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Zer Netmouse
August 28th, 2007
10:01 pm

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Musing on identity

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From:howardtayler
Date:August 29th, 2007 04:22 am (UTC)
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The difference between how you see yourself and how you are seen by others (taken as individuals, not as an entity) is like the difference between the acid and the base in a battery. Bridge it, and you get current. Energy. POWER. This is why personal contact and real communication between individuals is so wonderful.

But to say that "identity" cannot exist without The Other is misleading. Certainly if you're completely alone your self-image will be different than if you have someone to talk to besides rocks and trees, but that's just the difference between the socialized and the unsocialized you.

At your core you have an identity that is yours and no-one else's. Perhaps identity is the wrong word. Or maybe, given that English is hell-bent on redefining and overburdening existing words, we don't have a RIGHT word. Certainly in the context of "online banking" and "going to the DMV" there is a concept of identity that is fairly rigid. If your DMV identity can change depending on who is behind the camera, it's not reciprocal fluxion. It's fraud.

Ultimately I believe what Hogarth told the Iron Giant. "You are who you choose to be. YOU choose."
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From:atdt1991
Date:August 29th, 2007 05:00 am (UTC)
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I think I'm pretty solidly behind your ideas, beyond the first paragraph at the least. I don't see self-identity and imposed identity as necessarily relating. I think, personally speaking, that getting the identity imposed by others close to one's self-identity can be an excellent state of being (if you happen to like yourself, that is), but it is only in specific social circumstances that they interrelate.

A problem with the idea, in my opinion, is reducing the complexity of one's social interaction with the world into one thing - "Other". For I have my mother, who never seems to have a word of praise for me to my face but praises me to others, my potential significant other, who may see me as noble and lionhearted or as cowardly and vicious, my friends, my coworkers, and those people I run into every day who make their own judgments about me.

All of them have different opinions about who I am, and some of them have more impact than others. I would not say that that impact is easily defined as, say, one person believing I am dishonest pushes me further toward self-identifying as dishonest. Depending on the circumstances it may be true or at least compelling, or it may be a repulsive impression... and of course how one communicates their impressions vastly changes the way in which those impressions are interpreted.

I think self-identity and imposed identity are too complex, too disordered/random, occasionally to be defined in any simple equation. One simple experience as a child can significantly alter one's self-identity for, perhaps, life, and may not involve any predictable social interaction.
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From:netmouse
Date:August 29th, 2007 11:48 am (UTC)
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Aside from judgments, we receive from other people their hopes for us, in either subtle or direct ways, and most certainly we choose who to be, but our choices will be very different in the face of people whose expectations we know or imagine and either plan to satisfy or disappoint, depending on how we like them.

Those people cannot claim ownership of your identity, but they influence it by influencing your choices - by being strong forces in the environment through which we navigate, both practically and emotionally (noting that the choices we make are based on our perceptions, which are imperfect, so that a person's influence may often be different, even contrary to what they'd wish, were everything clear and straightforward - yet at the same time the influence of other people can sometimes clarify, and thus avoid our making that sort of mistake. It is all every which way).

Further, everything we choose to do changes who we are, in that it leads to experience, which I think is probably the main shaper of men.
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