How to Be Skeptical of Your Own Brain

Introduction | Part 1: Chronic Pain | Part 2: Depression | Part 3: Ideas


From one thing, know ten thousand things.

— Miyamoto Musashi

I was going to try and write an introductory anecdote for these posts, myself, when I realized that another fantastic blogger had already written one perfectly. Before you continue reading, check out this post by Ferrett Steinmetz.

I think about the only other time I hallucinated, having dropped acid on a very hot summer’s night… and I found it disappointing.  Yes, my vision was flexing and distorting, and I witnessed all sorts of curious artifacts as my brain’s visual processing center went into overload – but I quietly dissected each illusion, breaking it down into its interesting components, and in such a way I reduced what could have been a wild trip down into a series of interesting quirks.

I don’t really hallucinate, I don’t think.  I know what my brain is up to.  And today, I realized why:

It’s because I’m a depressive.  I don’t trust my brain.

So when my brain starts providing false visual information, I do the same thing: I question it.  I compare it to reality.  And if it doesn’t make sense, I ignore it.

This post and those that follow it will be a series of anecdotes from my own life illustrating my personal journey from (1) learning to skeptically examine my chronic pain symptoms to (2) applying that same pattern of skeptical thought to my depression symptoms to (3) applying that pattern of skeptical thought to my reactions to ideas and arguments. In telling the story, I’m hoping to outline a generalizable model for thinking skeptically about all of our conscious lived experiences as human beings — a model for how to be skeptical of our brains.

It starts, naturally, with Part 1: Chronic Pain.

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