What Am I?

We are told by the scientists that the different aspects of our personalities – things like addiction, temper, even our religiosity – are the exclusively the result of physical causes – we are just “born that way”.

But is that actually so? Can we always attribute our actions to just the physical structure and chemistry of our brains?

I think there’s more to the story. It has been observed that cognitive therapy actually imposes physical changes on brain. If I am irrationally anxious (certainly the structure of my brain will be involved), it has been found I can retrain my brain through therapy: and that this retraining physically changes its structure.

In which case, we must go further upstream to find the first cause. There must be something else at work beyond the basic facts of our brain’s physical characteristics, something that can manage and modify the brain – and therefore our lives.

A couple of things follow. First, and most importantly, it suggests that what we are as people is more than just the sum of our physical parts. What is “I”? We must have another aspect of selfhood that lies outside our brain chemistry, for that which imposes change on its structure can’t be part of the thing it modifies.

And this implies that if we allow ourselves to fall into certain habits of thought, addictive behaviours, or whatever, our brains will develop the physical characteristics that reinforce these behaviours.

But it also means that we can change, though it would be an uphill battle against the pathways our own habits have allowed our brains to develop. It’s better to develop the right habits from the start, to not allow ourselves to pick up destructive habits from the get-go. Bad habits happen by themselves; good habits must be cultivated. We must make a specific effort to impose positive changes on our brains.

Here we move beyond the mere physicality of our brains; we must consider what is prudent and just, and order our lives accordingly. How shall we choose to live? These are not scientific issues but are better addressed by philosophy and religion.

Reference: https://socialanxietyinstitute.org/social-anxiety-citations-references

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