You may have noticed the space between my last blog and this one, or not, but either way I want to share the reason – I have just moved – into a wonderful new home, with three other friends/colleagues. So a new chapter begins and it is very exciting. Our home is large enough for gatherings/workshops and all kinds of creative endeavors.
So now to the topic for today – identity. If you haven’t watched or read the last blog, I strongly encourage you to do so, as it will give you the overall perspective I take on identity and why it is so important.
Today I would like you to consider a radical idea – that each of us needs to change our “identity”! And the million, or billion, dollar question might be – “Why? Why do we need to change our identity, and what’s wrong with the one I have?
To answer this question, we need to start with how we have each formed our identity. I think the best way to explain this is to use a metaphor. Imagine you have actually built your identity, like a “framework,” or skeleton and every wire, bolt and piece of metal represents an experience you have had. Some experiences have been more significant, and so they have formed a more central part of your framework. Your successes are part of your framework, as are your failures, hurts, traumas, and betrayals. As you grew, went through school, did activities or not, went with the wrong crowd, got into drugs or alcohol, were popular, or a loner, everything latched onto this framework and made it more and more “real.” Even the roles we play – wife, husband, parent, brother, sister, boss, employee, artist, athlete, musician, etc., all contribute to this framework and are ultimately limiting. Oh, and, by the way, the framework includes beliefs – about yourself, life, others, et cetera. Beliefs like, “I am smart,” “I am stupid,” “I am damaged,” or “I can’t trust people”… and the list goes on. Without realizing it, you began living inside this framework, believing it was who you really were.
As a therapist I didn’t realize this was how it worked, and so I spent a great deal of time helping people “cope” better inside the framework, not realizing it was the framework itself that was constricting them. This realization was a dramatic turning point, and I now understood people needed to find a way to release this framework/identity, and build a foundation for their identity that was not based on “externals.”
So let’s pause here for a moment and let me ask you, do you feel like you have been caught inside of something that perhaps you can’t even name, and somehow you aren’t really free to be as creative, spontaneous, loving or powerful, as you really want to be?
I certainly felt that way, and I recognized it by my yearning to be more like certain people I had observed. They seemed so much freer to be themselves, they cried more easily than I did, and yet didn’t get all “jammed up” with their tears. The tears just flowed and then they were over. Wow! I recognized my own “constriction” by all the things I didn’t allow myself to do: sing loudly, paint outside the lines, dance wildly, and so on. You get the picture. As an adult I finally had a word for what I wanted, and that was “authenticity.” As the Velveteen Rabbit said, “I want to be real!”
So if we are all walking around inside a framework that is constructed, and not intrinsically who we are, then “improving” that framework isn’t really going to free us, is it? So what’s the option? The option is to recognize that a “Constructed Identity,” built on all the external feedback we have received, and all the things that have happened to us, is not who we truly are. We actually are authentic beings with an Authentic Identity that we need to embody. Now I know, as soon as I typed those words, I could hear the question so how do I do that?
That’s a really big question, and I’ll get to it. Before that though, I’m going to talk about why we all love to be victims. No matter how vigorous we protest against this idea, I’m convinced it shows up in each of us every day, whether we’re aware of it or not.
Do these ideas excite you? Frighten you? Make you wanna run and scream? Let me know what you think… I’d love to hear your questions or comments.