November 21, 2010

Where Is My Mind? An Impossible Essay about What Goes On In My Head.

There really can be no sure way of saying where my mind is at any moment.

Experts claim that all higher-order living beings, and most non-Glenbeckian humanoids, have what they call primary consciousness - they are alive, they can integrate what's happening to them to create a sense of the present and what needs to happen to continue living.

Most humans also possess a secondary consciousness where they know that they have consciousness, and it is the filter for their world and allows them to integrate past, present, hypothesize about unknowable things, test their perceptions, draw conclusions and even predict the future.

However, I feel often that I am in the throes of an uncontrollable tertiary consciousness.  It almost feels like a dissociative state, bordering perhaps on pathology, except it breezes in and out of my mind so quickly that I hesitate to call it anything other than a waking lucid dream.

Lucid dreaming is being able to know that you're dreaming while you are dreaming.  I am not a lucid dreamer in that I've never had the ability to know I'm dreaming while still asleep.  I have these when I am awake.  It can happen dozens of times a day, or I can go a day or two without it happening at all.

I would say that they were lucid daydreams, but unlike daydreams, nothing weird happens.  I simply feel like I've stepped out of my mind for a few (maybe 3-5) seconds, and what I am perceiving mentally doesn't become bizarre and dream-like - no fish driving cars or polygons that have the ability to speak - I just observe myself observing my reality.

It's almost impossible to describe.  Not an out-of-body experience, because I know and feel myself as still there and do not perceive other things that are not there or are three miles away, just the observance of my observance of reality.

Yes, it's very metacognitive, but it is also not of my control.  I can consciously chose to think about what and how I'm thinking.  This is different.  This can even be layered on top of metacognitive states.  It just happens, then goes away.  It comes back 15 minutes later, or 12 hours later, or it happens several times in the same minute.

Here's what goes through my head while these incidents are happening to me:

1) Oh... it's happening...

2) What happens if I say this / What happens if I do this?

3) Is the world continuing?

4) Yes, it seems to be.

5) Did I cause it to continue in this way?

6) What if I had done this differently?

7) Would the world be continuing in precisely this manner as I now perceive it to be continuing?

8) I cannot know.

9) Can I ever know?

10) Is it stopping now?

11) It's melting away.

12) Here's my reality again.

I don't mean to seem melodramatic, but it is a bizarre series of perceptions that are entirely mundane and impossible to answer at the same time.  Those questions all race through mind in a few seconds.

When I'm wondering in question #2, it is almost always the most rudimentary of things to say or do - picking up a scrap of paper, scratching my chin, saying "yes" instead of "no" about something - it is not ever about big words or actions or grand moments.  Always finding me in only quotidian thoughts or actions.

I can say that I mentally feel different while it's happening, and there is a very brief sense of the incident being "switched on" in my brain, and then it seems to dissipate or melt away when it's ending.  I still can function normally, but everything feels a little muted, echoed and filtered by this state of mind.

It happens when I'm talking to people, when I'm silent, when I'm running, when I'm resting, when I'm reading.  There does not appear to be any time when it cannot happen; perhaps because I still function normally even in the middle of the incident.

It's a spontaneous, instantaneous test of reality; sample size of one; no controls; untraceable methodology; and an unknowable hypothesis.  In other words, a horrible experiment, testing nothing and proving nothing at the same time.

It's like a tripartite cognition: when it happens I recognize what's objectively happening, what's subjectively happening inside me, and what's not happening subjectively all at the same time.

It all leaves me with the question of how much my ability to subjectively perceive my world actually affects my objective world.  Not in the sense of controlling each and every thing around me, but rather in the sense that there may be no difference between subjective and objective reality.

In my thinking brain, I know there must be.  In my brain during these episodes, it conflates the two, and so creates a bizarre feeling of cognitive overlap.  One template on top of the other.

Where the edges do not overlap perfectly, however, I see blurred and gray moments in time.

Why?  I have no clue.

I'm wondering if anyone else has any ideas.

Thank you.

(Sorry for the lack of humor in this post and the poorly-worded ramble.  I am at a loss for accurate ways to describe what's happening and how it actually feels.  Even if I can describe it accurately, I'm not sure I can make it relatable it to anyone else.  I don't possess the philosophical vocabulary for it.)


Myrna CG Mibus said...

Is there a sort of deja vu quality to what is going on when you experience this?

Brendon Etter said...

No. Deja vu has a similar feel, but when it happens to me, I recognize it as such. This feels similar, but still distinctly different.