(Excerpt from the book The Misleading Mind)
I admit it, it can be disconcerting to realize that there is no “inherent” self. Even after considering this idea, we will struggle against this truth. We may recognize that, throughout life, we are constantly changing and that we slip from one identity to another, unconsciously or without deliberate intent. But we try to avoid having “multiple personalities” and the seemingly “schizophrenic” quality of self this implies. We prefer to see ourselves as just one entity with one personality, and so we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to assemble one coherent, consistent, cohesive, unchanging “self”. One way we do this is by cultivating our opinions, beliefs, and “ideals” – our philosophy.
In a sense, it is more accurate to say that these opinions, beliefs, and ideals hold onto us, for it’s a reciprocal relationship. To have an identity, we need an opinion or belief; to have a belief or opinion, we need an identity. This is really what it means to say that identities are not “real,” since to exist they are independent with, or dependent on, other things, like opinions, thoughts and beliefs.
(This topic continues in the book The Misleading Mind)