Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

We continue our trip down the identity rabbit hole…

Our identity is an “Identity of Identities”, picked up or inherited from a myriad of places and sources and moments and decisions, mostly unintentionally. They come with a lot of views and realities. And they are hard to see without practice, for they are “me”.

And there’s a very big thing about identities that’s important to know about:

Neurologically speaking, our brain does not know the difference between an attack against our bodily existence, and an attack against our identity.

Said another way, a threat to our identity is registered by our danger sensors as an attack, even if that is not really happening.*

And with our identity of identities, there are many things that can seem to threaten an aspect we’ve built into our identity, and hence “us”.

And when we feel threatened, things get hairy, don’t they? We fight back, lash out, defend, defend, defend, and aim to kill off that which is trying to kill us; or we run, avoid, and hide. Neither is conducive to living freely, living with intention, or being able to think straight. It’s a roughshod time, to which there can be much collateral damage – to others, and to ourselves. To what we hold dear. We’ll act in odd ways. We may feel righteous and riled up about it, but we’re on autopilot. We’ve lost, perhaps ironically, our agency. In those moments it gets in the way of getting what we truly want, of interacting with people the way we want to, of living a life we’d like to live.

Now, this may come as a surprise at this point, but at the same time to all of the above identities are not bad things. They are not flaws. On the contrary, they are great tools, great shortcuts to interacting and being in the world. Identities can be wonderful.

It is at its heart a matter of awareness. To be aware of, and present to, our identities. Which, in having read this, you may now be more so aware. Aware of some very powerful stuff. Aware, for one, that there is a distinction between you and your identity (the two are not the same). For two, that you acquired multiple identities that make your identity. For three, that identities come with a lot of preconceptions/rules/truths/views that are often hidden.

And fourthly, and most importantly, and putting those all together, all of the above coalesces to indicate that if you are not your identity and that these identities aren’t inherently part of you, you can choose new identities at any time and actually choose whom you want to be and how you want to express yourself in the world. You can examine your identities to see what lurks within, see the hidden biases and baggage and choose to leave them behind and create a new identity to slot in. You can develop mindfulness to interrupt the automatic rise and avoid seeing threats to you that show up only through the lenses of your identities.

You need not be beholden to anything.

It takes practice, it takes development, it takes work and time and it takes us taking ourselves on. Learning to be mindful. And it’s work well spent.

This is, after all, you. And me. And who I am in the world. Some care, and thought, and choosing, makes sense.


* – To which it is not hard to see why; my identity is ME, and I relate to my identity as ME, it is my existence in the world. I have no separation between my identity and me, just as I have no separation between my body and me. If my body is harmed, I am harmed, ergo, if my identity is harmed, I too must be harmed.