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From Neurons to Self by R. Llinás

The brain is a virtual reality machine.

Consider that the waking state is a dreamlike state (in the same sense that dreaming is a wakelike state) guided and shaped by the senses, whereas regular dreaming does not involve the senses at all. [That is, the things we see and hear, etc. in dreams, are not actually present to our senses. Our eyes and ears are not perceiving them. Blind men dream visions, the legless, that they are running. R. Kurtz] 


Although the brain may use the senses to take in the richness of the world, it is not limited by those senses; it is capable of doing what it does with­out any sensory input whatsoever. The nature of the brain and what it does makes the nervous system a very different type of entity from the rest of the universe.  It is, as stated repeatedly, a reality emulator…. 

Comforting or disturbing, the fact is that we are basically dreaming machines that construct virtual models of the real world. It is probably as much as we can do with only one and a half pounds of mass and a “dim” power consumption of 14 watts.


Ron Kurtz:  We are dreaming machines and these beliefs are who we're dreaming ourselves to be. Clients, in the most important moments of their therapeutic work, discover who they’re dreaming themselves to be and the world they’ve been dreaming they’re living in. They are surprised to discover that these dreams can be revised. 

The work we do helps people change their implicit (unconscious) realities. Of course, once they’re conscious, they’re no longer implicit.  And being conscious, they can be challenged and re-decided.  

A person’s reality, which in each unconscious moment seems the very ground he’s standing on, turns out to be only a platform and not the true, good earth. Such discoveries set the mind spin­ning. Integration is the process whereby the spinning subsides and we’re standing firmly on new ground.


So, we can ask about our clients, “What are their implicit realities?”  

            “What worlds are they living in? And, who are they in those worlds?” 


My central thesis is that human personality resides in two places: in the adaptive unconscious and in the conscious interpretations of the self.  The adaptive unconscious meets the definition of personality. It has distinctive, characteristic ways of interpreting the social environment and stable motives that guide people’s behavior…

These dispositions and motives are measurable with indirect techniques (i.e., not by self-report questionnaires).  

They are rooted in early childhood, and are in part genetically determined…

But the conscious self also meets the definition.  Because people have no direct access to their nonconscious dispositions and motives, they must construct a conscious self from other sources.  The constructed self consists of life stories, possible selves, explicit motives, self-theories, and beliefs about one’s feelings and behaviors. Oddly, these two selves appear to be relatively independent.  There is increasing evidence that people’s constructed self bears little correspondence to the nonconscious self.


You can see why questions aren’t the way to get to the unconscious.  Ask a question, you’re going to get a “constructed” answer.

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