Saturday, August 4, 2012

Identity #5--Our Gang

The individual identity is the picture you have of yourself that you put together from what you saw and may continue to see in the faces around you and the way those faces relate to you and your needs. That is pretty well formed by adolescence when you move into building group identity.

“Group identity refers to those you will consider "my people" for the rest of your life. You feel at home with your group, your people. You use them as a reference any time you wonder what it would be like you to do in a particular situation. The subconscious thought process goes something like this: "Let's see; Mom, Dad, and Uncle Joe say I always do such and such...So, in this kind of situation it is like me to...therefore, now I'm going to...!" You will turn to your group whenever life becomes too hard. You will bring home your treasures for them to share. You will want them at every important event in your life.”[1]

As our daughters experimented with leaving the nest, at some point they both called home and with awed voices related how wonderful it was to know beyond any doubt that they could come home. If where they were and what they were doing was too hard, they could always come home. Always. It broke their hearts to hear the stories of girls who had to make their situation work regardless of interest or abuse, because there was no home to go to. Parents had made it very clear: “Do not come home!”

So, what if your “group” had only negative things to say to you or about you? What if every time you brought home a treasure they trashed it? What if they ignored or mocked your accomplishments? What if they laughed at or lectured you when life became too hard and you turned to them for some kind of comfort or support? What if they do not consider your important life events important and did not come?  What if they said, “Don’t come home?” What if the people in your group are the ones you would never want to attend something of importance to you? How would you feel? Would you feel you belonged to anyone anywhere? If there is no one to look to and no “home” to go to, then who are you and where do you belong? If your needs are not met, or if they are met without love, or if they were met inconsistently, what does that say about your worth to these people? You have no reference points to look to, no one to tell you how to relate to people outside this “group.”

If you did not see worth and delight in the faces around you as a child, you may have come to not expect it as an adult, unless the Lord intervenes. If you never know what response to expect as a child, it is unlikely that you do as an adult. Identity involves all those things you look to that tell you who you are, your reference points. What you see reflected in the faces of your community becomes internalized. Much of what you see reflected in the faces of your group is the sum of your history. You do not think to question the truth or accuracy of that picture; that simply is who you are.

Think about what you saw in the faces of the people in your life as a child; what were the messages? If you saw that "you are good," "gifted," "a delight," "you are good at... something, "you are mine," then you grow up with a strong identity and knowing who you are. If you saw only disgust, contempt, were used and abused, treated as a piece of furniture, or not seen at all, then you may have grown up believing that you should be ignored, used and abused. The good news is that this too can be turned around!

Fixing Identity Holes—A counselor aligned with Jesus and faithful to His ways can be a great help in repairing identity. Additionally, there are five things you can do to repair your identity.

1. Produce a zone of belonging.

2. Take the risk of relationship.

3. Wash your mind, spirit, and emotions with God’s word.

4. Through inner healing remove the lies about self that you grew up with as well as roots of bitterness toward those who tempted you to adopt those lies.

5. Find new faces that reflect the truth about you. There is no order of importance indicated; this is simply a list. In the next post I will elaborate on these five action items.

If something in this post rang true for you, please comment and let me know. And, if you would, do me the favor of passing it along to your friends!

Blessings, Carol

[1] Carol A. Brown, Highly Sensitive, Destiny Image, Shippensboro, PA, 2010, p. 231. ISBN 13: 978-0-7684-3260-2.
Excerpted from Highly Sensitive, Carol A. Brown, Destiny Image, Shippensboro, PA, pp. 231-233 ISBN 13: 978-0-7684-3260-2.

1 comment:

  1. So true. And appreciate that you give things that can be done to change, rather than just identifying the way things are. Loved this, Carol, and I am passing it along!