‘The curse of the human condition’: Neuroscientist explains how COVID drove ‘everyone into a collective existential crisis’

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‘The curse of the human condition’: Neuroscientist explains how COVID drove ‘everyone into a collective existential crisis’
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I am not myself lately. Then again, was I ever? I’m not the self I was a year ago, or the one I will be in five minutes. My sense of reality is ephemeral, and my circumstances are constantly rewriting the narrative. My brain wants to make sense of all that, though, so it keeps trying to find order and actualization. But what it keeps writing, as Emory University psychology professor Gregory Berns puts it, is its own “historical fiction.”

In his apt and timely new book, “The Self Delusion: The New Neuroscience of How We Invent — and Reinvent — Our Identities,” Berns, author of “How Dogs Love Us,” explores the neuroscience of self perception and the clever, confounding ways we attempt to tell the stories of our lives.

Along the way, Berns explains the newest science of how memory, perception and influence play upon our pliable minds, and offers insights into better understanding who we are — and who can be.

Salon spoke to Berns recently about how our brains prime us to create stories — and superstitions, how COVID drove us into a “collective existential crisis” and the secret to shifting the tales we tell ourselves.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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