Identity – An internal reality

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It is striking that identity is irresistibly and incorrigibly internal. Fancy someone saying, “That is me over there”. It would be incomprehensible. Our identity isn’t found outside of us it can only be found within us.

Additionally, “I” or “me” is something that I have privileged access to. Others can guess, but they simply don’t have the sort of access to the myself that I do. The self appears to be hidden from others, at least partially. When we say, “This is who I am”, we speak of something that we are in touch with that others aren’t. Something that is hidden within us that we are revealing to those who can not see. This it seems is almost a given. Have you heard someone presumptuously say “I know who you are”? Perhaps they do, but they run a risk of hubris as they speak like someone who has the same privileged access to you. Typically it is only you who has privileged access to who you are.

Hence, Identity appears to be: A) an internal reality and B) something that only each person has access to in a privileged way.

This access to the self is not always easy. Strong emotion can compromise access and strong emotion can be a consequence of having access. This can make understanding of ourselves terribly problematic. Yet we can still choose to face our identity or not. Even when it is thwarted by emotion or emotion is the consequence for approaching the self, we can still choose to approach or avoid the self. I think knowing who you are is commendable because it has often come about because of a choice to connect with one’s own identity in spite of our feelings.

It seems to me, from a psychological perspective, to know the Self, or moreover yourself, represents proper and healthy function. Conversely if someone says “I don’t know me” this represents improper function or pathology. To have a unified and coherent sense of self is linked to lower levels of distress. A non-unified incoherent sense of Self is associated with the opposite. The most striking example of the latter is Dissociative Identity Disorder, the new name for Multiple Personality Disorder.

So, now there are three things to emphasize. Identity is: A) an internal reality, B) something that the person has privileged access to, and C) to have access to it suggests a healthy state of being. Knowing yourself can also be courageous because it involves facing the truth about yourself, even though that may be difficult.

What happens when we don’t connect with ourselves in such a way that we might be able to confess who we are? We become the disorientated journeyman. We describe ourselves in ways that a journeyman might if he wasn’t doing well. We say “I’m lost” or “I’m confused”, or “I don’t know where I’m going in life” or simply “I don’t know what is happening to me”. These states aren’t peaceful. These states are linked to distress. The good news is, and you would have picked this up already, it doesn’t have to be this way. By connecting and understanding our own journey in life, we can make significant progress in getting to know ourselves. It is a choice. The choice is sometimes painful, but the gains are significant.

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