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The ‘I’ in Isolation

With the UK’s lockdown exit strategy laid out before us, today’s blog post comes from Chin, as he reflects on his recent experiences of isolation and offers an alternative lens through which we may wish to consider how we go about understanding the self…

A few months ago, I served a 14-day quarantine in a designated hotel facility. I found the experience a bizarre one; one where I found myself in a unique context, yet void of context.

Finding oneself within a confined space for extended periods of time, is perhaps not too dissimilar to the experience with lockdowns that most of us have lived through this past year. 

Descartes’ hypothesis, that our experience does not amount from our perceived contact with the external world, became the basis of the Scientific Revolution that has shaped how we think about the self and the surrounding world. Consequently, the scientific method to gaining an insight to the self is introspective, confined within the contours of our being, while blocking out the external ‘noise’.

The increased isolation experienced during a pandemic, therefore, could offer us the opportunity to focus on developing a deeper understanding of ourselves. But could this isolationist approach practiced at its extreme be naïve or even futile in our attempts to deepen our understanding of how we perceive the self?

Perhaps, a deep understanding of the self is possible only when we also consider the contexts we find ourselves in. After all, the I in isolation, is never really in isolation…

This short blog post was written by Dr. Chin Wei Ong, our lead research scientist.