Tag Archives: identity

How much do you want to belong? How much do you want to be listened to? How much do you want to be acknowledged? How much do you want to be followed? How afraid are you of being ostracized? Are you fearful of being alone? All these aspects contribute to your susceptibility toward Identity Socializing or having the need to align yourself with a particular group’s values and “rules.”

First, let’s look at where Identity Socializing comes from. In these times our current mindset is one of believing that our lives should be prescribed by our laws, religious precepts, and social etiquette and its expectations. We can easily understand and accept following the laws. If we are in any way religious, we can also understand and accept following religious doctrinal requirements. But when it comes to social etiquette and expected social behavior, it’s a bit more difficult to determine where our inner autonomy ends and outer authority begins. This depends primarily on who and what we have been taught to believe have authority over us. Over the last few generations this point of reference has been shifting.

For the most part, laws and religious doctrines for our behavior have remained relatively consistent. And depending on our culture, family manners have also remained essentially the same. But our responses to each other in public have been undergoing a subtle metamorphosis. This is not so much a reflection of individuals intentionally changing but more from a perspective of indoctrinated change produced and promoted by our changing media and political system. The initiator was and still is the media. The political pattern for change slowly followed suit when it was seen that the methods for media indoctrination could be used as a manipulative ploy for political agendas and the directive potential for its constituency.

When I say media, I am not referring to the news media but to the commercial advertising industry in the initial stages of its clientele’s psychological and authoritative “conditioning.” This was the beginning of their restructuring of advertising style when it first became apparent that TV and radio could be used to sell products to consumers. These first twinges of subversive advertising policies began to occur when the industry first realized that they could make someone believe that they would “need” their product in order to become acceptable, if not desirable, to their peers. This was our first “conditioning” into believing that we are personally not good enough as we are, aka, a real man or a real woman, unless we were using their product. This was the first intentional use of the media in the diminishing of our worthiness suggesting that the authority we should submit to comes from outside ourselves, namely, them.

While we are being raised as young children, we accept the fact that our parents are the authority in whatever we are permitted to do or how we are taught to behave. This is obviously done for safety measures in light of the fact that we have no worldly experience to draw on in handling our lives or the dangers it may present. This is also done to instill in us the rules and expectations of the society we live in. This generally keeps us safe and makes life with others mostly smooth and agreeable. As puberty arrives, a choice comes to the forefront. In us begins the stirrings of the need for autonomy. Peer pressure and competition become apparent. At this point many of us make a choice as to whether we will follow our own drummer or that of others. How much our inner nature we have been allowed to express in our previous upbringing is the major factor determining which choice we will make. If we’ve been over protected, we will most likely opt for following others. If we’ve been encouraged to think for ourselves and make our own choices, or even neglected, we may will likely take our own lead.

There are many other contributing factors facilitating our choices. We may also lead partially and follow partially. The human mind is complicated and responds differently depending on the people and their influence that surround us in our early years. The point I’d like to emphasize here is that, generally, it is at this point after puberty, or slightly before,  when our parents begin to allow us to make some independent choices or even encourage us to do so. But in recent years, and with the advent of technology, another surrogate “parent” has begun to step in and take over our family’s parental duties and influences - the media. Technology has inescapably brought itself right into our living space through television, internet, and now telephones. The deprecating advertising has followed right along with them. And the media has not encouraged us to make our own choices. As a result, many of us move out of the parental “supposed to’s” directly into the media’s “supposed to’s” never even coming to the realization that we might be able to think for ourselves or that we’re even allowed to. Consequently, the opportunity to think for ourselves has been voraciously annexed by the media.

Now, a strange thing has happened. The psychological dependency we had on our parents has been extended to the media and external authorities. As a result, many of us, especially the younger “indoctrinated “generations, cannot decide what we want to do or who we should be without seeking the endorsement and “approval” of the media and its espoused requirements for social desirability and acceptance. Additionally, after the political bureaucracy has gotten involved in media in recent years, the need for that approval has been extended to our social behavior. That has allowed political correctness to move into an acceptable and authoritative position. This became the icing on the cake for our social control by the media. This brings us finally to Identity Socializing. What is it?

Since the media has essentially convinced us of our lack of personal authority and has taken over the last word on what it is appropriate to be, do and say in public, our “surrogate parent” now has gained the control over the personal values of those who have unsuccessfully graduated toward thinking for themselves. If you have learned to think for yourself, this will a perspective that you will likely be unable to relate to. If you haven’t, you may even go as far as to deny this in yourself.

For those of us who have failed to learn how to think for ourselves, it has now become common practice for us to align with specific groups and the principles of socially identified sections of our culture. This way we can know what to do and how to behave. In order for us to feel unthreatened, we must label everyone else according to socially identifiable groups. They must either be a vegetarian, an omnivore, a yuppie, middle class, affluent, oppressed, a leftist, a conservative, a minority, an elitist, a racist, a homophobe, a feminist, and many other classifications that pigeonhole them into a group that can be “standardized” in our dealing with them according to the prescribed and profiled rules of the group we “belong” to. Now we can feel safe and “in control.” Even gender now has a selection of groups.

On first blush this may seem a little excessive or even paranoid. But ask yourself this question. These days, when we first meet someone, what do we ask them? What do you do (where do you work)? Are you married (are you available)? Where do you live (are you affluent or are you struggling)? Do you have kids (can we talk about family)? How about those Gators (do you watch sports)? Almost every question we ask is a gentle, slightly tacit probe to find out what group they classify with, if we should associate with them, on what grounds, what beliefs are promoted, and will we have to defend our beliefs and perceived inadequacies?

In our current culture fear has become much more of a dominating factor. But fear of what? From one perspective, it involves our perception of our safety and privacy. But from a second perspective, and on a more subconscious level, our sense of group belonging has become a much larger part of how we identify ourselves. Why?

With the encroaching of the media annexing our power to think for ourselves, the outside world has become our authority in making decisions. This funnels us into becoming much more conscious of what other people think of us. Additionally, with the breakdown of our family structure over the past four decades, our sense of inclusion in the family has been lost where an assumed unconditional acceptance might be expected to come from. Now, we must look for that inclusion and belonging in the social sphere. With everyone conscious of what groups we do or don’t belong to, our sense of identity has become much more tangled up in the characteristics of the group we wish to belong to rather than our own inner values. To misbehave according to group rules might result in our becoming ostracized or “excommunicated” from our preferred group. This would be disastrous not only for our self-image but for the love and support we might expect to receive from them.

Through slow changes in the family and the media, we now have arrived at a place where we primarily identify ourselves based on external group rules and expectations. Our individualism has been obliterated in favor of the rules of the group we belong to. Our self-image now squarely rests in our social identity. We can only gain a reflection of ourselves from how we fit into the narrow edicts of the group we have chosen to belong to. Any individualism separates us from the group identity and “classifies” us elsewhere. We’ve been homogenized. We now are the masses described in George Orwell’s 1984.

We’ve unwittingly sacrificed our individualism and our ability to think for ourselves for belonging through identity socializing and we don’t even know it. Safety in numbers always results in the death of creativity. Every genuinely great figure in history has seen this and moved past it in forging their own individualism while risking rejection and excommunication from their superficially defined social groups. Can you? Do you even know that this has happened to you?

masks-5I think when any of us look back at the experiences we’ve had with another person we can’t help but wonder if our connection to and feeling about them somehow tempers the way we relate to them. This is the most prominent in people that we’d like to make a good impression on or those whom we want to continue our connection to them feeling that our interchange with them either encourages us to feel differently about ourselves and/or that we feel that they match some ideal or preference that we have about the people and circumstances we’d prefer to be associated and connected to. There are a number of different dimensions that we must consider when we wish to assess our part and presentation to the world and those whom we wish to be with. The first thing we need to look at is the difference between who we are and how we behave when in or out of their presence.

Who we are, essentially, never changes. How we behave does. It’s our behavior that other people see that’s used to decide and define who they believe we are. We, in turn, accept this as our identity. Remembering that we believe that who we are is our perception of how the world sees us, we know that that can only be defined by the things we do, the possessions we have and Programmer-1activities that we participate in that the world can observe. So we can say that we are a computer programmer because our daily work consists of working, getting paid and being response-able with others concerning computers. If we behave by the employer’s rules, others will perceive us as a programmer. We know that if we want to keep our job there is a specific rapport that is required for us to maintain that type of connection with our preferred company. If we do it as a hobby, we might be more inclined to say that we dabble in computers only because there are some unspoken rules about what we can call a job or career and what we can call a hobby. So our identity, as transient as it may be, is what the world sees of our behavior NOT who we actually are. Who we are remains the same. We are a perceiving, feeling, thinking person. The moment the world becomes involved in that identification, outside circumstances come into play making our behavior the determining factor as to our identity. This may seem like I’m splitting hairs but when we perceive, that is one dimension of relationship; our core or who we are. When we conceive of and perceive ourselves with another person or the outside world, that behavior or identity changes because it includes the reflections and responses of others. The point I’m making is that the behavior and rapport that we offer or support is dependent on whether we’re by ourselves or whether we’re with others and the type of connection that we wish to maintain in our career with them. The same is true with personal relationships. We all know that we can feel and behave very differently just being friends with someone or being intimate with them and even that intimacy can have a differing rapport being radically different between person to person and our imagined or hoped for rapport with them. So, to recap, when we’re by ourselves, we can, and usually do, behave one way and when we’re with others we can, and usually do, behave differently. On other words, when we’re by ourselves, there’s no impression to create or maintain. When we’re with others, there is. Are you with me thus far? Now, let’s look at why we would behave differently with different people.

Irresponsible parent1Our childhood upbringing creates experiences that push us toward choosing how we feel about ourselves. If we’ve been encouraged to make our own decisions, trust our own instincts and intuitions, we begin to feel confidence in ourselves as a “valid” person and come to believe that we have nothing to hide. If we have been discouraged from making our own decisions, over protected or dominated into NOT trusting our own instinct and intuitions, we begin to feel inadequate and come to believe that we must hide our perceived inadequacy, aka, we have something to hide. This is true for everyone whether acknowledged or not. Every one of us has some degree of this emotional current running below the surface of our awareness. Some of us may be aware of it, but most of us are either not or choose to ignore it. This difference in feeling is the one of the major deciding factors in why we feel compelled to behave differently with different people in different circumstances. Dependent on the level of perceived inadequacies it can lead to some unbelievable compensation made in our behavior in order to avoid the exposure of them for fear of feeling anticipated interpersonal or public shame. The other major contributor factor occurs when we do feel adequate but don’t feel compelled to cover believed short comings because we feel comfortable in whom we are or we have worked through many of the challenges of our childhood that might have created these inadequacies within us. In this second case we simply might just want to limit our exposure to masks-4or interactions with people that we have decided are, in our opinion, arrogant, imbalanced or combative. For those of us who feel comfortable in our own skin and who, essentially, don’t feel fearful of exposure leading us toward compensating, this is not an issue. We have our Self-Trust and a stable self-confidence well ingrained. Our major concern here is to determine what occurs when we do feel compelled to compensate or “adjust” our behavior in order to create an image or prevent exposure.

There are two directions that this compensation or “adjusted” behavior may present itself through us. Depending on how badly our spirit was damaged in our upbringing will determine which way we go. We can, either, project outward and “paint” a better image of ourselves in our interchanges with others or we can retreat into the shadows in order not to be discovered. When we project ourselves or strike out “painting” what we feel might be a better picture of who we think or believe we are, we then more actively lean toward compensating. When we retreat into the shadows we lean more toward hiding. With those of us who choose the active Wild_and_crazy_guysShyness-1path, and depending on the degree of compensation that we feel we need to apply in order to evoke what we consider a more favorable response from those we interact with, we may ramp up our output. With a mild need and a mild ramping, others might not feel anything odd in our approach to them. But for some of us who have a very low self-image, our push to create an image may sometimes become overwhelming to the point where it becomes overly obvious to others and they start to feel our overcompensation as something being “off” with us. These are people we often label as “obnoxious.” Those of us who retreat into the shadows we label “shy.”

As you may have guessed, there as a very poignant reason why some of us will push the point and others of us will just back down. Its cause comes from two sources. First, the soul or spirit we are before we enter this life and body may have preponderance toward either projecting outward or retreating inward. Then, once we enter these bodies, we are now subject to the additional exposure to and training by those whose care we are entrusted to and the environment we find ourselves in. These two different sources are what scientist call nature vs. nurture. The first influence we can clearly see is innate or a given resulting in our accompanying disposition. But the second is “adjustable.” This “adjustable” dimension can make or break our choice between projecting out and retreating. Projecting outward we label being extroverted and retreating inward we label being introverted. To understand the difference we can look the process of training.

I don’t want to speak “science-eze” but in order to make a point I need to say that in the training of any sentient being (we are one…hopefully) there is always a combination of rewards and punishments used as a compellent or force for change. Scientists call this training conditioning. Some parents train with rewards and/or bribes. Some train with punishment and/or withholding. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. But to avoid any human emotional prejudice on our part, let’s look instead at horse training or “breaking” as ranchers would label it rather than people.

horse breaking-2Each horse has a spirit and resiliency which usually returns them to a comfortable and active state after any trauma or difficulty has passed. This resiliency differs from horse to horse. Some horses may be able to take more punishment (trauma) or abuse than others. It takes a skilled trainer to “know” or feel where that limit is. When a trainer successfully trains or conditions a horse to respond to specific commands, their spirit, their life and liveliness is retained. They still have an expressive personality. They still have spunk and energy. But when the trainer estimates that limit badly and pushes beyond what the horse is able to recover from, the horse’s spirit dies. The spunk disappears. The life goes out of their eyes. They become void of personality and expressiveness. This same process takes place in the training of children. If a parent is authoritarian or abusive and misjudges the resiliency of the child, they may, literally, kill the spirit of the child through using excessive discipline or punishments to induce specific behaviors. The child will then retreat and feel hesitant or even immobilized toward expressing or performing for fear of more punishment or abuse. In parenting, the overall effect of over-protection and abuse is the same. With excess directives, protections, punishments or abuse the child becomes reluctant and/or unable to act at all because they have either not been given the opportunity to learn how to be independent or for fear of behaving in a way that will draw more punishment and disapproval. Allowing for lesser punishments or abuses we find that this type of exposure produces only mild inhibition and shyness. So, we can safely say that depending on how far the “trainer” has gone beyond the child’s ability to recover and to be Abuse-1resilient will determine how shy or buried the child’s spirit and personality will be. Those of us who lean more toward being shy or introverted are usually reacting to over conditioning by virtue of an authoritarian or overprotective parent. Before I move on I think that it’s also worthy to note that children who grow to become abusers themselves regain their spirit through reclaiming their power by becoming the abuser but at someone else’s expense.

So where does this leave us? Those of us whose spirit has been “broken” will retreat inward and behave as an introvert. Those of us whose spirit remains intact will project, compensate and behave as an extrovert. Remember, both may not actually be inadequate or incompetent but feeling and believing that we are will lead us toward modifying our behavior when we’re with others.

Shyness-3In answer to our opening question, “Do we behave differently when in a relationship as opposed to when we’re not?” We almost always do to some degree. Even the best of us who have done an outstanding job in becoming accountable and have been ruthlessly honest with ourselves will still have things that we feel we need to hide. This is only human. But that little bit of a “discrepancy” won’t lead us toward needing to compensate for anything. We’re comfortable to just let it go unnoticed. However, if our conditioning has left us feeling that we are somehow just not enough or competent enough, it is here where the need to compensate begins to grow. The more intense our perceived denigration is, the more intense will be our feelings of inadequacy. The more intense our feelings of inadequacy are, the stronger will be our urge to compensate.

who-am-i-2So, when we speak with someone, and it’s usually with someone who might be important to us, and we feel the urge to “flower up” a description of our experience or heighten the “wow” value of what we’ve done, we have to ask ourselves, “Where is this urge coming from? What makes me feel that I need to do this?” This will be the beginning of recognizing where our imagined and assumed inadequacies lie. The reality of it is usually not so and it’s only a factor of how we were taught and perceived our self-value as a child. Who led us to feel this way? Why? This is the root and the core of where we can kill any urge for us to compensate.