Want something weirder to deal with on your Thanksgiving weekend?
The thing you call “yourself” is a dialectic – an ongoing “conversation” of sorts. You are a process made up of interactions. The whole “mind-body” duality is nonsensical – it’s the interactions between “mind” and “body” that are, in a very real sense, “you”.
You think, therefore you are. Not in the way Descartes meant it, of course. Descartes intended to show that thought was evidence of some kind of ineffable and demonstratable “self”. I mean this instead in the Meadean 1 sense. You are the process of your thoughts. Each and every thought you have changes your biology – and the reverse is also true.
But wait, there’s more!
You’re also the interactions between “you” and everyone else. So when you interact with the rest of society, that means that the process of you changes in the interaction. That conversation you had changed you in a very real, and very fundamental way. That experience, that communication – all of it changes who you are. I don’t mean this in some fru-fru “spiritual” way, I mean it in a very literal fashion.
When you are visiting relatives over Thanksgiving, you – through your interactions – are literally a different person.
Since you are your interactions, the level of abstraction you are operating at fundamentally changes those interactions. Think about it: “Let’s look at this rationally.” “It seems that way now, but in the bigger scheme of things…” “That seems reasonable, but what about the people it impacts?” You think differently at different levels of abstraction.
That means that you’re a different person then, too.
Too often we’re able to calmly and easily see the problems with family relationships when we’re outside that relationship – but it can still be confoundingly difficult to deal with when we find ourselves interacting with the same people.
That’s not because you’re failing – it’s because you’re a different person. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to begin to have those processes interact and talk to each other.
Have fun digesting your turkey!
1 George Herbert Mead; you can read Mind Self & Society for free at the Mead Project.