Collective Identity Crises? Life is Like Climbing Curved Ridge
I came to wonder this week if we were moving through a period of collective ‘identity crises’ with the global changes ushering us all to examine ‘Who am I really?’; ‘What do I stand for?’; ‘What is my place in this world?’. According to psychologists, we typically form a strong sense of our own ‘self’ or identity in adolescence, however times of crisis tend to bring upon a reassessment, particularly if we did not choose the path, we find ourselves to be walking in full conscious awareness. Psychologists came up with four identity statuses to assist us through such times.
1. Identity Moratorium is a period of active searching and exploring alternatives to current situations. Whilst working through this phase, we may place a hold on making major decisions in our lives, which can lead to frustration and lack of understanding from others if we are unable to communicate effectively through the process. During moratorium, we are thinking hard about what we want to do but aren't ready to commit to a particular path. It may appear to others that we are acting in a rebellious manner if they are not cognizant of our need to explore alternative ways of life. On the downside, extended periods of explorations can lead to tumultuous ups and downs, financially, physically, and emotionally.
2. Identity Diffuse is going with the flow or being led along by what other people want in life. This can lead to a somewhat meandering way, lacking connection with our own inner compass. There is no drive to either explore for what fits, nor commit to long term ideals. However, the longer we float around on important areas in life in avoidance, the less likely it is we will shore up a sense of self enough to handle your future challenges. It can also be difficult to establish true intimacy if identity is weak since an authentic sense of integrity within the self is lacking.
3. Identity Foreclosed are those of us who have closed off any serious contemplation of what we really want out of life. To some extent foreclosed is following societal or familial norms without much deeper thought, for example, entering the family business or profession or following the modus operandi of our parents. Issues arise since there has not been an actual period of exploring commitments, we may find ourselves in mid-life (or before/after) to regret the decisions that did not match our true, inner needs. (Cue: Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime, ‘And I ask myself… how did I get here!’).
4. Identity Achieved. Which does sound a bit ridiculous to me. Hoorah, I have finally achieved my identity, do I get a certificate! According to ‘Psychology Today’: ‘People who continually evaluate their commitments and make adjustments, achieve greater realization of their identities (on the "authentic road") are most likely to achieve fulfilment throughout their lives.’
I recognise periods of my own life where I have moved through each of the three identity phases, you may have travelled alongside me on this road from Pharma Research Director and Mum to Yoga Teacher/Coach to Family Business Director to Psychology Student, where does that sweet spot lie in terms of healthy 'continual evaluation’ without being swept away by ‘tumultuous ups and downs’ or other people’s needs and expectations.
One tool I like to use as part as my continual evaluation process and with clients to tap more fully into that internal compass is The Medicine Wheel. We step into a circle with the four compass points marked from the South. I like to move and dance or stretch a little here with some deep breaths to clear my mind before we journey through the four compass points.
• Facing South: bringing into awareness what we may need to let go of from the past that is still weighing us down or troubling our minds. A feeling, a thought, a way of being… breathe in, breathe out and lovingly kiss goodbye to the past with thanks for the blessings and lessons. • Facing West: scanning my body and surrounding energy field for any sense of depletion or impinging. Noticing what it is in life that depletes, drops the vibration. A person, a job, an unhealthy practice… breathe in, breathe out and lovingly disconnect the energy field from the depletion. Unhook, give thanks, and feel lighter in the process. • Facing North: facing our true north, feel into the lower belly, feel a little fire. What is that passion in the belly and how can we show it. Breathe in, breathe out and commit to taking one baby step toward living that passion. • Facing East: begin to dream your next chapter. How would you love it to be? All aspects of life: relationships, family, career, creativity, finances, home… allow yourself to fill up with and feel into the excitement of limitless possibilities. Breathe in, breathe out and again, commit to one action you can take to walk through that portal of possibility.
Revelations from this process can allow us to tap more deeply into a sense of our true selves and in the process allow our spirit/psyche/soul/self to be delivered free of possession from the things in life that keep us feeling stuck and small.
Stepping into the unknown can feel a little like a scramble up Curved Ridge of the infamous Buachaille Etive Mor. Sometimes it’s hanging on for dear life, sometimes it’s retracing steps to find a better route, sometimes it’s feeling completely exhausted, beaten and a little freaking scared as scrabbling rocks give way beneath. There can be a lot of clambering over obstacles. We may not have any ropes, no ‘safety-net’, and so a resolute faith in our own steadiness is paramount, keeping our focus on the here and now and our secure steps/handholds. Faith is necessary, in ourselves, in the solid rock beneath us and in God, whatever that means for you.
The journey becomes entrancing, enriching, captivating and there are ecstatic glimpses into peaks of joy along the way. The view, and the feeling, from the top: is to breathe ourselves into the bliss of our own personal elysian fields of dreams. Identity achieved, tick! :-D