I had a decidedly disconcerting experience this morning. When the alarm on my iPad woke me at 6:30 a.m., I automatically rolled out of bed to turn it off, but then I simply stood there not knowing who I was, where I was, or what I was supposed to do next.

Who am I? Where am I? (Click image to see a larger version)

I understand that this sort of thing is highly subjective, so it may have taken only a few seconds in the real world, but it seemed to me that I was stood standing (as it were) for at least a minute before everything came flooding back.

This set me to pondering the concepts of consciousness, self-awareness, and personality — whatever it is that makes you you and me me magnificent.

Of course, the real problem comes when we try to define things like consciousness, self-awareness, and personality. As the Wikipedia mischievously maintains regarding the concept of consciousness: “Perhaps the only widely agreed notion about the topic is the intuition that it exists.” This clear-as-mud entry goes on to say:

Opinions differ about what exactly needs to be studied and explained as consciousness. Sometimes, it is synonymous with the mind, and at other times, an aspect of it. In the past, it was one’s “inner life,” the world of introspection, of private thought, imagination, and volition. Today, it often includes some kind of experience, cognition, feeling, or perception. It may be awareness, awareness of awareness, or self-awareness. There might be different levels or orders of consciousness, or different kinds of consciousness, or just one kind with different features.

Well, you can’t claim that they haven’t tried to cover all of the bases, but — call me a “silly-billy” if you wish — these meandering musings still leave me longing for more.

From what I understand, the whole concept of consciousness is a conundrum that has provoked confusion and controversy since first we came to experience it. I’ve heard about people who have awoken from the anesthetic following an operation and… they simply aren’t “there” anymore. That is, they have no personality; whatever it was that made them them has left the building and is no longer a part of their being.

I usually wake in full-on mode, knowing who I am, what day it is, and whatever it is that the day holds in store, so I must admit that I found my own experience to be decidedly unnerving. I’d hate to go through this sort of thing on a regular basis. Is this what it’s like to have one of the many forms of dementia? In my case, I’m quietly confident that this was just a one-off occurrence, but still and all, I think I will be keeping a watchful eye on myself “just in case.”

How about you? Do you bounce out of bed in the morning full of vim and vigor and in full possession of your faculties, or do you struggle to greet each new day mired in a morass of misunderstanding?