Suspecting that I have a different idea of “self” than Harris does, I looked up “self”.
Merriam-Webster has two definitions that I think are relevant:
1 a (1) : an individual’s typical character or behavior
I think this is what you (ingracke) mean when you say
Seeing your “self” as a creation of your mind can make it easier to break out of old habits, easier to change and be a different type of person. The idea you have of who you are is just an idea (or, a group of ideas): it is not who you are.
The personality we think we have, the way of typically acting that we think we have, is just a set of ideas we have in our minds. And ideas can be changed. This is a helpful way of looking at it.
But even if with this definition of “self”, it seems confusing to say, as Harris does, that the self is an illusion. The part that’s an illusion is the idea that our personality and character are innate and unchangeable. But it’s not an illusion that we have habits of thinking and acting that can be labeled a personality or character or self.
2 : the union of elements (such as body, emotions, thoughts, and sensations) that constitute the individuality and identity of a person
This is more what I was thinking of as a self. Each person has unique body/emotions/thoughts/sensations. And each person is distinct from each other person.
I thought Harris was saying that this kind of “self” is an illusion, that everything and everyone are really all one and the same. But I think you’re saying that he doesn’t mean this.
You also raise another definition of “self” that people sometimes mean, which is that which directs everything a person does, including their thinking. I’m more confused about this one. I suppose I do think of the self as something which makes decisions and directs actions and thoughts. But actually, we have very little control over what we think. We can decide to think about a particular thing or we can decide to make a change in our thinking habits, but what caused that decision? I don’t know. Maybe the illusion is that we have control over our thoughts. I need to think about this some more.