View stunning SlideShares in full-screen with the new iOS app!Introducing SlideShare for AndroidExplore all your favorite topics in the SlideShare appGet the SlideShare app to Save for Later — even offline
View stunning SlideShares in full-screen with the new Android app!View stunning SlideShares in full-screen with the new iOS app!
BRITTON/THE BRAIN, THE MIND, AND MISUNDERSTANDING 1
7 Dec 09
The Brain, the Mind, and Misunderstanding
Andrew Britton, a Pierce College student having escaped the clutches of public high school,
struggles to provide profound and insightful responses to essay prompts. Baffled by the
complexities of the world, he yearns to find answers and meaning through language and artful
expression. His essay The Brain, the Mind, and Misunderstanding is a portrayal of his
disappointments in a life full of missing answers and infinite possibilities.
With the creation of Earth (or occurrence, depending on your beliefs) spawned something
far greater. Something far more extraordinary—dwarfing even the most superior effects of
nature. The pinnacle of everything existent in the universe, consisting of one-hundred billion
neurons and weighing approximately three pounds, everyone is in possession of this mysterious
super organ—frightening. Of course, all great creations come packaged with defects. One of the
most prominent predicaments we face as humans is the lack of true consideration for others.
Oliver Sacks’ essay, The Mind’s Eye: What the Blind See, investigates the vital
relationship between unavailable senses and how the brain compensates for those senses—
specifically with blind persons. Based on several observations, and written accounts by people
who are blind, a new perspective has been discovered: the ideas that suggest the brain is fixed,
rigid, have been replaced by a more structured idea that the brain is capable of rewiring itself to
cope with having lost sensory inputs. With this thought in mind, Sacks presumes that previous
experiences captured and placed into memory through senses do, in fact, shape the brain and
mind. But do experiences alone shape our perceptions and expectations of the external world?
BRITTON/THE BRAIN, THE MIND, AND MISUNDERSTANDING 2
Can our experiences enrich our inner realities, and provide us with intuitive ways of perceiving
the environment if sight or hearing become nonexistent? “To what extent are we the authors, the
creators, of our own experiences?” (506)
Similarly, author and clinical psychologist Martha Stout explains dissociation and sanity
in one of her works, entitled When I Woke Up Tuesday Morning, It Was Friday. Dementia
(insanity), the deterioration of cognitive and rational functions in the brain, is a common
occurrence in anyone who has suffered a traumatic event. Also explained in her writing, hand-in-
hand with the different states of dementia is dissociation. Dissociation is a defense mechanism
that induces a person into a detached state, completely separating crucial mental processes from
a person. Emotions and memories connected to the root of trauma are disregarded as one
dissociates themselves from the conscious world. If a majority of the population has experienced
dementia, in mild forms, how is sanity measurable? How can insanity be readily available as a
label for hypersensitive people?
The two essays share obvious problems. Oliver Sacks suggests that the brain influences
the mind, and vice versa; blind people can recreate a visual copy of the world based on their
experiences and memories. On the other end of the spectrum, Martha Stout’s newfound
knowledge of dissociation implies that in order to distinguish the unreal from the real, we must
conquer our limitations. Stuck in the gilded constructs of modern society, how can the brain
possibly rescue us, time after time, from the conditioning we have become victim to?
A new approach should be put into action. Instead of becoming reliant on solely vision,
the human’s primary sense for perceiving the environment, we must consider the capabilities of
our other natural senses. Just as with people affected with blindness, are we, too, blinded by
today’s societal standards? The almost infinite advertisements plastered on billboards and
BRITTON/THE BRAIN, THE MIND, AND MISUNDERSTANDING 3
buildings, the true forms of beauty as portrayed on television, the stereotypes assembled in the
confines of someone else’s skewed reality and then unleashed on the public—the lemmings. If
we could experience literal blindness, would that alone begin the cleansing of our polluted
Also, should people be classified as insane simply because of their brains’ coping
techniques (however unique and bizarre) with the stresses of the external world? Should we
continue to label people as sane or insane, if, according to Stout, nearly everyone has
My solution is simple. We should take into account the variety of experiences all people
have endured—without taking on the wearisome task of recognizing every individual person. For
years the human mind has been clouded by the outside creations and limitations of culture;
various great and not-so-great thinkers blanket the masses with their best or worst intentions,
sometimes without enough concern to examine the possible repercussions. Our realities are
constantly subjected to change based on the exerted realities of others. But, realizing the actual
diversity across minds is the first step into fully understanding one another with no expectations.
Understanding is a power everyone possesses—only few can realize.