Sub-question: has Sam Harris influenced your ideas on the "self"? If so, how?
Edit: changed "desolvement" to dissolution. Apologies on that error
This is a tough one because there is clearly something that is the self, the body. But as we learn how to manipulate our own genome the self will becomes a more fluid idea. Yet consciousness will still be tied to a particular organization of molecules no matter how skillfully we can rearrange them. Definitely not an expert on the topic and perhaps I misunderstand it. But it is difficult to think about, although yes the feeling of self can quite easily be lost but I’m not sure that means that there is no self.
Lying in agony, my arms and legs on fire with excruciating Fibromyalgia pain, in too much pain to sleep, move, or cry--had I been able to move I surely would have tried to kill myself. Instead, since I knew I could do nothing to either ameliorate or escape the pain, I tried to transcend it--by transcending my self:
"I am not this pain."
"I am not this body."
"I am not this sensation."
"I am not this consciousness."
"I am not this awareness."
For a few fleeting moments I was able dissociate enough from the hellish torture of my reality to maintain my sanity.
Later, after I started getting more into Buddhism and other practices, I learned that the core of the survival mechanism above--which I had developed quite intuitively, out of necessity--is squarely in line with well-established techniques in a variety of disciplines.
I currently study a system that regards the self as an illusion, a collection of "aggregates" (name-and-form, perception, consciousness, etc.). These aggregates are not constant, not permanent; they are always shifting, changing.
"The 'self' is not findable" is what we say. Where is it? Is it here; is it there? Look within, and you will see where it is not, what it is not.
Very practically, I have seen what and where my self is not: I don't believe that anymore; I don't feel that way anymore; I don't like that anymore; I have different values now; I've changed my diet, my exercise regimen, my dress, my hair. None of those things has my 'self' in them.
I am working on unbecoming: letting go of attachments, dropping identifications. I have seen how I don't need to be the person who does this or thinks that or reacts a certain way. None of that is 'me'. I'll keep peeling away the layers of the onion until...well, there never was an onion to begin with.
I am not familiar with Sam Harris's take on it.
To a degree, yes. We have an idea about who we are. We do not know. It is an incomplete picture of an object we do not ultimately understand, though we like to pretend we do. It’s formed by a highly complex object, the brain, and both by our own perceptions and how we understand the perception of others on us. It is constantly changing, especially if you are a deep and open person, and it’s one of the deepest riddles of the universe. Of course our perception of it is likely to be a foolish one. Yes, Sam Harris has influenced me in some ways along with many other thinkers and experts. I would also recommend conversations on conscious, and the Mind’s I. My life changed tremendously when I figured out that no one can tell me who I am and I can’t walk around pretending like I know it, but that’s all right because letting it break down in moments gives you more malleability to be what you need in any moment.
I think the self is real. Each individual human being has his or her own body, mind, personality, values, attitudes, beliefs, wants, and experiences, which come together to form a self distinct from other selves and other things. I also believe that the self doesn't exist IN the body or brain, but rather that the brain/body is an essential part of the self.
I think the self is a social construction which we are continually updating. More of a locus than a unity, the organism as a whole within the many roles it plays.
Harris is too materialistic, but I do like the idea of panpsychism, although probably not his variant, mine is more like a structural panpsychism, where consciousness appears when matter is in the right configuration.
I would say self is several facets, more than Jung and Freud suggest— each facet and set of relations add more dimension and scope. Like if you are dating a person, you act differently than a work partnership but components are consistently there of your base personality.