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  1. #1
    Senior Member Jeremy's Avatar
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    Default Can we ever know who we truly are?

    It's something that I've been thinking about lately, partially spurred (well, almost fully spurred) by the lovely console RPG, Persona 4. It's a question, though, worthy of discussion, regardless of where it comes from. I'm beginning to doubt that it is possible to actually know who we truly are.

    Why is that? Well, almost everything we know about ourselves doesn't come from an internal source of knowledge. We compare ourselves to others on a daily basis. I'm taking a class on social psychology right now, and it just confirms this fact. Our descriptions of ourselves are not based on our own dispositions, but rather, how those dispositions relate to others.

    And we change. We change who we are in order to become more pleasing to those around us. The core self becomes lost in the shuffle. We can't figure out who we are any more - hell, we don't even know if a "true self" existed to begin with. So we turn to social comparisons, and social labels to identify who we are - it starts as soon as we reach the age where we can begin to reason. Ask a 5 year old who they are, and they'll say that they are a kindergartener.

    I guess it'd be impossible to explain ourselves to others if we didn't have a means to compare ourselves to them, but even so, the self is, and throughout much of human history, has been given up to society. We can't survive without others bouncing back signals to us that we are who we are. Even someone who considers themselves a hermit, or socially undesirable requires society to give them that message.

    And it's not only the fact that this is the only way we can describe ourselves to others. There are so many things about ourselves that we hide from others, that we put in the shadow. For me, it's often my cynical nature and my ability to be downright cruel to others in my mind. Sometimes, I get so frustrated with people that I just want to tell them, right then and there, how stupid they are. But I don't. I shove that part of me deep down inside, I refuse to let it out.

    Society seems to do this to us in general. Why is that? Why can't we be who we want to be? I mean, would it be good if we could be who we wanted to be at any time? Or would the self just become more lost, as we hide ourselves in our multiple personas, hoping to someday find the one that fits the best for us? There isn't a clear-cut answer to this.

    I guess my main question is, does the fact that it is nearly impossible to define the self, even within yourself, without comparing yourself to others necessarily a bad thing? I don't really know. I do think that many people are forced to repress so much of their personality as part of the process of growing up and trying to "fit in" during adolescence that many people become husks of their true potential. So many people try to fit in without realizing that they are giving up so much of themselves in order to do so, but yet, we as a society force this upon our youth thanks to images that solidify the idea that one has to fit in in order to be accepted..

    I don't know. Anyone else out there ever think about stuff like this?

    Also:
    [YOUTUBE="0eMpjtu6FZI"]I'll Face Myself - Persona 4[/YOUTUBE]
    Good song to listen to while pondering this question. *beardstroke*
    "Can you set me free from this dark inner world? Save me now, last beats in the soul.."

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  2. #2
    movin melodies kiddykat's Avatar
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    I think it depends on the individual & the context of the situation?

    In my teenage years, I tended to be outright more of myself. If I didn't like someone or something, I would straight up tell them to their face. I took pride in being an odd-ball.

    Now, as an adult, I have to suck it up.. but I will still be me 99.9% of the time.. to the point where I think it's not really beneficial? Sometimes, we do have to play that game. Some are better than others. Some don't even see it as a game.

    Then there are times, where we are less likely to be ourselves- such as in professional settings.

    I think if we look at how children's personalities develop from birth onto puberty, adulthood on through elder-hood.. there is a noticeable consistency in how people's temperaments are. Sorta like a circle that repeats itself?

    I forget the guy's (sociologist-) name- but 'behavior' and roles we play have something to do with what's expected of us? Life to us is like a stage, where we connect through intermitted relationships/symbolic representations of 'perceived' selves. His name starts with a 'G'.

    Anyway, I think we often are our truest selves when we feel most accepted/loved? I think that's who we truly are at heart..

  3. #3
    Senior Member Jeremy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Viv View Post
    Anyway, I think we often are our truest selves when we feel most accepted/loved? I think that's who we truly are at heart..
    I think so too. I just don't know how often we truly feel that way anymore.
    "Can you set me free from this dark inner world? Save me now, last beats in the soul.."

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  4. #4
    Senior Member ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    Can you summarize the OP for the lazy among us?

    I think you CAN know you know are, but I think identity, when you REALLY boil it down, is not a conception. It's a living thing that has no word and few parameters.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Jeremy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid View Post
    Can you summarize the OP for the lazy among us?

    I think you CAN know you know are, but I think identity, when you REALLY boil it down, is not a conception. It's a living thing that has no word and few parameters.
    I'll try. Basically, what I meant is that there are so many ways in which our personalities are buried under what we want to appear like to others, and so much of our self-concept is based on how others view us, that it's extremely hard to make a firm concept of the self. I understand that it's something that can't be put into words, but so often, people try regardless. This just makes it harder to figure out who you are, because you even begin to describe yourself as others see you, not as you truly are.
    "Can you set me free from this dark inner world? Save me now, last beats in the soul.."

    Fonewearl and proud of it!

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  6. #6
    movin melodies kiddykat's Avatar
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    ^Sorry I went off tangent there!

    I totally get what you're saying. I have an INFP cousin who's confused about herself (in fact, I think she's kinda trying to figure who she is half blindly).

    Underneath all of what's buried underneath- I think her inability to get back to her 'true' self stems from social pressures she tries to fulfill? Most of all, not being accepted/loved for all her strengths/weaknesses, but rather, 'expectations' of what she 'should' and 'must' be. Is that what we're talking about?

  7. #7
    a scream in a vortex nanook's Avatar
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    ah, i believe someone posted this citation somewhere around here?

    "live is too short to have anything but delusional notions about yourself"

    i like the double meaning of "too short"

    i was just about to explain the subject object separation (to illustrate the journey) when i remembered to shut the fuck up.

  8. #8
    Senior Member ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy View Post
    I'll try. Basically, what I meant is that there are so many ways in which our personalities are buried under what we want to appear like to others, and so much of our self-concept is based on how others view us, that it's extremely hard to make a firm concept of the self. I understand that it's something that can't be put into words, but so often, people try regardless. This just makes it harder to figure out who you are, because you even begin to describe yourself as others see you, not as you truly are.
    Ah. Then I stand by my original reply. Your self-concept is not who you are. It's an idea about who you are. You actually are something much less permanent and undefinable. It's something to be experienced, rather than summarized and held on to.

    /me disappears in a cloud of smoke

  9. #9
    The Memes Justify the End EcK's Avatar
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    the self is a social construct, we become it and evolve it out of our interactions with the world, ourselves, and others.
    So the self is situational, and quite relative. You won't act the same way with different people and in different situations. We tend not to take it for a significant thing and think we are our consciousness, but the consciousness is one thing, and our behaviors another.
    Let's not confuse the telescope with the phenomenas it observes.

    Just as we cannot be sure of ALL the properties of a given particule until we did every experiment in the book and then some more.
    To fully know who you are, you'd need to be faced with and understand each possible situation for an infinite period of time, in a mental trick to turn a dynamic process into a rock-hard certainty.


    But this is impossible to us, so we must infer. The best we can do is to have a descent predictive theory of who we are, including the influence of observing. For it's a constant in the universe that the observer changes the observed phenomena. So the way we consciously 'flavor' our minds, the attention we pay to some details rather than others, the connection we make will change our behavior and the way our neural pathways will develop.

    But conscience is also a process of the brain, and is itself, influenced by our behaviors, environnement and both geno and phenotypes in a constant feedback loop.



    In the end, it really depends on what you consider to be knowing. In any case, absolute knowledge is unattainable.
    Expression of the post modern paradox : "For the love of god, religions are so full of shit"

    Theory is always superseded by Fact...
    ... In theory.

    “I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”
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    "Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart."
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  10. #10
    Junior Member Ambrosia's Avatar
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    There is a gap between who we are and what we believe, even if we "think" it aligns with ourselves. However "we," as we understand ourselves, are at least molded by the people we are around. In fact, I've always felt like I've been bombarded society, like my "soul" was being beaten like a drum, forced to play a beat not my own... Which I think is what you're getting at, drums don't make noise all their own; they're played. Are we just instruments, only playing the music being beaten out of us?

    We can assign meaning to things, but does meaning exist beyond our perception? The only thing we can know for sure is that we don't know for sure.
    Last edited by Ambrosia; 04-16-2009 at 03:00 AM. Reason: Sorry for choppiness, but I think you get what I'm driving at.

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