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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Self-awareness is the explicit understanding that one exists. Furthermore, it includes the concept that one exists as an individual, separate from other people, with private thoughts. It may also include the understanding that other people are similarly self-aware. Self-awareness remains a critical mystery in philosophy, psychology, biology, and artificial intelligence.
Self-consciousness is credited with the development of identity (see the self). In an epistemological sense, self-consciousness is a personal understanding of the very core of one's own identity. It is during periods of self-consciousness that people come the closest to knowing themselves objectively. Jean Paul Sartre describes self-consciousness as being "non-positional", in that it is not from any location in particular.
Self-consciousness plays a large role in behavior, as it is common to act differently when people "lose one's self in a crowd". It is the basis for human traits, such as accountability and conscientiousness. Self-consciousness affects people in varying degrees, as some people self-monitor (or scrutinize) themselves more than others. Different cultures vary in the importance they place on self-consciousness.

Self-awareness contrasted with self-consciousness
Human self-awareness leads us to recognize three core features of the human condition:
Consciousness and self-awareness are poorly understood. Self-awareness is a unique type of consciousness in that it is not always present, and is not sought after. Meditation or repetitive tasks, as well as some schools of thought in art theory and existentialism seek to reduce self-consciousness, and even self-awareness, at least temporarily.
The ability to self-analyze (or scrutinize) is widely believed among psychologists not to develop until mid-childhood, and arguably is present in only a few species of animals . Tests that are usually considered as representative of self-consciousness include applying a bright dot to a subject's forehead, and then placing them in front of a mirror — if they reach for their own forehead, it appears they may realize their own existence in a self-aware sense. Great apes, dolphins and elephants can pass this test. However, others criticize this test as testing only the understanding of the duplicability of image, and not especially meaningful as a way of gauging self-consciousness.
Suffering in Zen Buddhist philosophy is caused by attaching firmly to the narrow conception of an unchanging self in a vast impermanent setting. Once one is aware of this shackle, one can begin to understand the self from a more objective perspective.
The philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach's theory of religion was based upon projection deriving from a Hegelian sense of self consciousness.

The human imagination has no physical boundaries, but our bodies do. In our minds, we can instantly travel to the ends of the universe, the center of the earth, even the center of the sun. We can use our mental microscope to visualize germs, viruses, atoms, quarks. As soon as we detect something with any instrument, we can make images of it in our minds. We travel effortlessly in our thoughts. The boundless production of fiction literature is evidence of the creative powers of the human imagination. Yet physically we are bound to one specific, small planet, and due to the speed limit of the universe (speed of light), it appears that we are bound to a small neighborhood around this planet for the foreseeable future. This paradox is the physical frustration of the human condition.
Human spirits can motivate the noblest and holiest thoughts, the most altruistic actions, the most beneficial generosities. But they can also produce the most horrible cruelties and violence against countless people, including suicide of the perpetrators. Our will effortlessly moves our thoughts one way and then another, untamed by moral law or conscience. Leaders can sway whole populations to do things -- benevolent or malevolent -- that individuals would never, on their own, have contemplated. How can these two extremes coexist in the same individual? We don't observe such extremes in other animals. They are exclusive to the human condition.
Human actions and our very lives are motivated by hope -- that we can make a difference, that we can learn and grow and build and make things better. Yet physically speaking we know that we are mortal, we are made of dust, and we will return to dust. Despite this realization, hope springs eternal. Without hope, as Albert Camus said, the only serious philosophical question is why we should not commit suicide. Hope gets us up in the morning, and drives us forward every day. Aspirations -- for hope, meaning, significance, purpose, identity, peace, happiness, beauty, love -- are all aspects of human spirituality. Self aware Self-awareness
The term self conscious has a different meaning in colloquial use, namely a person who is worried or apprehensive how they may appear to others. It is widely believed that this trait is most present during the teenage years.
When one is feeling self-conscious, one can feel too aware of even the smallest of one's own actions. Such awareness can impair one's ability to perform complex actions. For example, a piano player may "choke", lose confidence, and even lose the ability to perform when they notice the audience. As self-consciousness fades one may regain the ability to focus. (See The Look)
A person who is especially prone to self-consciousness may be labeled shy or introverted. Work has been done in the area of flow psychology – attempts to escape self-consciousness. Buddhism, as well as some schools of thought in art theory and existentialism also aim to reduce self-consciousness, at least temporarily.
Unlike self-awareness, self-consciousness has connotations of being unpleasant, and is often linked to self-esteem. Self-consciousness is credited with the development of identity, because it is during periods of self-consciousness that people come the closest to knowing themselves objectively. Self-consciousness plays a large role in behavior, as it is common to act differently when people "lose themselves in a crowd". Self-consciousness affects people in varying degrees, as some people are in constant self-monitoring, while others are completely oblivious about themselves.

The basis of personal identity
A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment by Ilan Goldberg et al. (April 19, 2006) in Neuron (vol 50, p 329) has demonstrated the functional separation of sensory processing and self-awareness. Self-awareness appears to be processed in the superior frontal gyrus.

Self-awareness in theater

Cartesian theater
Feldenkrais Method
Memory suppression
Yoga Nidra

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