She thought she knew herself. Her motivations, desires, fears, strengths, weaknesses, memories and dreams. That is, until she received the results of her neurological evaluation.
And so she sat down to read the story of her own brain. The whole thing felt odd, eerie and amusing--all at the same time.
It was as if her life had ended and God was now handing her a copy of her biography. Written by Him. Since she herself didn't write it, she knew that God’s biography would be infinitely more accurate than any autobiography that she could ever hope to write. But this idea made her nervous.
She procrastinated reading it because she wanted to give it her full, undivided attention when she did.
It will be a diversion, she thought.
Reading about the workings of my brain will help me to understand myself better.
She soon realized, however, that this optimistic thought could be replaced with deeply concerning questions.
To read about how my brain functions will help me to understand myself better?
Who on earth was this “herself” that she would now be able to see more clearly?
If I come away from this report with a better understanding of myself, then who did I think I was before?
She associated her personal identity with her own memories and interpretations and justifications. But if her sense of personal identity rested entirely on inaccurate beliefs—and if her own inaccurate beliefs differed substantially from the ways in which others saw her—then she did not know herself.
Or, more accurately, she knew only how she appeared to others through the lens of herself – an unreliable narrator at best.
If someone can describe my thoughts and actions better than I can, she thought, then what does that say about the beliefs that other people have about themselves?
Is everyone wrong about who they think they are?
People tend to overestimate their own attractiveness when looking at themselves in mirrors. They may also hear a lilting radio announcer voice ringing in their ears when listening to themselves speak. But they are usually embarrassed when they hear a recording of this voice or see themselves on camera.
Do I really sound like that? Is that what I look like?
Some philosophers have argued that personal identity, as a concept, doesn’t really mean much for them because they do not view their lives in a linear manner. They describe their lives as “flashes of memories and episodes” rather than as “one long narrative.” This is the person with no sense of personal identity.
These people claim that if they were to see a picture of themselves from childhood, they would not feel any sense of connection with that child. If their mothers were to tell them that they had been mischievous when they were younger, they would shrug.
I only know who I am right now in this very moment,
they say, which actually means:
I do not and have not ever known myself because time is always passing.
And it would end there.
She never liked the type of person who said things like that.
For more see: This Aeon article by Galen Strawson, "Let's ditch the dangerous idea that life is a story" https://aeon.co/essays/let-s-ditch-the-dangerous-idea-that-life-is-a-story