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The Self Delusion
The New Neuroscience of How We Invent—and Reinvent—Our Identities
A New York Times–bestselling author reveals how the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, are critical to our lives
We all know we tell stories about ourselves. But as psychiatrist and neuroscientist Gregory Berns argues in The Self Delusion, we don’t just tell stories; we are the stories. Our self-identities are fleeting phenomena, continually reborn as our conscious minds receive, filter, or act on incoming information from the world and our memories.
Drawing on new research in neuroscience, social science, and psychiatry, Berns shows how our stories and our self-identities are temporary and therefore ever changing. Berns shows how we can embrace the delusion of a singular self to make our lives better, offering a plan not centered on what we think will be best for us, but predicated on minimizing regrets. Enlightening, empowering, and surprising, The Self Delusion shows us how to be the protagonist of the stories we want to tell.
“Although the nature of the ‘self’ has been a gnarly philosophical puzzle for eons, recent developments in the brain sciences have begun to reveal what is actually happening. Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist as well as a psychiatrist and master storyteller, connects our lived experiences to brain facts with an uncanny knack for clarity, accuracy, and joyfulness. Me, myself, and I—we all consumed this book like it was peaches and cream.”—Patricia Churchland, University of California, San Diego
“A beautifully written account of insights from many fields, including storytelling and what Berns has gleaned from brain imaging as a neuroscientist. The Self Delusion confirms what John Donne said: ‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.’ We can only understand ourselves as part of something much greater than we realize.”—Julian Barbour, author of The End of Time
“A wonderfully creative book. Drawing on both cutting-edge cognitive psychology and the science of storytelling, Berns makes a compelling case that ‘we’ are constructed from fleeting perceptions and narratives—and shows us how we can harness this machinery to reinvent who we are.”—Stephen Fleming, University College, London