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The Human Identity


What are you? Are you your brain? Are you your body? Are you a combination of the two?

When most people use the word “I” they tend to mean it in reference a whole person, made up of many different pieces. “I” usually refers to the personality, the body and the brain. That is deceiving though, because one could still be called “I” even after losing most of the above and if we are made up of only our personality, body and brain, why is it we can observe our own emotions, our own thoughts?

What is doing the observing? Seasoned meditators have learned to clear their mind and watch as their thoughts flow by as a psychotherapist would observe a patient. What is watching your thoughts? If common knowledge is true (that “I” is made up of our thoughts and feelings), observing our thoughts without intervention should not be possible, because we should be our thoughts. But that is not true. In order for a thought to be observed there must be something doing the observing.

There is a part of the brain that is inherently different than any other part. Its purpose is to observe your brain and interact with your will. It is the consciousness. It is self-awareness.  John C. Lilly, M.D., calls it the Self-Metaprogram, or a mental structure that observes, controls, organizes and governs other mental structures. It might not even be a specific part of the brain, it might be made up of hundreds of little pieces from all other parts of the brain, but this observing, conscious mechanism exists in all humans. It is more base than intelligence, thought or emotion. It is the only part of you that hasn’t changed since you were born. If you were to take away everything but it, you would be left without any motion, emotions, sensations or thoughts. You would desire nothing. You would not even fear death.

Try this little experiment. Think of something that makes you embarrassed or angry. Observe as your stomach tenses up and your mood changes from calm to angry. The part of you that is observing this brain-body reaction has no bias, no filters, and no anger. Anger and embarrassment are simple mechanisms of the brain. They can be turned on and off at will, like light switches. You just turned one of them on. After a little knowledge and practice, it becomes just as easy to turn them off. So, in effect, your brain is like a computer. The brain consists of all of your emotions, all your pain, all your thoughts, memories, beliefs, judgements and personality quirks. You, the user and the observer of this computer, can control all of it via what is known as Mind Programming.

Mind Over Body

In recent years it has become apparent that the brain is the single most powerful acting force upon the body. The body and mind are inseparable.

The most obvious example of this principle can be found in what the scientific community calls the “placebo effect”, which is a broad term used to describe a huge range of unexplained phenomena such as so-called miracle cures. In essence, the placebo effect is a response to a stimulus one believes will work. Simply believing that something will work is often enough to make it work. In fact, Psychologist Ernest Lawrence Rossi wrote in his book, The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing, that the placebo effect accounts for nearly 56% of the effectiveness of analgesics, like Morphine. This means that when you take a pain killer, more than half of the effect is the direct result of your belief in the pill. And the effect is not in any way limited to pain killers. The placebo response shows up in nearly every therapeutic agent!

Rossi also wrote that the Limbic System works to convert words, feelings and visualizations into a language that the body can understand, the language of neuro-chemical messenger molecules called neuropeptides, which flow through the entire body. He concludes that Mental Programs become hard-wired into not only our brain, but into individual cells as well.

There are more studies that directly link the mind and body. Dr. Candace Pert wrote of these links in her book Molecules Of Emotion. Her pioneering work into the brain-body connection has led to the discovery of a complex network of chemicals stimulated by the brain, that directly affect the health of the body on the cellular level. She discovered a number of cellular receptors and preferential chemical bindings that act as information pathways from the brain to all cells in the body.

It has been shown that all events, from sex with a preferred partner to a traumatic event affect the body directly, positively or negatively. It has been also shown that generally happy people are three times less likely to get the common cold (and other ailments) than unhappy people (Journal Of Psychosomatic Medicine, July 11, 2002). This could be linked to the infamous stress hormone, Cortisol, which has numerous adverse effects on the human body (cancer, heart disease, etc). Studies done by Cleve Backster indicate an even more direct connection from the brain to individual cells. He allegedly separated cells from the body and measured cellular reactions to emotional changes in the mind of the patient. This particular study is intriguing but should be regarded with skepticism until follow up studies are done. Still, it is very clear that as goes the mind, so goes the body. Therefore, two assumptions can be made:

  • The mind is able to change the body if properly programmed to do so.
  • In order for the body to be kept in peak physical condition, the mind must also be kept in a peak mental condition.



Image source: Foundations and Theories of Learning