Let’s start off with that I’m grateful we were graced with an extra day in February as it’s been an extra day to reflect on the month. February has always been a challenging month for me (as winter seems never ending). Last year I marked it as the month of self care (which I still celebrate), however, I’m taking the last day to reflect on the ruminations of February. Honestly things derailed a bit this week – I had some patients cancel and numerous misgivenings at work which I’m just going to chalk up to “mercury retrograde”. This week caught me in my feelings, ala Drake, and I was determined to investigate why. Why did these work mishaps affect me? I identify with my work, I love my work and live through my work. My work is my purpose. Anything that affects my ability to work targets my identity- hence the emotion (this is true amongst most – that which triggers you is linked to your self worth or identity).
So after experiencing a lower mood this week I did a self care check. Is this my emotion or one I picked up (a “claim it and name it” exercise)? If it is mine – what’s behind it? Usually my head answers why. This time the little voice inside me gave a gift of advice “they can take away what you have but not who you are” (they is the universal “they”). We are constantly defining ourselves by what we do and what we have. Once we lose a part of it we lose our selves and feel sad or mad (or glad). Living in a physical world we attach to physical things. Yet we are metaphysical beings and our inner self (or soul or personality or inner light, whatever vernacular you use) works in the metaphysical realm. We are constantly battling this duality of physical (things) and metaphysical (being).
What about when you lose a person or relationship that defines you? What then happens to your identity?
If you lose a person you don’t lose you, and you don’t lose who you were to that person, you are always that. If you lose a spouse, you still are connected to that person. You still have memories and bonds to that part of your life, being active in a partnership. If you lose a child (which to me is the hardest thing a human would ever go through), you don’t stop being a mother or father. You always have a bond to that child and they remain a part of you. Trying to block it from your mind will not change the pain of loss. When people try to block the loss they lose a part of themselves because part of their identity is tied to that person. To block the loss is to block that part of your identity, which leads to eternal guilt and sadness. We don’t forget the person by forgetting ourselves. We remember the person by accepting the bond we had with them and living our true identity.
Identity also is a core theme around the issues associated with bullying. If we identify with the negative comments we hurt more (ie if at the core we don’t feel beautiful a comment against our physical appearance harms us more). Insults don’t define us, they define the bully’s fears and shame. Bullies hurt because they are hurt. And many times they attack those that display the identity which they wish they could be, and if they can’t express it then they harm those that do.
Ironically identity (ID) relates to and has the same symbol as the Freudian term “id”. The id, the primitive cousin to the ego and superego, is the basis of human need and animalistic behaviour. The core of who we are in the simplest terms (if ego is Nintendo and superego is super Nintendo, id is Colecovision (ie prepixels and tv)). Shake it and we are shaken – responding with automatic animalistic limbic instincts of fight and flight. We are constantly changing and fine tuning our identity, thinking it’s this grandiose expression of our cortical evolution yet it’s rooted in primitive archetypical basics. Challenge those basics and our whole being begins to crumple, leaving us lost in translation, perplexed and pondering our purpose.
I leave you with the words of the intelligent voice of my head that has comforted this whole month – you are who are, not what you have. If you are you, and you are whole, no matter how much is taken is from you you remain unchanged. Because you are whole. Defined by your personality and memories and love. Which can never be taken from you. You can’t lose your ID as it’s permanently attached to your being, like a soul microchip. You are you because you are you, and that’s enough.