Rebirth of Reason

Favorite EditSanction this itemI Am I by Dolph Kohnstamm
I Am I

I Am I - Sudden Flashes of Self-Awareness in Childhood

Dolph Kohnstamm (2007)


My husband has a memory of the moment he reached the insight of how the hands of a clock show the time. I do not remember such a moment, though I did get the knowledge somewhere along the way. There is another insight, sometimes won in an intense moment and retained in episodic memory, a moment in which individuals become conscious of themselves in a new way, a moment of realizing their being an individual person, a moment of realizing I am I or realizing some major aspect of that. Kohnstamm has compiled such recollections from our contemporaries in this book.


He quotes also such a recollection of the early Romantic German novelist Johann Friedrich Richter (1763–1825), who wrote under the name Jean Paul:

I shall never forget what I have never revealed to anyone, the phenomenon which accompanied the birth of my consciousness of self (Selbstbewussein) and of which I can specify both the place and the time. One morning, as a very young child, I was standing in our front door and was looking over to the wood pile on the left, when suddenly the inner vision I am a me (Ich bin ein Ich) shot down before me like a flash of lightning from the sky and ever since it has remained with me luminously: at that moment my ego (Ich) had seen itself for the first time, and for ever. One can hardly conceive of deceptions of memory in this case, since no one else’s reporting could mix additions with such an occurrence, which happened merely in the curtained holy of holies of man and whose novelty alone had lent permanence to such everyday concomitants. (29)

Kohnstamm is Dutch. In newspapers, radio, and the magazine Psychologie Heute, he related some of the few records he had found of persons who remembered their sudden realization I am I. He asked people who had such memories to share them with him. He received about 250 replies, mostly from Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. By far, most were from women, and the reason for that remains unknown. Ninety-two of the replies are contained in Kohnstamm’s book, and I want to share a few here, in the Discussion section.



Added by Stephen Boydstun
on 6/24, 3:34am

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