It is a fluent, changeable thing. Identity is something that we either identify ‘with’ or ‘as’. It is portrayed internally and expressed externally, but will always be received differently depending on the observer. Identity is not just your name, sex and date of birth, unless we limit it to these specific categories: it is much more than that. So what is identity?
I personally find that identity differs depending on what essence of You it is that you connect with.
We go through many stages in our lives in which we identify ourselves through different lenses, be it through imagination, or what we have been told and conditioned to identify with. Through our memories, true and false, through parents/family, friends and the environment or through culture and geography. Perhaps we identify ourselves through our own filters of the world that we have created through experiences, the reception of others, or through change of perspectives, paradigm shifts and different levels of consciousness, like the shedding skin of a snake, peeling off layers to get to a different, new and fresh identity… Additionally, I hold the belief that our astrological chart has a huge effect on what character traits or blueprint we are born with, which will determine how we respond and pick up on things, what our focus is on etc.
The thing about astrology is, it is an outward reflection of what is happening inside. When you know about it and understand the connections between the planets and our setup, you get a better understanding of what your lessons are in this life of yours. You know what to change and what challenges will arise, and how you will respond to these challenges. It adds clarity to your understanding of your patterns and behaviours, and explains why one person is affected by the same situation differently to another. And yet one layer deeper, there is only one true identity, and one counteracting identity within you.
Your soul and your ego, constantly playing with one another. I would consider them individual forms of identity, but perhaps in different ways than one might expect to talk about identity. The two come together to create one identity, and looking at each of them on their own as two different polarities creates this idea of the shape-shifter. If you attempt to visualise this shapeshifting, the person all of a sudden turns into a form different from their usual state, similar to the reptilian process of shapeshifting. This serpentine comparison is perhaps one of the most common images of what shape- shifting tangibly looks like. However, I look at it metaphorically.
Imagine a moment when someone who is generally considered to have the ‘sweetest’ nature, all of a sudden lashes out with an outburst of anger and really hurts another by doing so. I would call this an example of shapeshifting. The same person unexpectedly became another version of themselves, even though they are the same individual. Something else comes over them, and they behave in a manner that can be described as ‘unlike themselves’ or ‘out of character’. It’s like two sides of one being living in the same body, shifting between two different states, both serving as different catalysts for a reaction to external situations.
The reaction comes from one of two places: the first, a place of love, which might be expressed by showing understanding and empathy, and listening to others in a state of calmness and serenity. The second is a place of pain/fear that stems from feeling mistreated, or as if they need to claim their right or power back, or even from having feelings of hate or anger towards someone that they actually love. There’s a strong sense of needing to protect themselves through force: there is no trust, and a strong rush of emotion just pulls one deeper into that feeling. It grows fast, and is usually connected to potential shouting, harsh words and/or hurting the other person either physically or emotionally.
Every single one of us has these two sides. One side is driven by the soul, the desire that drives our physical human body, and that takes us through our life experiences with an inner knowing or gut instinct. It is the energy of wanting to love unconditionally and share with people. Then, there is the physical, animalistic side to us: the ego. This side is what makes sure we are reminded to eat, sleep, run or fight when we need to. It’s the protector of the self. It wants to protect us from pain and is very self-centred, and its underlying energy is fear. This is part of what makes us human though, as without the ego we wouldn’t feel sad or happy or have the material to think critically. It is a form of resistance to the ever-flowing, abundant life force that makes up our soul. It is attachment; it keeps the soul in our body. If we didn’t have our ego, we wouldn’t have anything to work with. So it is a pivotal part of us. Without it we wouldn’t be walking on this earth right now, but hovering around other planes of light and spirits in other dimensions.
The reason I’m saying this is because our identity is influenced by these two forces. Whichever one we dedicate more energy to will affect our identity, and the way that we show up, in different ways. Coaching can be the catalyst for change that tunes in with your soul and your true heart’s desire. It doesn’t eliminate fear, but it overcomes it by gaining clarity and the power to look it straight in the eye within a coaching conversation. Coaching trains the muscles to seek out the truth voluntarily and overcome a habit of avoidance. The reason people seek coaching is because they have a desire to live fearlessly, eliminating baggage, lightening their load and living their true selves without apology or hesitation. People don’t need coaching, as life naturally takes us through many situations, teaching many lessons without it. However, we do have the power within us to live smarter if we want to. Living smarter means understanding yourself so that you can make themes of it, while alleviating pressure.
I have a client called Marcus who came to me for coaching in September 2017. He identified with my niche, which sits within the context of creativity; I coach creatives, e.g. visual artists, musicians, performers, writers, entrepreneurs and people wanting to get creative with their lives, wanting to live as their authentic selves. Being an artist himself, he felt drawn to me. He sought out coaching after he tried out counselling, and discovered he didn’t really enjoy the process. He didn’t find it useful to him personally, as it felt that conversations were lingering too much in the past without much action, planning or positivity coming from it at the end of the session, just a situation in which he left with heavy feelings. He is aware that he has strong eruptive energies within him that he feels he can’t control sometimes. After therapy sessions he always felt low and as though they only added to him experiencing extreme highs and extreme lows within his moods. He felt coaching would align more with his personality.
Marcus is a very talented musician, who is always seeking out things to do in order to keep himself busy. He was diagnosed with manic depression when he was in his teens because of big anger outbursts and severe highs and lows in his moods. He was given anti-depressants to correct the mood swings and the depression, but felt as though they ate away at his personality, taking away his senses and drive for anything. The comparison between his usual self and his self on antidepressants is quite extreme as he is a very creative individual, therefore the opening for energies to flow through him is much wider and therefore more intense.
Creatives tend to experience emotions more intensely; they have an opening that will channel through a lot of intuitive, creative expression, epiphanies and creations, insights that come to them because of that opening. A more positive channelling of the creative flow coming in means that there will also be an opening for real depths of the counterpart, the lows. The higher the highs, the lower the lows. So, for creative individuals, it is even more important to find an inner balance between the two polarities, in order to understand where to find and execute a stop in their minds to prevent lows or encourage highs. It is also important to identify where the boundaries lie, as such identification determines whether the outcome is a result of the soul or the ego.
Marcus’ depression has been marking him all his life, so much so that he identified as a manic depressant for a long period of his life. It is only now, finding himself at the right time and place in his life, and coupled with life coaching conversations, that he has learnt to relax his mind somewhat, learning to be OK with who he is. He is now learning to befriend his own identity for the right reasons, while at the same time eliminating anxieties about the future and gaining trust in himself on the way.
Most of our conversations would portray Marcus as having trouble accepting the situation the way that it was. Never feeling good enough, feeling pressure and carrying a sense of shame within him constantly. He said he would go as far as putting on a “perfect man attitude, giving the right handshakes” just because it was seen as ‘appropriate’. He said that a lot of his identity was ‘acted out’ especially to impress other people. Not because he wanted to fool anyone, no, but because he was seeking to embody the type of guy that he thought he had be. So he acquired certain characteristics, belonging to a certain etiquette, making him the man he thought he ‘should’ be.
Now, ‘shoulds’ can be an indicator of someone not feeling good enough in the now, and potentially talking about something that doesn’t apply to how they actually are as a person. Often it is something that someone else might have projected onto you, that might be keeping you from doing the things that you actually want to be doing. This focus on the ‘should’ will most likely keep you trapped in not doing whatever that ‘should’ actually is, perhaps conjuring thoughts about you not being good enough as a result, again preventing you from doing what you actually truly want to be doing, without having properly explored what thoughts, unknown desires or beliefs are behind your ‘shoulds’.
Further conversations with Marcus led to talk about parents. Parents mark the beginning of our lives. Our parents are the ones who we see the world through for many years at the start of our lives. When we reach the age of about 12 or 13, we start to break out of the energy of living through the spiritual guidance of our parents and make our own minds up. This breakout often leads to a period of rebellion and confusion, anger and depression and even substance abuse in some cases… The kid is trying to break free while the parents still have so much influence and say over them and what they should do or feel. It is childhood that sets the tone for the oncoming years, and for some this presents quite a struggle.
It is worth noting that whilst parents play a pivotal role, kids learn not only through being told things, but through observation and copying. The parents/caregivers, people around the child, are the child’s role models, and therefore the child will copy their behaviours and their energy. What the child hears said, even if not directly to them, will impact them greatly throughout their lives, both consciously and subconsciously. These ideas are ingrained and repetitively played over in our heads, creating neurological relationships that breed our habits, resulting over many years in the strong beliefs that we identify with. If these beliefs are broken down or taken apart, then we lose that part of us that we identified with for so long, and begin to feel lost, uncomfortable, distressed, stressed, hopeless or even fearful. But this breakdown is essential to renew our energy, keep in motion and keep developing so that we don’t create energetic stagnation.
When I met him, Marcus’ identity was influenced by everything from his parents to his environment and his own selective choosing, both consciously and subconsciously. I noticed that when asking Marcus about his parents or his girlfriend, he would be saying things that would feel emotional to him or even a bit painful, but he always excused them at the end of it, feeling clearly uncomfortable about leaving them in a bad light. He feels strongly about talking positively about these important people, even though he admits feeling negative emotions at times too. He doesn’t like staying there in that negative space. The way in which his parents affected him was through indirect impressions of what ‘good enough’ means to them, whether this was through the way that they communicated with each other, through the way they chatted to friends, through comments at the tv or about others, or through their own aspirations and ideals. Marcus automatically sought to match up to those expectations, not because they made him but because he received the information in this second-hand manner. This was just the unique set up of his character, which might be completely different to how someone else would receive and digest this information.
Could it be that Marcus’ strong emotional outbursts might have to do with him suppressing his feelings? I think so. He has been getting a grip of this more and more, as he becomes more self reflective. I had the feeling it is almost like he doesn’t feel comfortable feeling his true emotions around things that upset him, as that would make him feel vulnerable and he fears that he may lose control of himself. So in our coaching we take it step by step.
For him personally it’s important to feel empowered, which is all about taking off pressure. Talking about everything really helps him the most. Venting, contemplating and reflecting. Taking off the pressure for him means doing less, at least for the time being, and accepting that he is happy with where he is at, right here right now, seeing the bigger picture and not getting lost in the detail. It is important that he feels confident with who he is, and is able to separate the talk that is his own and the talk that has been created through situations where he felt uncomfortable and therefore felt the need to prioritise others’ happiness over his own.
The only person putting pressure on Marcus is Marcus. And realising that he is putting this pressure on was a huge breakthrough. At first he struggled to realise this, but as soon as he did and he tried to relax the pressure, the difference was immense.
Everything is a choice. Our decisions are often made in an impulsive and automatic fashion, unless we take a second to consciously think about the choices, and decide wisely. This goes back to the shapeshifter example. Why did he do it? Why did he put so much pressure on himself that it made him feel so depressed? Not because he enjoys feeling stressed out and low all the time, no, but because he had a goal in mind to be at a certain stage in his life, and he wanted it as soon as possible. He wasn’t listening to his body and his intuition telling him to slow down and be patient, and he was focusing on being someone else than the person that he actually is right now. Why? Because he thinks of others, how they will see him, what reactions they will give him, and fears that he wouldn’t be good enough. Not good enough for his parents or his girlfriend or his girlfriend’s parents. He feels a strong need to always be better, usually overtaking himself, having breakdowns because the pressure would be more than he could realistically handle. He wouldn’t allow himself to just be.
Attachment is another factor that could have added to his depression: certain ideas, people and outcomes that he was attached to without flexibility, as his identification with these concepts was so high. What might lie behind that attachment? Questions (fears) like this come to my mind: what would I be without them/it? Who would I be? Identity stands and falls with attachment to those ideas and ways of being (all connected to the energy of the ego) until you let go, until you surrender and trust in life, following the guidance of your soul, your intuition, your own inner map.
The art of coaching has enabled Marcus to bring a lot of the subconscious to the surface for him to see with more clarity, so that he could decide what he wanted to keep, and understand what doesn’t resonate with him any longer. Sometimes we store stuff we don’t need anymore, which might have been needed at some point in the past and stayed stuck with us since, because attachment is easier than detachment. With this knowledge, he was able to relax himself in the here and now and create his own authentic identity, in congruence with himself, through taking off the layers he realised he doesn’t need and which no longer serve him. Now his identity is being run from the soul side, more than the ego side. He said that now he is still his honest, more vulnerable self, but is much wiser and more reflective because of it. The moment he slowed down, his mind became calmer and stronger, and he began handling his outbursts differently. Now he notices his shapeshifting and manages to deal with it in a conscious and mindful way.
Marcus came to coaching saying that he wanted to improve his relationship with his girlfriend. Move over to be with her and get out of his rut, alleviate his outbursts of anger and untamed emotions. He felt that he had not been ‘himself’ the past year. Much of his anger came from the memory of who he used to be, the self that he knew from before, being reminded of all the things he was missing now and dealing with things which were confronting him. Living back with his parents, it felt like his life had broken down. He always wanted his old life back and was very hard on himself over it.
Five sessions in I received a thank you email, explaining how he sees things in a different light now. He told me how much he had gained through talking, and how much of his torture has been relieved. Now he sees the purpose of the ‘stagnation’ and is able to shift his perspective to seeing a better version of himself developing. A version that is not attached to a specific outcome, but trusting in the fact that things will come his way of their own accord. He says he is still feeling pain, still having his moments, but he feels a change he can’t describe, as though something has been lifted.
Identity is at its best when it is lived and expressed, not suppressed. Be you!
Find out more about Maria here.
This blog post is a chapter from the latest Animas free eBook Identity.
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