In conversation with a friend recently, I said, out of the blue, “Identity sure is one hell of a drug.” It was meant as a throwaway line and as a bit of a joke… but as I thought more about it, it’s not really a bad model to use. Identity isn’t exactly like a drug, but in many ways we are indeed kinda addicted to it. We believe it to be us, we want it to be us, and we do all we can to keep on it and to keep feeling that identity high. When we’re deep in it, there’s a certainty there. (Strangely, that’s true even when it’s unproductive!). When it’s threatened to be taken away, we fight back hard. (Indeed, as noted before, our brains can’t tell the difference between a threat against the body and a threat against the identity – defend with equal vigour.) We organize our lives to reinforce that identity so we get more of it, and we avoid things that would cut us off from it. And in that way, much like an addiction, it leads us around by the nose while distorting our views and stifling our freedom.
So, yeah… in a lot of ways, as an analogy, it works. And often looking at something through a different lens can give us new insights on it and, even better, give us new access to gaining agency over it. And when the analogy starts to break down, not a problem, we can set it aside and carry our newfound freedom and peace of mind forward into the next stage of self-cultivation.