What if there was no I?
No I? You want to remove the letter I from the alphabet?
No. I’m asking, what if there was no “me”?
If there was no you, then there would be no one asking these silly questions.
What would it mean if there was no “I” to suffer depression or have anxiety attacks?
Where the hell do you come up with these ideas?
Indeed! Where do all these questions come from?
That’s… that’s what I was asking you.
We know that there is a brain locked away in my skull that weighs about three pounds. And somewhere “inside” that three pounds of brain there is thinking going on.
Thinking inside the brain. Got it.
This thinking reminds me to eat. Alerts me when there is danger or if I’m hurt.
It also reminds you to be depressed about your life, or that you should have an anxiety attack while driving down the interstate after the third car cuts you off.
That too. But all this thinking gives me ideas for articles. And how do new ideas seemingly pop out of existence into this three-pound brain locked in my skull?
I have absolutely no clue.
No one does! It’s as if thoughts somehow fall into existence, like they tumble out of a great void just beneath the surface of things.
I certainly don’t want depressive thoughts tumbling out into my mind.
But don’t take any of this too seriously. How could we ever know where thoughts come from? How could we ever prove that there is a thinker behind the thinking?
You’re putting way too much thought into this article.
Exactly! It’s just a fun thought experiment, trying to imagine me without the thinker thinking of me. Like staring into the mirror late at night and wondering “who” that person is staring back at me.
I prefer to just glance at myself in the mirror as I brush my teeth and then go to bed without falling into an existential crisis.
It’s fun to think about how memories contribute to this sense of I, a self that is sliding through time like a mirror reflecting back everything that passes before it.
Sounds about right.
But what if there is no mirror reflecting anything?
I… I can’t do this. You’re hurting my three pounds of brain.
Think of how I have described depression. How have I written about it?
You’ve called it a monster. A chimera clawing away at your sanity.
The images help me picture depression and guide me to make decisions on how to move forward. Same thing with this thought experiment. How can I work through depression if there is no I?
There is pain, and emptiness felt in the chest, right? Can we at least say that?
So, even with this thought experiment, depression is still happening.
Then why the f*ck waste your time with these tangles of thought?
Partly because I stop questioning myself so much when I get depressed. Do I have enough coping skills? Did I meditate correctly? Did I meditate enough?
And these questions can sometimes make things worse.
Something like that. I don’t work all the time trying to understand where the depression is coming from, or how to keep depression from occurring. When I get that emptiness in my chest, I just focus on taking care of myself while it’s happening.
This means the dueling in the title of your article is an illusion, because there is no I doing the dueling.
All the more reason not to take this too seriously.
I just run with the idea and see where it takes me. And on some days, working through this thought experiment, I find some catharsis amid the chaos that is this three pounds of brain locked in my skull.
Where there is no I.