How do I develop an identity and a sense of self?

In answer to Quora question: "How do I develop an identity and a sense of self?"

A2A. Self-concept is constructed and maintained by memories that form a narrative version of our identity, as selectively reinforced by present feedback (perceptions, thoughts, feelings, interactions, experiences, etc.). So although we may not always "feel" like we have an identity or sense of self, unless parts of our brain are severely damaged, we actually do. In order to "reconnect" with that sense of self, all you really need to do is access those memories and experience them in the present. It also helps to contextualize them - to decide what those memories mean to you. Why? Because unless we have an eidetic memory or other substantive structural uniqueness, most memories will be encoded because they connect us to important events or information. They are part of our essential learning - *they are relevant to who and how we are*. So you may need to decide what the relevance is.

Now of course there are people whose conscious recall of memory is impaired, and consequently their sense of self can become unstable. If this is true for you, there may be an underlying psychological or physiological condition for which some professional help may benefit. Psychology and physical medicine have made some extraordinary advances in this area. Then again, this may also be a permanent deficit that can't be remedied. If that is the case, you may have to live with an "unstructured" or absent sense of self.

However a much more common occurrence is simply not being tuned into various kinds of memory. And this really gets to the heart of the issue, because their are many different kinds. There is the sort of visually imaginative memory that plays like a movie in our heads - and this is what many people refer to when they describe long term memories from their past. But there is also emotional memory that expresses as a reflexive emotional reaction to certain situations, and which may feel like a sort of emotional intuition. There is also somatic memory that inspires reflexive physical reactions in the same way. And I believe there is also spiritual memory - something that guides a different kind of intuition - a sort of knowing that transcends obvious, rational information, but isn't emotional or physical in nature. And if we have shut down our sensitivity to (or awareness of) any of these memory streams, we will inevitably begin losing parts of our felt sense of identity.

So when I referred to reconnecting with a sense of self through memory, I meant doing so via all of these different dimensions of memory. And, if those have been closed off to you for a long time, that may require different therapeutic techniques. Bodywork, introspective meditation, breathing techniques...there are quite a few to draw from. And again, if you aren't able to access these memory streams on your own, you may need professional guidance.

My 2 cents.


Trackback specific URI for this entry

This link is not meant to be clicked. It contains the trackback URI for this entry. You can use this URI to send ping- & trackbacks from your own blog to this entry. To copy the link, right click and select "Copy Shortcut" in Internet Explorer or "Copy Link Location" in Mozilla.

No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry