the same way as what we might call the “ancients,” or Eastern philosophers of old – that we are inextricably connected to everything around us not by some trendy or hippie emotional sense, but quite literally and physically.
Here at CBTN – and we say this a lot, so sorry if you’ve heard this before – we always try to use the word diagnosis in lieu of illness because we believe we (and you) have the former, not the latter. But we haven’t yet addressed what real illness would look like in contrast to the fake invention of the term and concept of mental illness.
Here it is:
Your head breaks – and delusions and insanity result directly from – the inability to successfully navigate these two ways of looking at both the outside world and the world inside your head.
Want to go nuts on command? Think these two thoughts over and over without stopping:
- I am both a big thing made of small parts and small parts that make a big thing.
- I am both a small thing inside a big world and big thing with a small world inside.
Partake at your own risk. Quit when it starts working.
Here’s how to save yourself from this and any rising mental episode or delusion:
Neither of these two ways of thinking about things are true. Both are equal and opposite HEURISTICS that allow you to think about how you think – nothing more. The only true mental illness getting sucked into the belief that one of these has to be true. The worst true mental illness is getting sucked into the belief that both are true – because neither is.
Yourself and Your Self are just words and terms, themselves just simpler heuristics for expressing ideas. I know we’ve hit a weird and abstract point in this line of reasoning – this is proven accurate by itself, in stating that words can’t get at ideas – because we’re approaching an idea more fundamental than words.
If you found this article interesting, strange, stupid, bizarre, or any other adjective that warrants further investigation or trolling, please join us in the CBTN forum for further discussion or consider submitting your own guest article to the site.
John Ward is a host of Change But The Name and Pennsylvania state-certified Peer Support Specialist. He currently resides in and writes from a homeless shelter in Central PA.