What makes me me?
Who am I and what shapes who I become?
What’s the connection between the story of my life, how I grew up, what I experienced and who I am today?
One thing we as humans have that animals don’t, is that we are born unfinished. Animals can stand up, run, walk or swim most of the time directly or within hours after they are born. Human babies are helpless for the first years of their lives, which is at the same time the biggest advantage we have towards all other creatures. We are not pre programmed, but have the ability to adapt and learn to survive in any environment. I could move to Alaska and would be able to survive, or maybe even live on Mars as Elon Musk is envisioning it.
The truth is, what we experience in our life shapes our brain and at the same time our brain shapes our life and how we experience it.
But how does it come that we are able to adapt to any kind of situation? The answer lies in our brains. Everything we experience is changing the physical structure of our brain in some way. Meaning for as long as we are alive, our identities aren’t fixed, but constantly changing. Things we can’t control like diseases or ageing, as well as things we can control like what we are consuming (food, alcohol, drugs), our jobs, when we fall in love, when we have kids, when we are spending time with friends, all this is changing the wires of our brain and makes us who we are and who we can become.
If everything is changing constantly, what gives us stability, what is the core of our personality?
Memories are your own personal reality of what you went through in live, what you experienced and what you learned from it. But how reliable are memories? The truth is that our memories change. Memories fade away as the storage our brain has for memories is limited. So what the brain does is storing memories above each other which makes it difficult to access some memories in detail or even at all, after some time passed. Sometimes our mind is even tricking with us and makes us believe certain things have happened to us even it they didn’t. This is where the saying comes from: “Fake it till you make it”, as it is absolutely possible to lie to yourself about something till you believe it is true.
Our brain is fare more complex than we are most of the time aware of. Every single move you make with your body seems absolutely effortless, however computer and robot scientists are still far away from allowing a robot to move as smooth as we humans move, f. ex. when picking up a cup of tea from the table and moving it to your mouth to drink without spilling it, while you are having a conversation with your partner sitting with you at the breakfast table. The brain is the silent genius in the back coordinating all.
But who we are is way more than just the tasks we can accomplish or our ability to adapt to new environments and circumstances. It is the sense of I.
I am a conscious being. I am aware of myself, of my mind, body and soul. I have my own thoughts, draw my own conclusions and make my own decisions. But how does my brain as physical substance take all those inputs and come out with my mental consciousness and thoughts? A fascinating question that is still one of the greatest mysteries of our human brains.
We don’t perceive objects as they are, we perceive them as we are.
The meaning of something to you is all about your associations based on your experiences in life. It’s unique to you! Each of us are in our own way steered by our genes and our experiences and as a result live our own reality our unique brain provides us.
Based on this also every brain has a different neural reality. Every brain is unique. Your story plays out across a lifetime. Trillions of new connections are continuously forming and reforming as we learn and create memories and become who we are. The unique connections in our brains mean no one like us has ever existed or will ever exist again.
We are not fixed! From birth till death we are works in progress!
The wonder of the human brain is that from a network of physical peaces and parts the experience of being you or me emerges
and because the physical stuff is changing, we are too!
Credit: All my thought have been triggered by David Eaglemans book “The brain - the story of you” and the BBC documentary “The Brain with David Eagleman” based on it.