Awareness: Much More Than We Think


It’s easy to assume our choices are based on what we think. “I am thirsty” we

Rendering of human brain.

think, and go get a drink. Our conclusion; we do what we think. Not so fast! While words are part of the story of human awareness, it’s only part of the story. In fact, just because we’re able to string a few sentences together doesn’t mean these ideas have anything to do with self-awareness, much less an accurate and comprehensive view of who we are. As we begin to peer deeper into our overall state of awareness we begin to see a much different picture. One way to see this deeper vision of ourselves is to explore the work of Édouard Claparède, a Swiss neurologist and child psychologist.[1]

Over a hundred years ago Claparède happened to be treating a patient with amnesia. Because of brain damage, she was unable to remember anything longer than 15 minutes. During one of their daily and sometimes multi-daily introductions, Claparede hid a tack in his palm and pricked the patient when they shook hands. The patient of course “forgot” the incident, but the next time they met, she refused to shake Claparede’s hand. When asked about it she couldn’t explain why even though, to her, this was the first time they ever met.

As human beings we tend to focus on verbal understanding as the primary form of memory and all other aspects seem more or less as support systems for this verbal memory. Words can be very seductive. We define our self-identity using words. It’s easy to miss that much of our memory and the motivations for our actions are outside the field of vision of our verbal state of awareness. Our awareness is composed of so much more than words. There are many different memory systems at work even within the normal human brain and awareness extends past the brain alone. One extra brain, complete with its own nervous system, is our stomach, called the “gut brain”. It is often in bidirectional communication with our “other brain”, but it can be thought of as a separate individual.[2] This brief glimpse into just how deep and far flung our overall state of awareness is can tell us that real self-awareness in verbal terms, begins with understanding that many of the most commonly held beliefs that so powerfully steer our lives are never put into words, not even to our self.


[1] For more information on this read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89douard_Clapar%C3%A8de

[2] For more information on this read the article in Psychology Today http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199905/our-second-brain-the-stomach

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