We come into this world as a blank slate. No language, no political ideology, no opinions and no religion. We now know that babies identify with everything. They do not know separateness. But then those around us begin to help us fill in the blank slate including a name. We become filled up with opinions, strongly held points of view and a history. We acquire what we mostly call a personality and we identify with what we are learning and absorbing from our environment. We experience ourselves as separate from everyone and our environment. We become conditioned and programed by our family and culture. We go unconscious to our original Self that knew no separateness.
We come to believe we are a body, a mind, a personality.... an identity. We are a woman, a man, maybe a sibling and then later maybe a father or mother, a sexual identity and we develop a work identity as adults. As kids we quickly become aware of death and combined with the sense of separateness, the drive to survive and the drive to be right becomes our dominant drives or urges. And the drive to survive includes not just our body but also our identity, i.e., all that we consider ourselves to be. We even develop a voice in our mind or a seemingly unending stream of thoughts and we identify with that stream of thoughts that seems to be located in the center of our heads and we come to believe that stream of thoughts is who we are.
And so the game and drama of being an adult human begins. Choices show up personally and collectively. Some choices lead to insanity, others to sanity or a mixture. I choose to question the whole process of becoming human. I question that we are our bodies, minds and stream of endless thoughts. I question that we are fathers, mothers, brothers or sisters but instead these are roles we play. Could it be that we are like masterful actors who lose themselves in a role and cannot get out of character? I choose to think that maybe what we are, as our true nature, has a mind, a body, a personality, etc.
Could it be that we humans are under a kind of mass hypnosis and collective illusion? Are we totally programed and conditioned to fight(as in fight for survival) for being a made up, false and fictitious identity? Could it be that all the self improvement and personal growth work we do is for naught? Maybe all we need is simply to experience waking up to who we really are. See Eckhart Tolle for a more in depth exploration of this awakening.
It’s not that I am advocating getting rid of our identity. Rather I am advocating a shift from being a thing, a little self, inside a bag of skin to a Self, common to us all that includes a body and an identity. I am pointing to an identity that we have rather than be. Such a subtle shift might lead to waking up from the mass hypnosis and collective illusion that leads to all the mischief of us human beings. I am not saying that overnight all of humanity can suddenly transform and all problems of our planet will disappear. But consider the possibility of one person at a time waking up from our slumber. Actually that is already happening: I will get into that in a post next week.
The shift I am pointing to can empower us to recognize our ability to observe what we have identified with and gain some leverage in letting go of what does not serve us well. Example: Consider the possibility if we individually and collectively had been able to observe and be aware of our thinking in the lead up to the Iraq War. Instead, most of our political and military leadership, along with maybe most of us as citizens, were stuck being identified with militaristic thinking. There was insufficient self awareness to step back and examine and question our thinking.
Personally I now think of my identity as being like an avatar. I thought the movie Avatar was a great analogy for the power of the shift from being an identity to having an identity. By having an avatar the protagonist(the disabled marine) in the movie was able to observe and question his behavior through his avatar and begin to alter his behavior. Do you have an avatar? What color is it? Mine is green, for now. But I may change it to peacock colors like the peacock in this video: