Thursday, August 13, 2015

Clearing the Static for the Dynamic Self: Why Drugs are Important for One's Sovereignty

The self is not static. It is dynamic. It is not our body. It is our behavior. 

The self is an identification with our consciousnesses. Most identify their consciousness or experience with their bodies, or even their brains. This is a problematic, as it can lead to viewing oneself sub-optimally because of an abstracted self-image. This image is not rooted in matter as one’s body parts and neurons all are replaced and rewired respectively.  Instead, the image is rooted in an abstraction which is an unachievable ideal to maintain. This can lead one to feel stress for not maintaining their self-image in the present. This kind of self is static. A dynamic conception of the self is proposed presently.

Identifying with behavior, on the other hand, has the benefit of not taking yourself as seriously. Behavior is not abstracted, as it is a continually ongoing process of interaction. It is immediate and does not lend itself toward idle mental pictures. By identifying more with behavior, the self moves from some abstract idealized thought toward an active participation in the world, via your behavior. As behavior is in a sate of forever becoming, it does not lend itself to abstraction. Rather, contemplation of behavior is immanently tied to the present moment and the senses; this roots one’s Self in the present- not an idealized abstraction spread out over your future and past. This is a dynamic self.

In lieu of an abstracted idealization, the self can be grounded in a trajectory or path through time and space. This trajectory is not a single point devoid of externalized features. Instead, it incorporates a path between here and there; between the here of the present state to the there of an intentional aim. The self is understood to have this unfolding dimension, which plays out and carves a path though the world. The goal of this trajectory is as important to the self as the starting point and what comes in between the two poles. For example, mental states are intentional in that they are directed toward events in time and space elsewhere. For someone going to the market, the self would be not just the body going through the motions, but the tools and environmental factors which helped along. For instance, the car, road, clothes, shopping cart, bags, lights, etc, all contribute to the self when used along this path. The aim of the path, which can be known as an attractor, is not static. Nor is the initial starting point of the path static. These points are dynamic and change overtime. One may never reach a goal completely, which would contribute to why doing the same actions create slightly different results. Because of this, the attractor is never realized and constantly shifting. The point of departure, so to speak, is also constantly moving around. This creates a path that is not frozen in space and time, but is constantly evolving over and ever shifting backdrop or landscape which is the world. In this way, the Self is the ever changing path through the world. We are this dynamic path.    

But identifying the self as a path has the apparent negative of losing a stable clear cut identify of yourself. One may also mistakenly identify with an imaginary point on this trajectory, as opposed with the ongoing process itself. Understanding the path as behavior (defined below) can clarify the idea of a trajectory in a more accurate way. Behavior is the way in which one acts in the world. The effects one produces and the relations one maintains and cultivates. Although the effects of behavior are not continually experienced (i.e. we are not able to experience the entire chain of effects we start), the self can have its parameters within experience. Consciousness is the enclosure of the self. The body is not the enclosure because one interacts with others and tools. Therefore, the self is softly assembled depending on the context we find ourselves in. It can be just our bodies, or the summation of group activities, or extended into the tools we use. Conversely, the self may shrink to include only parts of ourselves. This shifting of scale is what soft assembly refers to. Although more flexible than an abstracted static image, behavior is still distinguishable from other’s behavior. This is because intentions revolve around one’s immediate presence. It is as if conscious presence was the center of gravity which the self revolves around. Note, presence is not simply the body as it incorporates what extends from it; sound, visual cues, or movement are common examples. Therefore, the ongoing and dynamic process of behavior in the world can act as a way to understand how the self is a path through the world as opposed to a point on that path. The behavioral center of gravity is the ever-changing trajectory over the landscape of the world- the Self.

The self as behavioral center of gravity has implications for how we think of ourselves. Removing the abstracted idealization shifts perspective of the world and one’s values. Thinking of the self as inside of and somewhat alien to the world makes it so that one confronts the world. The self-image is abstracted and removed from all other content. In this way, the idealized self-image exists all on its own, contributing to this alienated concept of the self. This can’t be further from the truth. We are in continual engagement with the world and others via our behavioral path. Therefore any conception of ourselves cannot be absolutely void from anything else, especially our surrounding environment. But the traditional idea of self is just this- an isolated alien in a world indifferent to it. This dynamic conception of self remedies this by defining the self as a dynamic interplay of bodies, tools, and environments. Each one contributes to the other, we survive and thrive with tools and social knowledge we acquire from the environment. By identifying with our behavior we can better navigate the world, by recognizing the path we’re on, and not having that trajectory clouded by the static, idealized, and abstracted (pseudo)image of the self.  

The are several issues with having a static image of the self. It can create identity issues pertaining to maintaining an abstraction. By its very nature the image is not rooted in matter. This makes it difficult for the dynamic matter comprising the self to fit into the restrictive and static box of the idealization- causing stress. Another issues arises from how the static (pseudo)self-image obscures one from how the self participates in the world. Those struck with this static image find themselves believing a fantasy, whilst having no accurate view of how they are actually moving through the dynamic path which is the self. This is suboptimal as one may cause damage to others or to their real self without knowing. A further potential identity issue involves a lack of genuine improvement. Rather than changing the path one is on, the self, people may try to change their image of themselves instead- thus bringing about no tangible change in behavior. The self becomes a day dream which has little to do with behavior and a lot to do with idle thoughts. When one identifies the self with behavior, the project of self-improvement becomes a way to change how one participates in the world. But when one changes a static image of themselves, they are only changing a self-perception which becomes the day dream- furthered by confirmation bias. One last common identify issues stems from the denial of behavior and participation by promoting an alienated self-image. This is a precarious way of going through the world as one never identifies the self as within and apart of it- they only see themselves as tackling into the world.

Another implication of identifying the self with the fluid path of behavior is reorganizing what one understand to be tools for self enhancement. Some of these tools has been demonized in our society for over a century. These tools are the most powerful modifiers of behavior known. With that power comes a high level of responsibility. This latter aspect is lost on some who use these tools. Just like any instrument, one must learn how to use it properly. But what are these tools, and what gives them such high potential for behavior?      

Why drugs are great and essential for human potential and sovereignty. 

If we are behavior, then what ever can change and control behavior the most efficaciously is of utmost importance to us. But what can alter behavior reliably? Psychoactive drugs are capable of this task. These are substances which alter mood, in addition to behavior. There are several legal ones like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol to name a few. Others are illegal. The history behind the drug prohibition is steeped in xenophobia, not health and life outcomes. The bottom line is this: each drug has some potential to either enhance experience or release pain. Sometimes both at once. It is up to us to maximize the target effects and minimize the undesired effects. Prohibition will not accomplish this. Only legal regulation will.    

Having adequate access to effective psychoactive gives one more control over their behavior. The power to alter one’s behavior is a right. With this power comes complete sovereignty over the self. But yielding any power comes with the responsibility of knowing how to act properly. Prohibition stifles this process of necessary education. Behavioral sovereignty is as important as intellectual and economic sovereignty. It is the basis of individual liberty. The attainment of liberty via behavioral sovereignty is the process of maturity. One’s self though life gains more and more sovereignty via the tools and social systems we utilize.  

The self is really a meta-self when we have full sovereignty. This is because the self alters its own trajectory. We are cannot be meta-selves if we do not have full control over our behavior. Until one does attain behavioral sovereignty, they are the self of someone else’s trajectory- they’re like a tool in this regard.

The path of maturity is sovereignty of body/mind. Drugs facilitate this by allowing one to exercise more control over their behavior. Abuse can happen with anything. The thriving of a dynamic meta-self must hinge on personal responsibility leading to behavioral sovereignty.