the self as an amalgamation of habits and learned behaviors

Hello ILPers,

I have been pondering the nature of the self, particularly… my self through introspection. I have been trying to answer the existential questions, to understand who I am, why am I here, and what should I be doing. First, I would like to qualify my post by stating that the self can be sliced and diced with many analytical models and this is just one. I do not claim it to be a original idea, as I have read Buddhist and other Western thinkers who have had similar ideas, if not identical. But, this is something that hit me like a bag of bricks the other day, despite the fact I have read similar ideas 50x over.

As many other ILPers, I do a fair amount of posting and if you read my posts you will notice that I choose a certain structure in my post, a certain structure in my sentences, and lean towards using certain words. This can be described as my “style”, these tendancies are the habits that I engaged when drafting a post. This is a part of me.

When I go about the day, one can see many distinguishable characteristics in my behavior which can be described as my “personality”. In fact, even when I think… I lean towards certain prefered methods and certain styles of thinking. When I problem solve I am adverse to planning or sequentially executing a procedure, I prefer to dive into a task and hope inspiration hits me.

We all have habits that in a way define us. There is always a set of habits that is nearest to “us”, that we choose to use because they have worked historically. These are behaviors we have learned through imitation, or trial and error, or any other method that have proven successful for us. As with any other task, through repitition and practice we become better at it, it becomes re-inforced and we learn to rely on it as a habit. Much like when you are a kid and learn how to shoot a basketball in a certain way and practice shooting, you will refer to that method first in future circumstances. Choosing a different method requires conscious thought because we must go past what is available to us at the “surface level”, in other words… it is convenient to continue choosing the same method over and over.

I should also note that when I state that a behavior is successful, this does not have any objective definition to it, this is purely subjective. If you judge the behavior as successful, you will continue to use it. Much like a person who was made of as a kid continues in his adult life to retreat and hide when confronted. The behavior from the start was perhaps not “healthy”, but it worked and it has come to the forefront of chooseable behaviors.

Further, I am using the word choose as if it was consciously possible to change your personality, style, etc. Well it is! You can stop, notice what your behavior will be, evaluate it, and practice a new behavior. As circumstances in our lives change, as events and experiences influence us, we do in fact constantly change as the self is necessarily dynamic. The only question is how tightly do we hang onto convinient habitual behaviors.

The model of the self here is that self is a amalgamation of these habits that we continue to choose because they are convinient and we have subjectively judged them as reliable. There is of course more to the self that I have not yet pondered yet in this context, such as emotions, that I will continue to work on and hopefully include.

I mean… when you talk about the mind, it can go alot of different ways, but here are a few thoughts.

Now, this is true to an extent, but alot of this is simply learning in the context that we would speak of in say… an intellectual sense. So illustrate this point, imagine this, better yet imagine myself: I’m a funny guy in real life, (you can choose to not believe this but just imagine I am for this scenario) and chances are I always will be too some degree or another. I’ll get smarter, and learn how to tell more tasteful jokes, and act more civil etc, in effect learning from my mistakes and adjusting -that- part of my personality. But I’ll always be a funny guy. See what I’m getting at? You can (un)learn things, but in the end you can’t really change what it is to be ‘you’. It’s not like you had a choice anyways though, we’re all programmed from birth, and more importantly the time just after birth. So in this regard I don’t see it as a form of ‘holding onto’ anything, at least not for the type of things I’m talking about above.

The other thought I had is that the self is not a complete notion, we all have something labelled ‘personality’ but is an open box, everything we do is in effect, a subroutine of some master program that as far as we know… just isn’t there (though this is… a heated debate). So when you talk of choosing, it’s really not that simple because I, in the most metaphysical sense, am not sitting back outside of myself thinking, ‘Hmm… I’m going to arbitrarily decide I should tell myself to decide to do this’. We exist in the circumstances, in time, in desire. So, going back to your basketball example… yes you can make a conscious decision to diverge from your usual shot and take a different one, but it is not a NEW shot, it’s simply one that you made a conscious decision to make different from your own.

Now, that example might be a bit more relative to physical actions… but my main point is that there is this conglomerate(sp? I wanted to carry on the economic theme :smiley: ) of different input which comprises your personality, but no matter what level you want to choose from… you can only enact a short change response (right away) because to do otherwise would be draw on fuel that you just don’t have to speak. In other words, you cannot just make a conscious decision to have a killer jumpshot even though you’ve seen one on NBA or whatever, even though you can for 1 time. Like I said, this works better because of muscle memory… but our neurons are essentially the same so bleh!

I’m not disagreeing with you here… just my thoughts, your posts was a little vague, at least to me.

maybe the basketball shot wasnt a good example.

Certainly genetics play a large role in how we develop, what we are capable of, etc. And maybe even some influences on personality, etc somehow. Just like social circumstances affect ius greatly in our development.

I understand I was a little vague, I think I stressed the “change” part too much. I just wanted to make my case for the dynamic self since I feel that many people have a notion that there is a “true self”, which I do not believe there is.

Yea I agree, the self is most definately dynamic.

and it’s because of that notion… that it can’t really be regarded as a whole.

It’s hard for me to put this into words now as I’m on the road for b-ball… I’ll check back when I get home.

The self? very deep…
infinintly deep, why?..
you have infinint variety of potential choice or action!!!

Self self… dies to quickly… i know that and im only 21 years old.
to me “direction” is your goals and values,
you have streingths and weaknesses,
also with effort and practice your abilities get more developed.

I think that “self” is a wholistic word, that i also call “life”, “soul”, “existance”. I firmly believe that “self” deserves as much love as possable! Imagine the warmth and peace of a soceity that had enough love? and i mean love of health and peace, not love of exitement and stupidity!

To me, the word “self” incompasis all capasity aswel as the current state and the current ability and the direction of.
With that in mind, i love you all and hope that you learn better how to love youself in the true way.
Realize that your potenitial of variety is infinint (example, creating thoughts) and you are imesurably precious, then injustice destroys us…

First, I would like to qualify my post by stating that the self can be sliced and diced with many analytical models and this is just one.

I think the nature of the self is based on the fact that the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts.

if you read my posts you will notice that I choose a certain structure in my post, a certain structure in my sentences, and lean towards using certain words. This can be described as my “style”, these tendancies are the habits that I engaged when drafting a post. This is a part of me.

Very true. Although, while at this point, it’s important to note that the most truly clues of your personality come when you’re not thinking about it. That’s why (imo) many people excell at disciplines they don’t care that much about. My mate’s an outstanding writer without being aware of that: she’s reading medicine and puts all of her conscious efforts into it. That’s why whenever she writes she doesn’t wear masks whatsoever, she’s so focused on her so-called priorities that her prose reflects her own self without her awareness.

The only question is how tightly do we hang onto convinient habitual behaviors.

It depends on each person, and it might act as defence mechanism.

I understand I was a little vague, I think I stressed the “change” part too much. I just wanted to make my case for the dynamic self since I feel that many people have a notion that there is a “true self”, which I do not believe there is.

I do think there’s a true-self, but you can “kill” it and make a new one be born as soon as you wake up the next day. It requires practice of course, but imho those things are impossible to change … only as long as you decide them to be impossible.

 The question now is: what causes that?  Are your traits causeless?  Random?  Products of your raising?  Determined by your brain chemistry?

That’s a different field of study, though, which I’m currently infatuated with. I’ll try to remain on topic.

This question has to do with many factors, the most important of which I think is one’s mental state. When one realizes how removed from immediate survival they are, they can focus on the desirability of convenient habitual behaviors. Most people rarely move beyond “this is what I have to do to make a living.”

How can a self change without having begun as something that has defined, innate characteristics? As far as the notion of “true self” goes, I understand that you mean an immutable self. I think, based on experience, that whether or not one can change significant behaviors in themselves, there are certain traits/associations/behaviors which are internalized from an age before they were fully self-aware, and are thus not subject to logical deconstruction.

There’s something to be said for intuitive knowledge, I just don’t know what.

Hi,

I am impressed by this view, mainly by life long observation of people who don’t change, or change very little over time - repeating mistakes etc.

In the Michelangelo film ‘Beyond the Clouds’ John Malkovich says the line “I believe that we are immutably ourselves from the moment we are born.”

This sounds dreadfully deterministic and I don’t like it myself, but the descriptive evidence is there.

We tend to judge people in very determined ways. Once a person has become liked or disliked by a group of people this dynamic rarely changes. It is as if we want to judge something in a person which we think is real and definite, and we seem to need to do that. Job interviews are entirely constructed on this premise, also jail terms. We give things and take things away from people based on these judgements, and the judgements are based in turn on the belief that there is something definite for us to judge.

This is interesting stuff. As always we have the philosophy and then the way that people generally think, and the two are not easily reconciled.

Cheers,

F