I’ve found it helpful to re-read about and ponder the origins of our sense of personal identity. How is identity formed in the ideal – and also less than ideal – situations?

It’s also been helpful for me to understand again the far reaching effects of ‘the fall’ on Identity; i.e. what it has meant to leave the idillic surroundings of the original Garden. In fact, this review has helped me become clear on something.  Right from the time of that original breakage in Relationship – and understanding the psychological impact of that, the Mental Health wing of that big hospital in the sky had need to open its doors!   And here we all are !!

Forget the notion that some of us need help and others don’t. There is always another level to be straightened out. That ailment is called ‘the human condition’.

The forming of Identity

So how do we come to end up with the sense of ourselves that we have?

One way to think about it is this. Right from infancy, we are scanning our environment for clues about who we are. Rather like the sonar pulse emitted from a radar (1), regaulrly and repeatedly questioning the atmosphere …. seeking response from our caregivers and others around us …

* Who are you?
* Who am I to you ?
* Who am I?
And again,
* Who are you?
* Who am I to you ?
* Who am I?

… all the while, desperately needing to mean something to somebody. So much so, I will do anything (including negating myself) in order to try and mean something to somebody.

Our views about ourselves are moulded, largely by the reflected appraisals we receive from people significant in our lives (2). Parents, siblings, friends and peers are all mirrors by which we receive feedback to ‘The Questions’.

If we receive messages of security, love, praise and affirmation, then a healthy self identity usually develops. If we receive (essentially) insecurity, hostility, rejection or abandonment, a poor self image often results.

The degree to which this happens depends on the ‘credibility’ of our appraisers, and the number and consistency of the ‘appraisals’ we receive.

Childhood and Adolescent years

A further aspect of the development of Identity comes during our growing years, childhood and adolescence. It becomes established by the nature of the relationship that is set up with parental or other high influence people. In particular, closeness with a caregiver or mentor of the same sex as the child, has high importance. Here, the relationship should be open and genuine, so the younger person can interact in such a way that knowledge, respect and love ensue – with the residual feeling … “I want to be like you”.

Like a mirror

To follow the process a little further, its as though we ourselves also become a mirror. In due course we reflect back toward the outside world, what we imagine to be the appraisals and relationship quality given us by others (3). In this step, our self hood becomes defined and thus forming the basis of our ‘character’.

 

A healthy concept of self, passed to us by others, is fundamental to the development of a strong and healthy sense of personal Identity.

JG
“Who am I?”

(Seed thoughts … William Kirwin PhD 1984)

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