The brain, and by extension the nervous system, only tells you what is happening. It reacts to changes in the environment. It does not tell you what you are. At best it tells you where you are, and what is going on in the reach of your sensory organs.
It seems to be a fairly common fallacy though to take the brain as an authority on what you are.
It’s kind of like meaning. In itself, no occurrence has meaning. Each arising situation is complete within itself. It is memory and pattern making that binds meaning to any given occurrence.
The human nervous system dictates what information we are allowed, what form it comes in, and the intensity of our reactions to it. Nothing in there dictates what we are. It only dictates what we experience. And yet, when certain reactions occur in the nervous system that deliver feelings of joy, we say we “are happy.” That’s just not true. We are not happiness. Happiness is occurring. It’s the same with anger. Or, fear. Or, loneliness. In these cases our nervous system collects data and delivers these signals to us. Then, rather than simply taking in the messages, our cultural conditioning causes us to assume (and behave as) those feelings are what we are.
In some cases this is very much a linguistic phenomenon. One of my Tai Chi instructors once taught me a distinction between English, and Chinese. In English, the sentence, “I am angry” make sense. In Chinese the closest they get is, “I have anger.” It’s fairly easy to see that the Chinese version simply acknowledges the presence of information. In the English version we imagine that we have actually become that information. We go from feeling anger, to being anger itself.
That’s a bit schizophrenic, wouldn’t you say?
The human brain reacts to stimuli, combines stimuli from different sense organ types, then spins together patterns by comparison to storage in memory. We then pass these memories forward in time through the process Korzybski calls “time-binding”, which is the creation of artifacts (stories either told or written, records, histories). This binds us in a loop of repeating past history into future possibility. In a sense, the human being (not history) is doomed to repeat itself. We are at fault here. Not some mysterious bugaboo of “time.” We carry our past forward, in cultural artifacts, thus equipping the nervous systems of our children with imprinted patterns for digesting information and slotting into the patterns of the past.
What’s the solution?
Well, I have some friends who have actually rejected their humanity for a variety of reasons. They have come face to face with he horror that humans wreak on spaceship Earth, and have decided they want no part of it. So, rather than calling themselves humans, they refer to themselves as bunnies. I mean, have you ever seen a bunny build a factory for producing upholstery that pollutes the rivers and oceans? I thought not. I can see what one would prefer to live life as a bunny, rather than a onerous human being.
Still, I prefer to position myself as more of an evolutionist. I like to look forward for solutions to our predicament, while dropping the patterns and baggage of our past. I like to take in the reports of my senses while not being fooled into them dictating what I am. So, for that reason I shall refer to myself as an alien going forward. Perhaps a Sirian from Sirius. (Seriously?) Or, heck, maybe just a good old-fashioned Vulcan. 😉