Accepting All Synaptic Shapes, Sizes, & Selves

I am my synapses.

I am my synapses.

I am my synapses.

If I were to only take one thing from this class, LeDoux has forever engrained in my brain the idea that we are who we are because of our synapses. Every impulse, emotion, desire, motivation, and memory can essentially be traced back to synaptic transmission.

In his last chapter “Who Are You?” LeDoux states, “If the mental trilogy breaks down, the self is likely to begin to disintegrate and mental health to deteriorate.” Initially reading this, I immediately associate words like deteriorate and disintegrate with negative implications. A lot of the time, as LeDoux goes on to describe, mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, or depression are the result of an unbalanced mental trilogy, but the changes in an individual’s personality or self that come from them shouldn’t necessarily be considered a mental hindrance. NY Times did a feature on a man living with schizophrenia who embraces his mental illness as a positive in his life claiming that the experience has changed and humbled him for the better.

A recent article in TIME posed the question, “Do psychotic symptoms like hallucinations have meaning, or are they just the products of a broken brain that misfires neurons?” The term “broken brain” bothers me in this context. Being that we are our synapses, I don’t like to think of people with schizophrenia or anxiety as broken. Instead, I am very intrigued by the way the schizophrenic man in the NY times embraced his changed personality by accepting the way his synapses were firing and using it to support a strong, purposeful personality. While he claims to have visions of God and Jesus, he fosters his unique experiences into making tangible changes in his community. Mental differences have a lot of research potential, but I feel as if it all shouldn’t be focused in a negative way trying to figure out what is wrong. In the present, mental illnesses are a part of an individual’s self and it doesn’t appear that any miracle regulators are on the brink so instead we need to focus on better adapting their lives to embrace the way their brain is responding to the outside world. I’m definitely a believer in using medications when the situation is appropriately assessed and demands for them, but I see things such as cognitive behavior therapy as critical to the near future.

Getting lost in my thoughts, I suppose I just wanted to stress the importance of embracing the self. We all have our own talents, quirks, and flaws based on our own synaptic connections, but whether they are ideal or not they make us who we are so we might as well find the hidden benefits underneath the burdens.

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4 thoughts on “Accepting All Synaptic Shapes, Sizes, & Selves

  1. Jess, I totally and completely agree. It’s obviously imperative to understand the deficits that result from mental disorders but I think that sometimes diseases can and should be used as learning experiences (i.e. what can I learn from having X disease).

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  2. I agree, I am definitely not on board with how society over-medicates everyone for every little thing (sometimes I feel like the ONLY one who doesn’t take cold medicine). That said, if we could develop a better way of determining the threshold for which someone needs to be medicated for a mental disorder, I would probably be much less skeptical of diagnoses and their treatments.

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  3. Jess, I also agree with you. First, the TIME comment about “broken brains” bothered me too. It’s not that their brains are broken, it’s just that there is something different. Also, I think your comment about “mental illnesses being a part of an individual’s self” is interesting and I agree with it, but I don’t think society does. In my opinion, people are medicated to create an ideal self. Like you said, we need to embrace mental illnesses, and as Reesa mentioned, it should be a learning experience.

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  4. I completely agree with you, Taylor. Unfortunately, I don’t think that (most) people will accept their imperfect selves until society deems it okay.

    It’s especially interesting because I feel like my most challenging situations are what have allowed me to define myself because of the amount that I have learned or grown from experiencing them.

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