Friday, November 21, 2008

True Identity Theft: How We Lose Our Individuality In The Face of Familial Resemblance

When listening to others speak about their personal challenges in life, I've noticed a common pattern. It seems that in most everyone's life there is one influential person they feel intrinsically connected to and yet struggle to not be like. Usually it is a parent or sibling, someone for whom they share enough common history or genetic resemblance with that separating their identity from the other is a chronic tug of war.

Kamie Norrn is a therapist and yet her education and job experience has not been able to save her from joining her clients in the human pitfalls that can affect us all. Kamie has two sides: who she is when she's trying to not be like her sister and who she is when she is like her sister. This constant search for individual identity has created a pattern in her of being inauthentic. She makes claims, promises or agreements under one mindset and breaks them under the other.

A friend confided in Kamie that she had abandonment issues. When they had their first conflict Kamie sent her an email stating, "I will not abandon you," and yet she never answered another phone call or email from that friend again, thus abandoning her.

Kamie told her husband that he did not have to walk on eggshells around her; and yet the moment that he didn't, she accused him of blindsiding her. In less than two years they were divorced.

Every person in Kamie's life who forces her to live up to the claims about herself that she makes, she ends up cutting off and shutting out, permanently. There is no resolution, no working things through. Her way of moving on is to deny reality, which only sets her up for a successful self fulfilled prophesy of being "blindsided" again.

Being blindsided was her main self-proclaimed issue. What exactly does being blindsided mean? For Kamie, it means dealing with the reality of facts that she isn't expecting because she has created an alternate reality of illusion that she is comfortably living in.

Whenever she would speak to me about her fears, she would bring up her sister and her best friend and all the things about them she didn't like, especially her perception of them as narcissistic. I always found this fascinating. She then went on to explain that when she was with her sister she would lose herself, and yet without her sister she did not know where she ended and her sister began.

How can Kamie know herself as separate from her sister? Through honest introspection of who she really is as an individual. Unfortunately, she is trapped between who she wants to be and who she really is; and until she integrates the two, her integrity will be elusive. By accepting what she has in common with her sister and acknowledging what she doesn't, she can reclaim her true self. This will require a tremendous amount of self-acceptance that she is not yet emotionally mature enough to embrace, but through time I have faith that she will.

Of course, if she chooses not to evolve within, it will be reflected in her life without. The world she now inhabits, a rented studio apartment with only her cat to serve as friend or family will become her infinite fate. There's nothing wrong with that, if it's what you want. But if she wants more — and most people do — she will have to find the courage to face herself.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. -Anais Nin

When not playing blues harmonica, jd smith might be found changing a diaper (her toddler's not her own), skipping barefoot on a beach, compassionately listening to the struggles of others as a psychic mentor, or metaphorically scribbling at