If the unconscious exists as part of our working brains, how can we tell what is in it? Can we find out what is in specifically our own unconscious by ourselves?

There are different theories about that but one prominent theory, namely, Freud's - that repression and resistance are the reasons why much of our mental life is unconscious and save for himself -- he thought ordinary human beings could not break through that resistance on their own. As usual, Freud overstated things a mite, but there is something to be said for the view that we need some help in understanding the meaning of what is beneath the waves of our conscious lives - but that joint effort requires the ability to tolerate vulnerability and anxiety.

What is the I who watches what the mind does?

Good question! For what it is worth, it feels to me like the I. Freud would call "it" the observing ego. Kierkegaard famously stated "the self is a relation that relates itself to itself". So Kierkegaard would say it is the self and the self is a process. Surely, the labcoats would contend that this executive function is a bit of brain circuitry. But whatever you want to call that internal voice/ perspective on the self, it is something that next to everyone struggles with. The desire for peace of mind is pandemic and by that we usually mean freedom from whatever it is that watches the mind and passes judgements on our thoughts and feelings.

Billions of dollars are spent each year to get people to think in ways that benefit people with billions to spend. This much seems uncontroversial. Most of the money is spent on advertisements designed to circumvent a person's reason and appeal directly to people's unreflected faculties. For those who have read anything about this history of public relations this is also perfectly understood. So how does a reasonable person deal with this knowledge? Is it reasonable to resist, to cloister oneself in defense of the ability to think somewhat more freely? It seems like you could go crazy trying to do so. On the other hand it seems like sanity has more to do these days with resembling sitcom families and having Burger King jingles running through our heads. Okay, so obviously you can tell I'm a paranoid nutjob with a tenuous grip on reality. Am I right to be overwhelmed by what seems like a ubiquitous attack against rationality in the culture at large? Is it paranoid to suggest that it's systematic?

I think you have every right to be perturbed by the pr bombardment. If you watch just an hour of tv a day you are hit with flocks of lies in the forms of advertisements and then you add all the ads on the net and it is more lies-- eat this and you'll have 33.7 percent less chance of a stroke, lose 50 lbs in mth with this diet aid. All the deception is enough to cause nausea of the noggin. I think we should take in as little of the Abilify and Burger King ads as possible.

Some theories of behavior seem to rely on the idea that we are unaware of what we are doing, and that much of our behavior is programmed or conditionned into us by "our culture" without us actually being aware of this happening. To what extents are such accounts credible? A theory that tells me that the *real* reason I eat meat is because I am expressing my belief in human supremacy and dominance over animals I consider inferior doesn't seem at all credible to me, and yet if that theory also says that I just *think* I'm eating meat because it's tasty and (in some circumstances) healthy - presumably because my human supremacist culture indoctrinates me into believing this - how can I know that the theory isn't right? To what extent can a person trust their own introspection?

This may not be much help but I would say "to some extent." There can be no doubt that judgments based on introspection are sometimes wrong. I have often had the experience of thinking that I did something with one motivation only to realize later that there was another at work as well. Also, our introspective judgments are often self serving. We need to approach them with a degree of skepticism. The veracity of our inner soundings also depends on the concepts that we are looking at ourselves through. It makes all the difference in the world whether I examione myself through a Freudian, Marxist, or purely phsycalistic lens. Whether looking out or rolling our eyes balls in looking in - what we see is deeply impacted by the ideas that we are peering through.