|Posted by cobaltsoul on June 23, 2009 at 4:25 AM|
Identity has been a live issue for me for some years now. About 8 years back I abandoned the identity of almost forty years. Not merely a mental abandonment, I literally cut myself away from the relationships, career, values and meagre achievements of the life I had constructed up to that time.
It turns out that when you leave behind the shape of a life, you leave behind a major identity crutch. Normally we only leave "something" behind, not everything. We might move jobs but retain everything else that is "my life". We might end a marriage but live in the same city, work in the same job and, with a little adjustment, retain the same social networks. It has long been recognised that even losing one element of a settled lifestyle is immensely stressful and often creates great emotional and psychological fluidity in a person for a time. I left it all behind, retained only one or two friends, bereft myself of everything else.
I discovered, but didn't realise for some years that I was in a discovery phase, that all those external things serve to remind us of who we are. When they go, if you don't have a strong sense of identity you can struggle to BE anything or DO anything. I left behind that constructed life because I had a fundamental sense that it was false, it did not flow from my true self. I was correct but working out who IS my true self was way more difficult than I might have expected.
I complicated my process by finding and loving a wonderful woman with great kids. For some years I defined myself by how I related to them and the future plans I imagined with them. It's a common enough mistake and in my case, as mistakes go it was a pretty beneficial one. I was massively enriched by those relationships.
In terms of establishing my true self I had things back to front. First the true self, then the true romance. Duh!
One thing is becoming evident, my true self has a definite tolerance limit for me NOT being me. My deep self eventually finds a way to shove me out of whatever unhealthy groove I've got myself into. I rarely appreciate the gift at the time but hindsight always awards the game to my deep self.
I think from the moment of conception we carry an identity or at least it's individual potential. A unique set of qualities that is dependent on nothing else other than that moment of conception. I think there is some Divine involvment as well but I honestly couldn't spell out how that might work.
This *given* identity is the bedrock of self, we don't come into the world a blank slate for environment to write on us whatever it wills. Environment gives us an endless stream of inputs that require us to constantly make choices about how we will react and respond. We may not be conscious of our choices, they may be instinctive, but they are OUR instincts, still our choices. Every time we respond, there is a choice before that response. That choice is where our power lies. That choice is where our freedom lies.
Developmentally we are most receptive to outside inputs in the first six years of life. We are designed to soak up information in those first six years, kind of an accelerated learning turbo charging of our nervous systems so that we don't stay helpless babies very long.
The inputs we get in those first six years can be strongly at odds with the identity we were born with and that is the time we are most likely to absorb those inputs, in a sense to agree with them rather than reject them.
People often struggle with the idea that as a child they *choose* something. I understand the struggle, we don't feel that we had power as a child, we feel we had no choice, we were forced by circumstances to do what we were told to do and our young minds were overpowered by adult input to think what THEY wanted us to think. This is all true. The issue of choice as a child is much more complicated than it is for an adult.
The key, I think, is to recognise that once I am an adult I can take responsibility for making different choices than the ones my child self was forced to make against my true identity.
It is simple really. If the bad or wrong choices forced on me in my childhood circumstances remain forever outside my influence then I am forever stuck with them and their effects in me. If I am forever unable to overcome the mistakes of others in my childhood, my potential is limited to THEIR actions.
On the other hand as an adult I can say, "Those bad choices were forced on me but also I made them, some part of me was also involved, even against my better will and nature, still, part of me was involved in that choice and I fully own that part and because I own it I can change it even today. My potential will not be limited to the conduct of the adults who raised me, I choose otherwise."
So, back to my journey, about two years back my deep self shoved me away from the "identity-in-who-I-love" path and left me once again with wide open spaces and no map. It took about 18 months for me to grasp what was going on. Eventually I started to be able to articulate that I had "lost my(false)self" all those years ago and had yet to establish a new self.
Once I grasped that clearly I was much closer to finding a way forward. Now I am indentifying what life will make me happy and content and taking steps to create that life from scratch. I am claiming back one or two relationships from my past, on new terms. I am teasing out what old values are truly mine and what are someone else's that I can do without. I am listening to my deep self thru all this. As I believe that somehow the Divine was part of the conception of that deep self I believe my interior listening is sacred. Somehow, listening to your deep self gives you yourself at the same time as it takes you out of yourself.
It is amazing how difficult it is to take complete responsibility for who I will be and the life I will build in the years ahead. Fortunately it is also exciting and inspiring and basically bloody good fun too!