It’s easy to get caught up in constructing our selves, but what does it cost us?

Western psychology holds that humans are not born with a sense of self, but rather that the self is constructed over time, gradually emerging within the first two years of life. Further, much scientific research says that everything that exists in human awareness – sight, sound, even time itself – is all a construction of the mind. So what are the pitfalls of treating these constructs as objective truths? According to Mahāmudrā Buddhist teaching, explored here by the clinical psychologist Daniel Brown at Harvard University, the more enamoured we are of our selves, the more fixed we are in our own ‘realities’, limiting the possibilities of our awareness. Playing with these reflections on the self and awareness, the San Francisco-based animator Claudia Biçen uses a series of ink-and-pencil portraits of Brown to bring him into being and then let him disappear.

Video by Claudia Biçen

Support Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

Essay/History of Ideas

The African Enlightenment

The highest ideals of Locke, Hume and Kant were first proposed more than a century earlier by an Ethiopian in a cave

Dag Herbjørnsrud

Idea/Metaphysics

Why you need to touch your keys to believe they’re in your bag

Ophelia Deroy

Video/History of Ideas

The deeply held religious convictions that kickstarted capitalism

2 minutes

Essay/Ethics

The ethics of ET

The discovery of independent life beyond Earth would have deep philosophical implications for us, and our ideas of morality

Tim Mulgan

Idea/History of Ideas

Why philosophers should hang out at the humanists’ parties

Charlie Huenemann

Video/Philosophy of Religion

Why Confucius believed that honouring your ancestors is central to social harmony

2 minutes