February 24, 2011

Identity

Identity is an umbrella term used throughout the social sciences to describe an individual's comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity.

Perhaps it's because I've past the mid-forties mark, or because of my current life circumstances, I'm not sure.  This idea of identity has been gnawing at me for a bit now.  Who the heck am I, and how is that defined?  It seems when inevitable changes happen in life, they bump up against this subconscious notion of identity and make us feel very uncomfortable, stressed...even lost.

I continue to be fascinated by how people respond when prompted, "tell me about yourself."  It is quite revealing what they state first.  That would be a main indicator of their identity - that which gives them the most validation and worth.  It could be their job, family relationships or perhaps something else.  There are many factors which can, and do, form our identities.  However, the one they state first, logic would dictate, would be the foremost foundation of their identity, and one which they instinctively believe is going to present them in the best light to those asking the question. 


A person being asked in a religious setting may answer the prompt with the appropriate answer of finding their identity in Messiah (or deity of their choice), stating that they are a believer and perhaps saying how long they have attended that particular fellowship.  Or if asked in an job interview, they may state things relating to the field in which they are applying, such as the fact of their work experience or education.  Even with the inevitable slant of these different scenarios, I still think that the answer to the 'tell me about yourself' question leads to a good start in forming an opinion of the identity of others.

But, I guess I'm not as worried about the identity of others as much as I'm interested in finding out about my own identity.  It is easier to analyze others from an objective view - much harder it is to scrutinize ourselves.  It is almost as if we are too close to the source, so to speak. 

In studying the above diagram, I have come to an interesting conclusion.  If those are, in fact, the areas in which we derive our personal identity, what if all those things are linked with one thing?  For most people, I would imagine, they would have different answers, or sources, to each of those categories.  For instance the Work/Hobbies category would not necessarily be linked, or share commonality, with the Friends/Family category.  Those two categories would involve different venues, people and activities, for the most part.  So, if a change happened with the Work/Hobbies category, there may some impact on the Friends/Family category, but not necessarily.  Maintaining continuity within other categories while absorbing change in one or two categories would make upheaval a little more manageable.  But, what if all the categories were linked?  If the Work/Hobbies always involved Friends/Family?  And the Beliefs category was inextricably linked to Ethnicity and Interests?  And the Values, Choices and Appearance couldn't be separated?

Perhaps you see my logic; when all the categories are linked, if changes come to disrupt one or more category, it would throw the whole identity issue sky-high.  How does one redefine their identity when life takes a unexpected turn and not only affects, but turns all the categories upside-down?

A good example would be when a spouse, perhaps of many years, passes away.  Typically, a married couple shares everything, at least the majority of categories.  The remaining partner has to rebuild those categories, pieces of their identity, without the other.  Grief and rebuilding of this sort is hard to handle in the best of circumstances, and is the reason why it is a rather dangerous time for the remaining partner after losing their 'better half'.  Living with memories, re-forming daily routines and dealing with the finality of death makes the process of rebuilding so very hard...sometimes too much to bear.

One more thought on identity; I have often heard, and affirm, that as believers in Yeshua ha Mashiach, our identity lies in Him and Him alone.  All of the above categories have their very basis in the core beliefs of one who worships the Almighty.  However, I cannot deny that somehow there must be a framework for the working out of that identity, and that would be our relationships and interactions in daily life.  Thus, two levels of identity, both valid and worthy of consideration.  To deny or diminish our personal 'identities' by saying that our only identity lies in Mashiach may be short-sighted and invalidates any burden or situation that may be taking place on the part of the believer.

I haven't even touched on another aspect of identity, and that is whether we feel success or failure in each of those categories.  That would definitely impact one's feeling of self-worth.  Now, this is where I absolutely affirm that we all fail at some point, and that is the very place where our identities lie in the Messiah and His salvific work on our behalf .  Period.

The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages 
as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart. 
~Julien Green

He who knows others is learned;
He who knows himself is wise.
~Lao-tzu

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged
to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. 
~Nelson Mandela

3 comments:

Ari C'rona said...

Oh, yes, I agree that as a believer in the Most High, all those areas touch. We've seen how everything is thrown out of kilter when that foundation is shaken. It's taken me to a place of thoroughly examining myself and who I am.

Thanks for your insights, my dear friend. :o)

Mama Cache said...

Your thoughts are invaluable, my friend. Thank you. Thank you.

MMT is an understatement!

Mama Cache said...

Found this quote: "Trying to define yourself if like trying to bite your own teeth." ~Alan Watts

It made me smile.

Love the current culmination of your thoughts on identity, my friend. You certainly knew what to name this blog when you selected the word "ruminations." Such an appropriate choice.