Sunday, December 23, 2012

Identity - are you simply what your past has made you?

The Tree of Self Insight by Paulo Sergio Zerbato
Type "Self" into an image search and a mix of self portraits in paint and photography will pop up on your screen - a selection of the sad but brutal truth of modern life - our struggle with identity in a world which runs too fast for us. You'll see young, scantily clad girls posing to their iphones in secret, then uploading to the universe. But you'll notice they all have that haunted look in their eyes - the desperate need to be accepted and loved. You'll also see disturbing photos of the anorexic and the cutters, displaying their horrifically marred bodies. It all seems to be about controlling the pain, needing to feel something real. Needing to find their identity.

So what is identity? According to Freud, our minds are a battlefield for the instinctive id, the organised and realistic ego and the critical superego within us.

Jung, an introverted contemporary of the outgoing, controversial Freud, believed we have combinations of four archetypes within us -
  • the shadow (chaos and wildness of character)
  • the anima & the animus (male and female, wholeness, completion)
  • the self (our connection with the universe, nature, spirit)
But what if it's much simpler than that? What if who we are is predetermined by our past experiences, by genetics and family history? People sometimes feel trapped in what their past has made them. It could be their own past mistakes or that of their parents, clinging to them, staining the next generation. But I believe self, as identity, is partly where you come from, (what nature, nurture and experience has formed) and partly where you yourself steer the rest of your life. You are the most powerful influence upon your thinking. That's right. YOU. What you believe your mind accepts 100%.

You are not just the sum of your past, trapped there forever - you are your future. And that is in your own hands.

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