The Self Identity Crisis In Us
Who am I? Who are you? Do you really know?
In the quiet of night in the realisation, be it true for you or not, that you are not up to scratch, or you did not live up to the expectations of yourself or others, do you know who you are?
In every human being there exists this crisis of self-identity ranging broadly in its severity from time to time, place to place and experience to experience.
It is a gradual thing that develops as we progress from childhood into our young adult years. For many of us, as we approach mid life, the crisis becomes acute.
We are born nameless, without identity, yet we are something significant.
Over time our nervous system becomes tuned to the world around us and the connection to the broader perspective disappears into the background of consciousness.
We begin to respond to sounds and pictures in the world.
As we grow we immerse ourselves into our social structures, names, roles, jobs and community positions, adopting symbols and ideas as parts of our identity.
Parents and other adults teach us how to be. When we play games they do not approve of they tell us to stop.
“Be yourself”, they say.
But we are at odds with this instruction because we recognise that we are a slightly different person depending on who we are with. Different people seem to evoke different aspects of us.
When we are with our father we are one child, with our mother we are another. When we are all together in the family we take on one role, and another when our parents are not around.
With some children we are the boss, with others we are subordinate. As we grow older we take these various ideas of ourselves into our workplace too.
We may not meet a person for 20 years, yet when we meet them again we revert to the way we used to be.
Who Am I?
Sometimes these aspects are a surprise to us like when we first discover our sexual tendencies in early teenage years.
Am I gay? Am I straight? Maybe I’m a bit of both…
Am I a girl or am I a boy? Maybe I’m a bit of both…
“Be yourself!” They say.
That’s great, but who’s idea of self are we talking about here?
Should you be the self that was constructed in your family environment where you were the only boy amongst girls, or should you be the self that you are when you are with your friends?
Am I all of these selves?
I get a job so now I am this. Or I leave that job and progress to a higher level management position, now I have increased status and I am that.
I work my ass off and get a promotion so now I am a boss of bosses. I become a partner or an independent business owner so now I have status, I am somebody important. These are my workers, this is my building, this is my bank account and these are my clients.
Maybe I am all of these selves, ever changing through time and circumstance.
So who am I really then?
If I am all these selves then it seems I am in fact, nobody.
Getting Lost In Self Identity
It is easy therefore, to get lost in the fruitless exercise of defining ourselves ultimately, because like in all philosophical, psychological and scientific enquiry, there is no getting to it a single definition.
Nothing in the universe can be ultimately defined because to define it is for it to be complete and the universe and everything in it can never be complete.
Every value is an approximate value, nothing is absolute including identity.
This is why, although I value and study the scientific method, I see it as ultimately pointless.
There is no answer, only snap shots that represent that thing in the moment of now. As soon as a fraction of a second passes, then the thing you measured has changed.
Change in some things appears to take longer, but everything changes.
“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.” – Alan Watts
If I ask you a question today you’ll give an answer. If I ask you tomorrow you’ll possibly have a slightly different answer. In six months it’s likely that answer will have changed completely.
Your answer, in fact, will likely change depending on your mood.
Children know this.
If you are in good form they know to ask you for things because they are likely to get what they want. If you are in foul form you’ll say no.
The remarkable thing here is that many in the world want consistency. They want you to make your mind up and keep it that way. They want you to be who you are and become confused, even outraged when you change your mind.
This is why religion works so well.
They set the rules you see, and once there are rules and they keep it consistent then sheep like, asleep people will follow.
Apologies if that offends, but I see it as true.
Change Is Inevitable
Many of us try to hold on to an inflated idea of self, then find later in life that it eventually escapes us through the ongoing process of change.
This loss of self can prove to be totally unbearable.
Others of us cannot decide who we are and are pulled apart confused by all these aspects of self. Others still are convinced they are something less than who they would like to be and their experience reflects their idea.
We self-identify with symbols and feedback from those around us. But they are a fickle bunch and soon we find relying on that is a slippery slope to discomfort, anxiety and eventual depression.
Though my own observation, it seems that confusion about who we are is perhaps the single biggest factor in the development of mental illness and suicide in our world.
It is a disconnection from the true self and an unacceptance of change.
Change is the ultimate reality and the ever changing self is representative of that reality. There is simply nothing we can do about it and there’s little gain from trying to prevent it.
We can struggle with our self-imposed identity crisis until the day we die, but eventually, we figure this out.
We’ve no choice in that.
The Noisy World
The world we’ve created is noisy.
There is a constant flow of manmade data that floods our nervous system, drowning out the subtle, more powerful information that actually holds the truth for us.
It’s in this information that we can find out who we are.
Imagine a week with no people and no TV, radio, internet, advertising, flashy lights or shiny things. Imagine no chatter in the skull and nobody calling your name, or offering you feedback, nobody telling you who you are.
Would you discover something?
I think so.
All there is, is now and in that now we are nothing until we define ourselves to be that.
The ultimate challenge for this species, therefore, is to realise en masse who we are. When we do, many of the distasteful things we experience here will end.
That’s my hope and expectation anyway.