Monday, September 17, 2007

Thoughts on the Individual and Equillibrium

"In disorders of excess there may be a sort of collusion, in which the self is more and more alligned and identified with its sickness, so that finally it seems to lose all independent existence, and be nothing but a product of sickness." (91 Sacks)

"My notion of personality is pretty simple: it's that your "self", the essence of who you are, reflects patterns of interconnectivity between neurons in your brain." (2 Synaptic Self)

After being diagnosed a year ago with ADHD, and especially after experimenting with stimulant drugs as treatment, I have often wondered where the line can be drawn between me and my "deficit". Like Witty Ticky Ray, I became used to defining myself by my condition, with its pros and cons, as someone that deftly connects trains of thoughts to the extent that an inner world is created. Like Ray, I often wonder which is the real me, the Adderall me or the ADHD me, feeling "forced into levity" and "forced into gravity" and truly forced into every state of being I find myself in, unable to find a true balance.

I agree with Sacks that DSM-IV hasnt got the whole picture in its computeristic classification of neurological conditions. By its determination, there are people with "normal" brains and people with "abnormal" brains, implying that the abnormal brains could, in theory, be "fixed", and that they are incapable of fixing themselves. Sacks disagrees with this inflexible categorization, and yet he continues to try and force the idea of a "soul" onto an individual, believing that once enough damage is done to certain parts of the brain this "soul" is lost. He suggests this with characters who he is unable to relate to, such as in "A Matter of Identity", and only retracts this idea once he can find some deeper level to connect with them on. And yet... isnt the superficiality shown by the man in that story a very human defense mechanism? I certainly know many individuals who act like he did on a normal basis. As we have seen, people with neurological disorders often find other senses, or defenses, heightened as the brain struggles to find an equillibrium. And the Brain Science chapter on confabulation suggests that even normal people have similar overcompensational responses, because the main function of the brain is not only to process information but to link this information together in a way that is coherent.

Therefore, havent all the patients we have read about had brains that, in fact, are still functioning with the primary goal that they are meant to? Although the certain information processers are broken, the brain struggles to compensate for them in order to preserve a centralized "identity" and coherent understanding of the world. Isnt this what makes us human?

Clearly, there is this internal struggle within ALL individuals, as is shown through our art and literature, yet in those with neurological disorders it is more difficult and pronounced. This is why I was offended by Sack's initial instincts to dehumanize, or de"Humean"ize, his patients. (Although, of course, the point of these stories is to help the reader connect with the individual.) More and more these readings are convincing me that there is no "normal" brain that has a clear understanding of the word and a clear identity. The struggle to create and preserve identity through the connection of information is inherently human because of the way our brains work, and it is the connection that we can claim to all of Sack's patients.


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