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Identification and Identity

The first stage of identification for a baby is with its mother and the forces of life creating it. After it is born its sense of identity is shaped by the treatment it receives and also the culture and language it is exposed to. See identity and dreams; Sex and Identity; Identity

The person gains a sense of self from the weakness or strength of their body, their physical prowess or lack of it, the power of their sexuality and how this is responded to by the opposite sex and others. If they have positively identified with the society in which they live, and if their self expression meets with success or reward, then they may experience satisfaction in the first half of their life. If otherwise they may suffer some degree of depression, anxiety or emotional ill health. In either case the person has been largely shaped by factors other than their own power to shape their life. But in fact we are made up of many different things which we fail to acknowledge. We are trapped in what has formed us. But the individual can break through the ready made boundaries of their personality. See Programmed

One of the great and often self defeating identifications is that with our body. If we accept that dreams portray in images our conception of self, then dreams suggest that our identity largely depends upon having a body, its gender, health, quality, skin colour, the social position we are born into, and our relationship with others. In fact we know that if a person loses their legs, becomes paralysed, loses childbearing ability, becomes blind or is made redundant, they face an identity crisis. Yet despite all of that they still exist as a person, and if we realise that early we can avoid all the pain and distress caused by a complete identification with our body.

Indeed, death might be thought of as the greatest challenge to our identification with our body, family, worldly status and the external world as means to identity. We leave this world naked except for the quality of our own being. Identifying oneself as ones body has a lot of negative side effects. For instance having worked as a nurse with geriatric patients, some who suffered a stroke, it was obvious to me that the patient felt certain that the damage to their body was damage to them, the personality. They usually cry a great deal and suffer depression. My own experience of stroke caused no depression nor crying. See Tony’s Experience of Stroke

Another side effect is exactly the same as the above; the person believes that the body is them. So any injury or illness suffered feels like a threat to their own existence. I witnessed this so many times while nursing. Because of the effects of thinking in that way it hinders healing and recovery of self confidence.

People can lose an arm, both legs, even mobility, but they still have a clear sense of themselves, of being a person.  Perhaps it is not as easy or as comfortable not having legs, but there is still a strong sense of being a person.

Or maybe you identify with the way you look, your face, your hair or the shape of your body.  But this changes with age, sometimes radically, and old people often say, “Although I look in the mirror and the person I see appears incredibly different to how I looked years ago, inside I still feel as if I am about 20 or 30 years old.”

If you identify your body as yourself, then you are faced by the tragedy of enormous change and the certainty of death.  Even so, up until the moment of your death your body has been eternal.  Think on it.  Your body is the result of two living cells merging and subdividing, and subdividing, over and over to form the mature body.  But those two original cells have an unbroken line of subdivision right way back to the beginning of life.  In that sense you personally have a connection with eternity.  Even the material your body uses in its growth was formed in the beginning of the universe, is from the stars, and is uncountable billions of years old.  So there is another connection you have with eternity. In fact what is there around you and within you that does not involve eternal existence? However, what we focus on most of the time is the changes taking place within our body or environment.

Again, this is like identifying your hair, your limbs, or your looks as being you.  What I am suggesting is the discovery of the part of you that is not linked with bodily change or illness.

A man exploring his identity wrote:

Example: As I think about this I wonder whether this is part of the way we create identity. It appears to be made from many sources. For instance the family physical inheritance plays a very great part, as does the information of behaviour repertoire handed to us when young. The cultural patterning given with language shapes our mind, and the chemical importance is also being seen lately. All of these produce the person we call I. Yet the ‘I’ is capable of being radically shifted, simply by taking a drug or medicine. This often reshapes the way we see ourselves, so an evolution in the process of identity building has occurred. Identity in the end is not a set of beliefs or behaviours. The I is not limited to these. Programmed

But let us explore this question of what you identify with a little further. Maybe you identify with the way you feel, your emotions, or perhaps your thoughts.  But from one moment to the next these are not the same.  They are constantly shifting and moving, and undergo more variation than your body.  If you identify with your thoughts and emotions you can become lost in their swirling and shifting storm.  Believing you are your thoughts or emotions can be at the root of depression and confusion.

Losing an arm or leg, losing your physical beauty in age, may affect your thoughts and feelings, but those things do not in any way deplete your sense of existing.  So if your body, your thoughts and emotions are not YOU, then what or who are you?  What is it you can most securely identify with?  What is it that is not shifting and changing and capable of being lost?

 The question or who and what you are is an ancient one. It has been used in meditations techniques for thousands of years. If I asked you the question, “Who are you?” you might reply with your name, what you work at, or what you have succeeded in. So you might say you are an athlete, a doctor, a good lover, a burglar, a football captain; or you might say you are a life form, a human animal, a biological enigma – but the answers are all only descriptions of things you have read, studied or felt. They are not descriptions of YOU. In fact it is very difficult to answer the question because the answer is not an intellectual statement. We have a body, emotions, thoughts and life working in us and what is life? People have spent months, weeks or days pursuing that question, and those who satisfied themselves experienced what is commonly called enlightenment – a realisation that was not in words but was an experience of their wholeness. The answer is your wholeness.

As R. D. Laing, in his long poem The Bird of Paradise, said that, “The truth I am trying to grasp is the grasp that is trying to grasp it.”

An exploration of dreams shows an answer. It is easy to see that while you are convinced that your real identity is your body; while you are convinced that your emotions and thoughts are your only reality, you are incredibly vulnerable to uncertainties, fears, dashed hopes, feelings of failure, the emptiness of success and painful betrayals. These can toss you around like a scrap of paper in a gale. They can be the stress that is at the root of illness. Discovering yourself as anchored beyond change is enormously healing.

To find yourself anchored beyond change you need to have an awareness of your core self. to do this we have to first realise how we create our identity. We build our identity and our sense of self out of the language we are taught, being an individual body, a sexual creature and the many interactions with other people and the world. In a real sense we create each other by believing in and communicating with each other. With prolonged absence of other people and events, and especially if we lose our ‘noises’ and body awareness, we feel we – our sense of identity – is disappearing or dying. People immersed in a sensory deprivation tank begin to lose a clear sense of themselves, and it can result in anxiety, hallucinations and depression.

We are most of our life seeing only the small things of our life, what we see, hear, fear, feel or think. We are so lost in the littleness we forget the bigness. The famous physicist David Bohm who contributed innovative and unorthodox ideas to quantum theory, philosophy of mind, and neuropsychology defines this problem by saying that there are two orders in our experience of the world around us. There is the “explicate” order and the “implicate” order of the universe. He defines the explicate order as the impressions of the world gained via our senses and the interpretations the brain places on these impressions. These impressions and the brain’s interpretations – based on millions of years of evolutionary experience and input – lead to a view that we each have separate minds in isolated bodies.

The implicate order is the universe as it is when we move beyond the limitations of the senses and the brain’s limited evolutionary programs. Then we begin to see the universe as a single indivisible whole, and ourselves as intricately part of that whole. Bohm says that ‘if we don’t see this it’s because we are blinding ourselves to it.’ He goes on to say that ‘If we don’t establish these absolute boundaries between minds, then it’s possible they could unite as one mind.’

These ideas suggest that we live most of our life in a dual sense of the universe. The first is a small sense of ourself as just a body and person; the second is a realisation of ourselves as an integral part of immensity, a bodiless existence – the universe. This is born out when we use some techniques that shift our sense of self.

 Example: After going over my body several times I suddenly lost my right arm. I had no sensation of it other than space, hugeness. Then I lost my left arm, and – my whole body. It was like falling through a trap-door into the stars. I had no sense of having a body. Thoughts had ceased, except for a murmur apparently a thousand miles away. Yet in blackness, in immensity, in absence of thought I existed vitally as bodiless awareness. We think that we are our body because we have no other experience of our existence. So we identify with our body and so are terrified of dying – which in a sense is what we do every time we go to sleep and leave our sense of a body behind.

Example: I dissolved into the Nothing which is Everything. Transcendence.

In the transcendence, revelation: There was no climactic moment of release. There was no shattering or explosion. There was only further expansion and further fulfillment. It was as if I had become the expanding universe, spreading further and further in every direction, and through the universe of Me there flowed a mighty force, the Life Force, which was like an inexhaustible fountain of fire or air or water, a fountain of eternal replenishment. Quoted from Myself and I by Constance Newland.

It is important to realise that one side of our dual nature is the experience of “Nothing which is Everything.” It is a statement of the real dual experience in which we are both a body and bodiless at the same time.

Feeling without body is also often felt as a connection with, or a representation of, or feelings about death. In some degree it links with a sense of losing our identity or going beyond boundaries. When we begin to meet it in dreams or self exploration it often causes

The human personality – the You that you call yourself, with a name, is only a tiny thing. It is moved and tossed around by all manner of drives, ambitions, emotions, fears, temptations, worries, love and desire with its pains and hopes; it is something we take so seriously and get carried away into awful situations; we take many sorts of pain killers to deal with ourselves. Things such as alcohol, coffee, medical drugs and street drugs, and yet we are still prone to break down, as can be seen by the number of people who need antidepressants or are totally lost in themselves.

We are small because we know nothing about who we are and how we came to be – except of course in the words we have been taught are really the truth. We do not know anything about the mass of things that keep is alive – except what we have read, yet more words. We are largely unconscious of what makes our heart beat, and all the millions of things that life behind our existence does, so we are moved by whatever moves us – whatever that is – childhood fears and social programming, or haunted by the past.

Also as we begin to meet the Hugeness that we are we often react to it with fear or panic. So we dream of being attacked by aliens or frightening creatures. If we realise that they are things we have created with fear we will pass on. It is a normal response in many people to feel fear of their own hugeness. If they persist they will gradually learn acceptance, though the struggle is one of control usually. They can learn to go deeper by learning the stages of relaxation. See  Life’s Little Secrets

 Love for what you are 

I dreamt I was looking at a large and beautiful beast, and as I looked at this beast I noticed that its eyes were being hurt. Arrows were being fired at its eyes, and javelins thrown. I wondered who could be doing this, and stepped forward to take out the javelins and the arrows.

I wondered what the arrows and javelins could be, and was it I throwing them, firing them? Gradually it clarified that we continually injure this wonderful process in us. Being aware is a special state that acts in all manner of ways for this great ancient being or process that is behind our existence. It is the process of life which is there with us as we go through our conception. As that we are simply a mass of cells, which then slowly evolves into an aquatic creature with gills, and slowly on to form a body that can breath air. So we are very much an animal who has only recently become self aware. Consciousness is its eyes and ears, its fingers and mouth, its means of experience, and its way of learning. And whatever we feed back to that fundamental part of us is deeply felt. Perhaps this is not a very accurate description, but it is like a loving and willing dog that out of its instinctive being tries to do all that we ask of it, tries to grow, tries to learn. But it is so sensitive, so when we are angry with it, or frustrated, or direct criticism at it, it cowers, it feels failure, its exuberance diminishes. So also with this great wonderful beast within, this mysterious process of life that is at our core. It withdraws. But we can also call it out into further expression, enabling it to extend beyond its previous capabilities, by loving it, by acknowledging its wonder, by calling it forth.

That is a wonderful way to lead our inner being forward, by loving it and working with it toward being more that we were.

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