We all have multiple identities. Not personalities, this is not a disorder. Having multiple personalities is a problem, having multiple identities is healthy.
If you only have one identity you are at risk. If that identity comes under attack you have nothing left. Take an example of someone who focuses only on their job. They don’t get married or have kids, so they are not a father or husband. Their parents pass on. They keep no contact with childhood friends, don’t join sports clubs, don’t have a social outlet. They have only one identity, the person who goes to work. At age 65 they are forced to retire. Their one identity is removed from them. This is a person in danger.
On the other end of the scale we know people who dip in and out of thousands of identities, without tying themselves down to any one with conviction. They have a breadth of interests, but no depth in any one. They may be the absent husband and father, the worker who gives little to the job, the fair weather sports fan, an identity butterfly who flits about the world and is never taken seriously.
We have a choice in identity selection. We can choose who we want to be, how many identities we want to have and how deeply we want to bind ourselves to any given identity. As children we take much of our identity from our surroundings, our parents, siblings, teachers, peers and our environment.
In our late teens we begin to experiment with our own particular identities. One example is in the way we decorate our bedrooms, how we identify the space in the family house that is particularly “me”. For instance it may be through the poster on your wall: http://www.pinterest.com/donalclancy/iconic-bedroom-posters/ but we also use films, books, music, clothes, friends, consumer products and a raft of other things to play with.
Teenagers pull on and cast off identities as easily as they try on outfits when they go shopping. Over time they spend more and more time wearing the ones that feel most comfortable. But even much later in life we take on new identities all the time. When we change job, move house, on the birth of a child, when they marry, on the birth of a grandchild, when our parents become infirm. All through life we take on new identities. Always it is a choice. Who am I today?
Valjean’s Soliloquy; from Les Misérables by Boublil, Natel (French) and Kretzmer (English)
What have I done?
Sweet Jesus, what have I done?
Become a thief in the night,
Become a dog on the run
Have I fallen so far,
And is the hour so late
That nothing remains but the cry of my hate,
The cries in the dark that nobody hears,
Here where I stand at the turning of the years?
If there’s another way to go
I missed it twenty long years ago
My life was a war that could never be won
They gave me a number and murdered Valjean
When they chained me and left me for dead
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread
Yet why did I allow that man
To touch my soul and teach me love?
He treated me like any other
He gave me his trust
He called me brother
My life he claims for God above
Can such things be?
For I had come to hate the world
This world that always hated me
Take an eye for an eye!
Turn your heart into stone!
This is all I have lived for!
This is all I have known!
One word from him and I’d be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?
I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I’ll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!