Self and its Tools

Alexander Liss

06/21/98; 12/06/99

Basic Control *

Basic Actor *

Control of Basic Actor *

"Background" Communication *

Model *

Image of the Body *

Models of the Physical World *

Models of the Society *

Hooks of Images *

Body Stream *

External Stream *

Combined Effect *

Consequences *

Emotions, Thoughts and Feelings *

Emotions *

Thoughts *

Feelings *

Intertwined Phenomena *

Consciousness *

Work with the Model *

Small Area *

Self *

Self-consciousness *

Hidden Reality *

Infinite Self *



Who am I and how am I functioning? This is one of the most basic questions one can ask. The very way we organize our lives depends on the answer on this question. If the people do not ask this question explicitly, they have some implicit dialog, which determines the answer.

We bring here a system of concepts, which allows the coherent description of the Self of social human being and its Tools. Some concepts are similar to known concepts others are new. Especially important is our view of the human being inseparable from the society. All our definitions assume the presence of social side of human being.

We start the description of Self from the most basic point. This most basic point is the existence without logical organization of the thought and behavior, without restrains on activity. It is something close to the primitive biological forms.


Basic Control

The concept of Self is interrelated with the concept of Control. The control, exercised by Self, can be described in different ways. We have chosen one particular way of description, which makes it obvious that a state of sleeping is the state, where Self is present.


Basic Actor

We start with the concept of the state of Basic Actor. This most basic state is a state of perpetual movement. We observe it in primitive life forms. We rarely observe this state in developed creatures, but it is a good abstract concept, from which we can describe other states.

Cases, when something like that state actually happens, bring some insight into it. Sleepwalkers seem to be in the state close to this abstract state. People in this state often exhibit the ability to orient themselves and avoid obvious dangers, they exhibit an enormous physical strength and their mind is full of powerful images. The ability to act successfully and with the great strength is not so surprising, if we recall our own experiences of extreme situations, where our self-consciousness is temporarily turned off. Images are no surprise also - we have lots of those in our ordinary sleep.

In the state of Basic Actor the decisions are made based on direct experimentation, when each action is done in small increments, the consequences of the increment are "analyzed" and the action is corrected.

Control of Basic Actor

The control processes in the body are streams of signals shaped by the wiring. This is different from artificial control systems, when signals are sent only when they are needed. Hence, the normal state of the body is perpetual motion shaped by motion patterns. This motion is suspended only when contradicting control processes collide.

This collision can be on the low level of control system. For example, two types of muscles, which move the limb in opposite direction, are contracted with the equal strength.

It can be on the higher level. For example, two streams of signals cancel each other before they reach muscles.

A control system produces a canceling stream of signals for each stream of automatic control signals. This canceling stream of signals is controllable with the higher degree than one, which it cancels. It is possible to change it easier and faster.

When there is a need to activate the movement, it is enough to suppress the canceling stream of signals. Hence, the entire system becomes more controllable. This control comes with the price - the perpetual production of canceling streams of signals.

From this point of view, sleeping is the controlled state, because the body is substantially immobilized in the sleep. The disruptions of the sleep as sleepwalking or an erratic movement in the bed are signs of the weakening of the control.


"Background" Communication

There is an important Communication, which goes between people beyond the consciousness. Some people can be so sensitive to this Communication that they can "read" other people. Others are oblivious to the rules of this Communication or came from the different social environment, as new immigrants for example, and they miss important "clues", which majority understands well.

The degree of importance of this "Background" Communication we can guess from the degree of development of the tools of facial expressions, degree of mutual understanding of each other from the movements of the bodies, etc.

We can see that animals, especially collective animals, employ similar Communication.

Kids actively learn the language of this "Background" Communication. This language is basically the same for all people, but it has some features, which differ from one social group to the other. The frequent communication and mass media produce a common language of this Communication.

"Background" Communication is universally accepted as an important basic phenomenon. Interruptions of this Communication are universally perceived as something unnatural and damaging.

Kids need and demand this Communication in a high degree. It is important for their development that loving, protective parents and other caregivers give it to them. Solitary incarceration, when the person is deprived of this Communication, is perceived as a hard punishment. "Hold-back" people, who do not participate in the "Background", Communication, are treated by others with a disappointment and suspicion. One of the reasons for such treatment is the fact that the lack of the usual stream of information increases uncertainty and this makes people uncomfortable.

Deceptive people learn to lie through deceptive "Background" Communication. When the lie is uncovered, the reaction of deceived persons is disproportionately strong. The reason - deceptive people violate the vary basics of the human existence as social being with the perpetual exchange of vital information.

It is interesting, that image creation with dress and makeup is acceptable, because it is used not to deceive but to pass a message.

The way we dress, walk, talk and gesticulate are elements of the language of this "Background" Communication. Its language is stable enough. Teenagers experiment with it, usually unsuccessfully. However, some people, groups and movements are able to affect it, and this is a serious achievement.


We know that Basic Actor functions based on perpetual experimentation - small experiment, analysis of outcome, proceed if positive, step back if negative.

When the actions are done in the process of perpetual experimentation, it is beneficial to have a model of the area, where experimentation is going on, and precede the actual experimentation with experimentation on the model. This approach allows for far more effective decision-making, if experimentation with the model is inexpensive and fast.

We have such Model. This Model is very important to us and we make special efforts to maintain it, for example, we perpetually run experiments only to keep the Model up to date. Because we are social creatures we have the Model of our society as a part of this Model - this is a detail often missed in the description of this model.

We can observe kids creating this Model in their games.

This Model is hardwired in the brain. If the brain is plastic (can change its wiring), then the Model is corrected often. Young have more plastic brain, old - less, as if in the old age many images the brain uses are stable already and do not need substantial correction.

This Model has a few distinctive parts - special systems of images:


Image of the Body

Our mind has a distinctive Image of the Body - this allows an effective control of it, each potential decision, which requires the action of the Body, is played through this image first. This Image is perpetually updated with the signals from the body and from the analysis of the results of the decisions of the mind. This structure of the mind is well known and mapped in the brain.


Models of the Physical World

Similar to the Image of own Body the mind creates the Image of the surrounding world. This Image is perpetually updated based on the stream of sensory information. The higher level Images of this class are based on perpetual personal experimentation.

Models of the Society

Similar to the perpetual stream of the sensory information related to external world we have a perpetual stream of information from the "background" communication. This stream is a supportive phenomenon for the perpetually updated Model of the Society, mostly immediate one - social roles, the web of interrelations of different roles of different people, rules of behavior, etc. Perpetual social experimentation allows building of higher level images of this class in this model.


Hooks of Images

The Images of the Model are associated with the patterns of the stream of sensory information. Each possible pattern is a potential hook for the Image. The Image is refreshed, when its pattern occurs again. Cut the brain from sensory information and the Model will weaken without refreshment. The amount of patterns is enormous; hence, the amount of potential Images and ability to retain them (memory) is huge.

However, only patterns, which occur relatively often, can serve as hooks. The amount and structure of usable hooks is an important characteristic of the mind's abilities.


Body Stream

The stream of bodily sensory information is the most permanent and stable. This stream is the basis of the entire system of images. Some patterns of this stream are captured with the neurons of the brain - the Model. Now the body can play out the potential decision about itself in the Model and try to implement only decisions, which passed through the Model test.

The body system, which includes the Image of the Body, acts differently, than the body without such Image. It has different patterns of the stream of sensory information. It excludes "dead end" experimentation and initiates more frequently the sensory streams, which would be very rare in the environment of random experimentation. Hence, the body with the Image of the Body has a more rich set of patterns of stream of sensory information, which can be used as hooks for images.

This effect is counterintuitive and extremely important. The developed set of Images expands the set of Hooks for Images, instead of using it up.

This is possible only because the Model is in the process of perpetual correction to correspond better to patterns of the stream of sensory information.


External Stream

The next layer of Images - Images of the external word and Images of the society, is inevitably shaped by the Images of the Body. This expansion of the initial set of Images of the Body corresponds to patterns of sensory information related to external world and society.

Again, these images are used by the mind to organize actions through the experimentation with the Model. As a result, the otherwise needed "noisy" experimentation goes away, and patterns of sensory information stream, which otherwise would be rare, become frequent.

Again, the set of potential Hooks for Images expands, and the cause of this "unexpected" expansion is perpetual correction of the Model to correspond to patterns of the stream of sensory information.


Combined Effect

For the process of expansion of potential Hooks for Images, it is extremely important that Images correspond to patterns of the stream of sensory information. This is achieved with perpetual correction of the system of Images. In the moment the correction stops and this close relationship is broken, the mind needs to resort to more random experimentation with real actions instead of experimentation with the Model, and the set of patterns-hooks deteriorates, possibly loosing some of existing images. It manifests itself in the loss of memory.

The natural relationship between different Images is relationship between corresponding patterns of the stream of sensory information. This is not logical relationship, as one could expect. Hence, memory has little to do with logic.



The practical consequences of these phenomena follow.

Deep concepts are expressed usually in the terms of the human body, as it is done in religious teachings.

If one wants to shape the basic perception of the person, then one has to embed in the person Images, which rely only on the basic Images, mostly Images of the own body. This is used by all masters of brainwashing.

The importance of the Images of the Body for the building the entire conceptual structure of the human mind means, that if we ever meet sentient life forms, which have bodies different from ours, we could have difficult time understanding each other.

This is not so far fetched as it sounds. To be able to control computerized systems, which collect information about their environment and make independent decisions, we have to understand them. The more different they are from us the more difficult it is to control them. These systems exist already in communication, distribution of electricity, weapons control, etc.


Emotions, Thoughts and Feelings

Our mind manifests itself in the Emotions, Thoughts and Feelings.



When the work with the Model is not enough, the mind deploys actual actions of the body in small degree. This is Emotion - the actual motion of the body.

Each Emotion starts with the Thought. This start-up period is brief, but this is exactly the period, when Emotion can be easily controlled.

One of traditional methods of such control is recommended by yoga. One have to have a ready Thought, which is an Emotion initiator, and when an undesirable Thought comes to the attention, one switches it to the prepared one.

One should not use this too often, because Emotions are tools of the exploration deployed by the mind.



Thoughts are processes of the mind working with the Model. Thoughts are fast. However, they do not exist in isolation, as the use of lie detector can attest. Each Thought provokes the Emotion, if subtle one.

These Emotions are built into the mind's "protocol" of self-check procedures, which allow perpetual refreshment of the model. Verbal Thoughts are accompanied by the slight movement of the speech mechanism (this can cause problems, when one eats); other Thoughts cause slight muscles contraction in different parts of the body (this can cause stumbling, etc.), or hormonal reactions, etc.

This is a source of psychosomatic effects - strong Thoughts can cause strong reactions of the body.



We use the word Feelings in the narrow sense. We associate Feelings with the stable patterns of the thoughts and emotions. Their stability brings the impression of something external causing it. This is not always true.

Sometimes new images brought into the Model make the original pattern-feeling unstable - the feeling fades away. Hence, the original feeling, while stable, had no roots in external world.

Nevertheless, feelings are important tools of mind.

Feelings stimulate the mindís explorations substantially beyond the limitation of the mindís perception of the world and itself. Often Feelings lead to substantial change of the ones Model. If as the result of such change of the Model the Feeling does not fade away, then this is a sign that the mind is on the way of the discovery of the new pattern. New pattern means richer system of hooks for images, means faster thought process.

Sometimes the Feelings can lead to actions with serious consequences. The reasonable person lets the correction of the Model brought by the Feelings to stabilize first, and acts only after, relying on the new corrected Model.

If the Feeling occurs many times, it becomes stable, and the mind uses it like an Emotion for perpetual routine exploration.

An Emotion is a stable process, because of the controlling internal structure. The Feeling can become a stable process, because of the combination of internal and external circumstances, which makes some combination of Thoughts and Emotions stable, without dedicated structure.


Intertwined Phenomena

As we can see, there are no separate phenomena of Thoughts, Emotions and Feelings. Thoughts work mainly with the Model, but when the Thought touches some image in it the Model, the mind runs "self-check" and produces weak motion in the Body. When the Model is not adequate, the special Thought initiates the strong motion-exploration of the Body, which helps in the correction of the Model. Both processes are ubiquitous.

However, their self-analysis is difficult - Thoughts and Emotions of analysis interfere with analyzed ones.




Work with the Model

The Consciousness manifests itself in:

Experimentation with the Model precedes any decision, which involves the action of the body (with perpetual "check-ups" - emotions).

The improvement and reorganization of the Model is an independent thought process, which touches different images in the Model in the search of new patterns and outdated images.

It is easy to explain why Conscious beings need sleep. It conserves energy and dedicates time to the important work of the improvement and reorganization of the Model.

While experimentation is the very basic nature of the beings, the experimentation of the Consciousness, which involves actions, is more focused - the experiments are set to improve the Model; they are not random anymore.


Small Area

The Consciousness is as a flashlight, which illuminates only a small part of area of our existence, but the part, where we act, and hence very important from the point of view of decision-making.

It is obvious that the area, which is not illuminated by the Consciousness, constitutes substantially larger part of processes, which we might want to identify as part of us, as breathing, digesting, etc.



With all this analysis, Who am I? Is the concept of Self only the illusion, or there is something, which cannot be reduced to the body, mind, thoughts, emotions and feelings? There are signs that there is something beyond that.



We, people, pay attention to the model of Self, to perpetual monitoring and control of what we perceive currently as Self. This creates a special activity of the mind - Self-consciousness.

Self-consciousness faces quite a few problems. It has to avoid the infinite chains of self-reflection - I think, that I think, that I think, etc. It has to cope with infinite nature of Self, while it has only finite set of finite tools. As a result, it relies heavily on our perception of time and space, which bring some convenient encapsulation of infinity. One perceives oneself as fairly localized and separate entity in space and moving in time. This image is developed further, when one understands the complexity of self and incorporates into the image emotions, thoughts, etc.

All this works quite nicely until one reaches the maturity and enters the process of discovery of Self.

This discovery goes through stages. On each stage we discover that something we perceived as Self is not Self, but the environment and tools of Self. We discover this about our body, our emotions, our thoughts, our feelings, Ö etc.

Each discovery is an enormous shock, because we base our ability to create the image of Self on the ability to see the invariant in time, the invariant, which is our essence. The discovery of this kind shows us that we did not see that invariant properly before, and it is possible we do not see it now. This is the other problem Self-consciousness, with which an adult has to cope.


Hidden Reality

The perception of Self brings us a hint of Reality, which is very important, but which usually is beyond the are illuminated by consciousness.

Even superficial analysis shows that there are things, which we do not know how to qualify - are they a part of us, or they are outside of us - as bacteria in our digestive tract or our family.

The more we think about these subjects the fuzzier are boundaries between I and not I. It is obvious that simple concepts of separation, similar to separation of physical objects, are not adequate for description of this phenomena. We have to use concepts as reflection, etc.

For example, we can say that our parents or our children are reflected in us. We have some basic understanding what it means. This is not something connected to us, but something that is a part of us, but not in a sense of physical inclusion.

Thus my family, my community, my nation, the humanity, the biosphere, the Earth, the Solar system, and so on, all this is presented in what I perceive as Self.


Infinite Self

The very fact that we can grasp concepts of infinity, as time, space and some religious concepts, points to some infinite nature of Self. This is encouraging - if Self is infinite it can be explored without any fear to destroy it. The only thing we can do with this exploration is to peel layer upon layer of knowledge without diminishing the mystery of Self.