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Wayne L. Klein, PhD

Neuropsychological Assessment of Children & Adults; Couples & Individual Psychotherapy Offices in Franklin, MA & Spaulding Center for Children, Sandwich, MA
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Neuroexistentialism

The Self is viewed as a construction of neural processes which continually re-emerges in working memory. That is, the Self is constantly recreated, like recalling a memory. Self is the constant sense of who or what we are. Self is what is identified as Self. This does not mean that we can easily affect how e Self identify.

The human sense of bodily Self is remarkably flexible. Well controlled studies easily generate a sense of a fake limb and even out of body experience merely usesing virtual reality. Yet this should be no surprise as we are constantly shape-shifting our total sense of Self. You did this the last time you so identified with some performance or task completion that your Inner Horse, your emotional system, reacted as if your very life depended on it. We may partially identify Self with a sports team or a family member.

This shape shifting quality of Self enables humans to override a billion years of biology and do things not in the interests of our biological organism. Witness the incredible courageous sacrifices for strangers in wartime. This occurs when Self is identified with something larger than the biological being - such as the nation or a band of brothers.

Even the flexibility of the sense of bodily Self may serve a major function - that of allowing man and machine or man and tool to become one. Chimps take years to learn the art of cracking a nut with a rock. Hit it too hard and the nut is pulverized. Too gently and the shell does not break. Human children master the same skill in several hours. I hypothesize that we are light years better at using tools because the tool Iin this case the rock) is incorporated into the bodily image, the Somatic Self.

Learning to think of Self as ephemeral, as temporary has major implications for mental health. Are you really the same person who performed the acts you regret? Will you be the same Self even tomorow? If Self changes, then the you of tomorow will be different from the you reading this. Hopefully your activities today will show kindness towards the you of tomorow. How do you set up conditions to carry out your wishes after you are possibly gone? This way of thinking shifts one towards greater present centeredness and enables greater, not less, responsibility taking.