Grace Murray: When are we not truly ourselves

"That wasn't me; I wasn't myself; I don't know what came over me." Have you heard any of these phrases used? Have you used any of them yourself?

We, as a society, use these phrases as excuses or reasons for unexpected and undesirable behavior. We all know that people may do strange things when not themselves, but the question I've begun to ask is this; when are we not truly ourselves?

I've heard from many people that drugs, alcohol, extreme emotional situations and medical ailments can all influence people to do things that are against their nature. I have no doubt there is truth to what they say, but so many of us assume that we are different people when we do things that are against our nature. But are we?

Take for instance, a dangerous recessive gene. This gene is embedded in the DNA, and therefore is a part of the whole, even when not plainly seen. I believe that there are details in our psyche that are much different than our regular disposition. These details, when exhibited, may be decried as a difference of person.

Psychological effects from medicine, alcohol, or drugs are passed off as chemical imbalances. But our brains are made of chemicals, so when does an aberration in chemical levels make us someone else?


Robert Louis Stevenson theorized that the only reason we act the way we do is because our conscious personality has dominated our other, perhaps weaker, personalities. Yet these other traits are still part of who we are.

The human body and brain can be manipulated on such a small scale, that we cannot be sure where our true person ends and where a different person begins, if there is such a boundary at all.

This theory makes me question the validity of the beginning statements. Can we really claim that those said words or actions were of a different person? Or are we only discovering the hidden facets of ourselves which we have not yet come to know?

I don't have good answers to these questions; I don't believe that one answer could pertain to everyone. But now when someone says, "I just wasn't myself", I have to wonder if they were.

For if there are such details residing in the subconscious, their small moments in the sun should not be ignored. Just the right imbalance of chemicals, and the controlling personality may switch.

Maybe for better, perhaps for the worse; either way, there is something unnerving about the matter.

As Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll said, "I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both."

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