Saturday, September 16, 2006

Is it possible to renounce some undesired aspect of your identity? Have you ever tried?

Is it possible to renounce some undesired aspect of your identity?

Have you ever tried?


Blogger daniela said...

I've tried.
Have you?

1:37 AM  
Blogger Mister Pregunto said...

Hi Daniela,

I have, too.

But, it occurred to me this morning that there is question within the question. Namely, "What do we mean by 'aspect of [one's] identity'?"

There a lot of possible things that qualify as aspects of [one's] identity. Here are some of the things that I came up with:

-Physical features
-Identifying characteristics
-Family history
-Personal history
-Social, political, religious, national memberships
-Qualifications and pedigree
-Peronality and persona
-Identifying habits behaviors
-Self-limiting havits
-The very 'rules' of identity themselves

Some of these, like habits and social memberships would only be included if they are bound up tightly either with your personal perception of your own identity, or with somebody else's perception of your identity, in a manner that it creates a social reality for you. (BTW, I am using 'you' and 'your' in the loosest possible way--not meaning you personally, Daniela.)

For example, I used to smoke in my early 20's, and I can remember thinking that it would somehow not be 'me', if I didn't smoke. Before I could stop smoking, I had to make myself understand that smoking was not really part of my identity. That was just an illusion.

Another example has to do with where I live. Here, the world is divided into Anglophones, Francophones and Allophones (i.e.: native English speakers, native French speakers and speakers of other languages). And there can be very different social realities for each. From the beginning I have thought that I wanted to reject the label of Anglophone and just be a person. But, with time, I just drifted into associating myself with Anglophones. Lately, I have been questioning that again. (I guess that might be what prompted my question, now that I think of it.) The problem is, once I succumb and start believing that 'Anglophone' is who I am, I end up buying into certain aspects of a social struggle which I find very annoying. (Not the struggle as a whole, just certain aspects.)

Several years ago, I realized that identity plays a huge role in all conflict--both internal and social. I formulated it in terms of what I call the "entity-identity" problem, which I discussed in a comment to one of Thinking Girl's posts.

I might add that identity is one of the strong forces of social interaction--and of all struggle, whether personal or social. That is certainly true in western societies--and I suspect it applies pretty much equally to pretty much all societies. One exception might be Buddhist societies. I say that because (I think) they have spent more time questioning the very nature and 'rules' of identity.

If there is a message I would like to get out, it's that gaining greater personal control over our sense of identity, and over the very premisses upon which our notions of identity are founded, seems to have the potential to help each of us with our individual--and even collective--struggles in life.

In an earlier post, I asked a question about emotional maturity. I would say one's command over one's sense of identity is bound up tightly with emotional maturity. But that's just intuition talking.

May I ask (if it's not too personal) what kind of changes you tried to make to your identity? And were you successful?

10:57 AM  
Anonymous thinking girl said...

Ive tried too.

I've become much more compassionate than i was before, and less stringent in terms of what I viewed as "Right" or "wrong". I've become less judgmental. I've learned to recycle, to take up less of the earth's resources. I've learned to be less selfish, more generous, more giving. I've stopped spending so much money. I've stopped allowing people to take advantage of me and started standing up for myself. I've stopped caring what other people think of me. (those last two are related for me.) I've turned myself into someone who actually likes to exercise. I've become more serious, and more laid-back. I've become a really hard worker. I've renounced christianity. I've stopped eating meat. Ive adopted nicknames. I've refused to let things that have happened in my past define who I will become.

4:45 PM  
Blogger daniela said...

Oh, hmmm (nod), yes, yeah ... oh. Nice thoughts MP.
I'm going to sit on this one and reply later on, if that's ok. I just put my wee one down for a nap and I want to sort some stuff before I put my feet up.

Though I have one thought, as well as a word of encouragement to you and TG, because I really believe (as you two seem to also) in the plight associated with the (authentic) renounciation of aspects of one's identity.

I look forward to responding later on when I have a steadier head.


10:30 PM  
Blogger L>T said...

In my experience I seem to be always in a state of change, taking habits up & discarding them & changing the way I feel about things. I like to think I am open-minded to change. A lot of the readjustment of the way I see things, hopefully is my renoucing of undesired aspects of my identity

Right now, I am having a huge identity crisis. Does it mean I'm in the middle of a change?

8:11 AM  
Anonymous thinking girl said...

thanks D, I think you hit the nail on the head. There is a plight involved, a tension. a lot of the changes I have made in my life to change aspects of my identity have not been easy for me, or others, to accept. My parents for example find a lot of what I have chosen to work on personally very difficult to understand, especially since some of these are aspects of my identity that they have taught me or brought me up to be (christian, for example). so a rejection of these aspects of my identity also means a rejection of them - or so they think.

L>T, I think you are quite an open-minded person! and I think it is also really interesting and fun and a good learning experience to try on different personas, different personalities, to see what fits, or to see what you might want to integrate into you own personality. I think that's why role-playing can be so much fun. (Is that part of why you like it?)

identity crises are tough. maybe you are ready to break out a new facet of your identity! think of yourself as a chrysalis, waiting to emerge into a beautiful butterfly!

1:59 PM  
Blogger daniela said...

I agree with TG ... LT> you've got a boad scope of a head on ya, and I wondered the same thing aobut your 'thing' for dress-ups.


5:56 PM  
Blogger Mister Pregunto said...

I might point out that Thinking Girl is having an interesting discussion on the subject of nationist identity.

7:39 PM  
Blogger The Visitor said...

@MP - Interesting question, and a very good explanation of the Q that brought out the different aspects of what one considers as identity.

As you said, a question within a question to explain the identity concept; similarly there is another side to the question, which is to some extent judgemental, the aspect of "undesired". This again becomes a personal POV. Just to make a case, TG's list of things, which she has changed about herself, is in her perception undesirable, for the same views are perhaps not held by her parents.

In my opinion, you have summed up rightly, I feel:

I would say one's command over one's sense of identity is bound up tightly with emotional maturity.

7:49 PM  
Blogger L>T said...

think of yourself as a chrysalis, waiting to emerge into a beautiful butterfly! I like that image, thanks!

My identity crisis has to do with not being able to find "me". Is that weird? not knowing who I am?

Maybe this is why the personas are so appealing to me, because they allow me to hide behind them?

8:10 PM  
Blogger The Visitor said...

@l>t - I perfectly identify with you and your feelings, as it is the case with me. I would still be unable to describe myself in any consistent way. Sometimes it bothers me, at other times I just dont care.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Mister Pregunto said...

Is there really a self? Is there really a 'me'?

8:22 PM  
Blogger daniela said...

I'm back to this topic. One thing that sits in my head in response is that you can renounce all you like, but pulling it off, with authenticity can only take time and often not ever happen. I've found that lots but happily reoprt that some things can take 10 years or so, and I like the results of having waited for the harvest.

Do you find that with renouncing an aspect that it is often replaced with another? ...

you: "May I ask (if it's not too personal) what kind of changes you tried to make to your identity? And were you successful?"

me: Hmm. Golly, the list is so long. Some superficial and easy, some deep and tricky. One characteristic that is newish though, rather than answer your question straight away about the points of change, is that these days (one month off 36) I tend to let the changes come on their own, if I can't shift them myself. I really believe in The Will as a powerful transsformer. I also feel that chosing that which I renounce is a good mode of awareness building, but letting others (trusted loved ones, friends, strangers even) begin the process is also pretty powerful too.

Anyhoo. Here is the point that I can't stop thinking of in response to your question. It also relates to your comment about conflict.

I had am identity struggle with my mother. (gosh this is a great question, BTW, I'm thinking of a thousand examples all the while).

The ID struggle was a huge fundamental one to both of us. A generational gap made it harder too.

(You know that she died recently, so I'm cautious to speak of her because I want to remain respectful. Please keep this in mind as you read :).)

My position was that I refused to renounce an aspect of my identity, for right or for wrong. My opinion of my mum was that she had unknowingly renounced an aspect of her ID, and I wanted her to 'get it back' or 'wake up' or 'shut up'.

Now that mum is no longer with us and I see the final months/years of her life with clearing retrospect, I unfortunatley see that my plight (yeah TG, ain't it a plight alright?) to remain The Daughter and for her to remain The Mother was in fact very real and, emotionally dangerous.

Mum kinda never understood what I was on about. But now I see that she was actually becoming like a child, so how could she see why her role as mother was so fragile?

Essentially, I was so stuborn about allowing my mum to 'need' mothering from me because I had lost my father. My stance was: if my mother continues to demand that I parent her, then I will become an orphan, because my father died when I was 22. I knew that this could kill a part of me. The Dughter in me had already grieved for 10 years and she wasn't prepared to do it again.

I flattly refused to be parent, as did she. I knew that I coundn't do it, and nor did I want to.


The outcome of this element of my time with my mum is that before she died, I became her primary agressor (in her eyes), I was the main reason why she killed herself (in her eyes, and suicide note), she had a terrible temper tantrum towards me 6 weeks before she died and this was the last time I saw her. I could go on and on, but my point is that she unwittingly renounced a PRIMARY aspect of her ID (through mental illness? early onset dimensia? rejection by her own mother? widow's grief? shit, I don't know) and this caused a HUGE artery of conflict, because it fed most of out interactions in the final years of her life.

Should I have renounced The Daughter (me)? No and never. Do I regret it holding my position? Hmmm, I didn't think that I was threatening my mum's life ... I thought I was helping her.

Interestingly yesterday ...

(TO BE continued)

11:22 PM  
Blogger daniela said...

MP: thanks for the

12:37 AM  
Blogger artnavy said...

I think I am diff with diff people- does that make me identity less- or is it like brand positioning- in the minds of the consumer

2:18 AM  
Blogger daniela said...

... (hi), and I think it's not remotely possible to know what another's sense of self is, no matter what they show you. Seeing another's identity is a hard thing to do, don't you think?

6:27 AM  
Blogger L>T said...

mr P; that link was awesome! it answered so many questions. thanks :)

I think daniela is right when it comes to other peoples true identitys. We only have our senses to tell us who they are.

Some people are very good actors. The really good ones can deceive themselves along with everyone else.

7:09 AM  
Blogger daniela said...

artnavy: i think that perhaps it means that you;re a polite person, who perhaps monitors social graces with caution, maybe even respect?

unfortunately I tend to not do this, but my culture and generation seem to allow me to improvise my social behavoir rather than script it.

maybe you are just respectful.

5:02 PM  
Blogger The Visitor said...

@artnavy &
I too have different identities with different persons. As D says, it can be termed as respectful, or diplomatic or opportunistic or whatever, depending on the POV of the observer.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Mister Pregunto said...

All of your comments have been giving me much to think about--so much I can't possibly say all I think.

But if I had to settle on a few key points, perhaps I would pose the following questions:

1) Would we be better off having a more fluid, changeable sense of our identities, rather than some fixed self-view?
2) Is it possible that having an identity crisis, disorienting though it can be, is actually the prelude to greater well-being? (Assuming one survives the experience.)
3) Could it be that actively challenging one's identities, and taking responsibility for them, is an essential step in developing inner power and a sound psyche?
4) Would all of society benefit if we re-thought the whole concept of identity from the ground up?

[BTW, Just lately I have been noticing people prepend an @ sign before people's names. I never saw that till a week or two ago. Since then I have been seeing it a lot. Could it be there is a new linguistic form in the blogosphere, denoting the vocative case?]

7:55 PM  
Blogger L>T said...

urban dictionary definitions

mr P: at this time I'd tend to say yes to #2, 3, 4, of your questions.

#1 I don't know. Some sort of fixed identity is what i'm trying to find.

12:17 AM  
Blogger The Visitor said...

Regarding @ - I saw it being used to refer to specific persons who had commented. It could be taken as a vocative case, as it call to attention the person for whom it was intended.

2:54 AM  
Blogger The Visitor said...

MP - I'm not sure that this discussion is in line with the kind of questions you have in mind, and whether you have any definite opinion on religion, christianity, but I thought I'd bring it to your notice, since you are a questioning person. I would love to have your feedback on this. Of course, the basic premise of the discussion itself, might be something that you may or may not agree with.

@TG, LT and Daniela and other readers of this blog- whatever I have asked of Mr Pregunto also applies to you:)

1:42 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

my guess is everyone does sometime.
the chief advantage of aging i've found is feeling less of a need to do this...

6:53 AM  
Blogger Mister Pregunto said...


I wonder if that would be because you have already rid yourself of enough negatives--so that you no longer need to renounce so many undesired aspects? or is it because you have relaxed and don't fret as much over such things?

8:00 PM  
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2:41 PM  
Blogger SUMI said...

Very interesting question. What exactly do you mean by "renouncing an aspect of identity"? Do you mean killing it or ceasing to scknowledge it? If you are talking of behavioral or personality traits, to some extent it is possible to kill those traits. If you're talking of aspects of identity that we cannot choose such as country/family of origin, race etc., one could cease to acknowledge them or think that they matter, but one cannot undo them.

With regard to the former, I have tried to kill some traits that I have found to be barriers against evolving socially/intellectually/spiritually and in some cases have been successful. With regard to the latter, I believe that many aspects of identity and the Self are inescapable and subliminal, but at least at the conscious level, I have established an idenity of my own that does not necessarily conform to specific ways of grouping people. I recently wrote a few things about Identity:

If you are interested in answering questions as well and not just asking :-) I would love to get a peak into your thoughts on some of my questions at

8:50 PM  

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