CHAPTER 2: MEMORY: THE PRIME MOVER

     In the arduous pursuit of daily life, we hardly have the time and energy to pause and look inward to figure out the roots of our actions and why we behave the way we do. If we carefully peer into our mind, the following scenario might emerge. Even though our thoughts, feelings and memories are mediated by external and internal stimuli, they seem to work in an autonomic mode, as if having their own willpower. Like some factory workers, they are seized with the frenzy of their work, jostling and cooperating with each other. The end products of their labor are our aspirations and dreams, our pride and prejudice, our anxieties and worries, which get manifested, rather packaged, in the externalities of our behavior and actions. As devoted workers, they service promptly the demands of our body—our desires for joy and comforts, our urges of hunger, thirst, and love.

   The modern neurologists also paint a somewhat similar picture of self that is fragmentary and disorienting. They tell us that the brain cells called neurons are the actual workers that manufacture our feelings, emotions, thoughts, and memory. The human brain has billions of neurons that communicate with each other by making synaptic connections. They constantly fire electrochemical signals in synchronized fashion and thus create these mental processes in our brains. In other words, the patterns of neural firings are the actual correlates of our feelings, thoughts, and memory.

     In the opinion of some neuroscientists, our subjective experience of self is nothing but the constant interplay of vast neural assemblies in the brain. While observing the neurons with electronic scanning gadgets, they were astonished by the hectic pace of their firing actions, which reminded of a noisy fish market bustling with activities.

    It might shock someone’s aesthetic sense to find description of the brain activities in such metaphoric idiom of the commercial world. Let that be as it may; but it does make the very significant point that behind the vital world of our thoughts, emotions, and feelings lies the neural infrastructure that is inherently mechanical, material, and driven by electrochemical impulses.

    Worse than the commercial jargon, such factual description can rob us of our sense of ownership of the self that is the most precious thing in our life. Our pride and self-respect arise out of our belief of owning an independent and integral self, which is so dear to us that we spend our entire lifetime toiling to defend and preserve it. Our faith in the subjective ownership of self is utterly sacrosanct and inviolable. This faith is based on the belief that our self is a well-integrated homogeneous entity.

    Unfortunately, that is not entirely true. At times, we cannot escape the feeling that our inner self is a parallel world of its own, separate and strange. The psychologists like Sigmund Freud and others tell us that the self, which is part of our conscious access and experience, is just the tip of an iceberg. Its larger part is unknown and hidden underneath. That subterranean segment of self, however, is not a dormant and defunct baggage. Rather, it is the heavy machinery that drives our body and mind. We are largely unaware of the forces that make up and manipulate our actions, behavior, and everything that constitutes the entity called self.

    It is therefore quite essential to familiarize ourselves with the contents of our inner world in order to deal with the problems of stress and anxiety …Read more in the book…

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