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The Danger Of Going All-In On Your Identity

Whether it’s being a right-winger or a left-winger, a car-junky or a tree hugger, a vegan or a carnivore, we all have an identity. In most cases we know what we’re passionate about. Sometimes we have arrived at that passion naturally. Sometimes we have been brought their by our parents, siblings or peers. When we think about it, our entire adolescents and early adulthood is about finding an identity for ourselves. In many ways an identity is a good tool to have. It allows us to establish strong bonds with other people. This has, since the dawn of time, been essential to the survival of our species. Either you’re in our tribe or you’re the enemy. In this day-and-age however, identity tribalism has become a big problem, not only for society as a whole but for the individual as well. In fact, the feeling of dismay that is experienced when one’s identity is under threat, can be an underlying cause for depression and anxiety.

The problem lies with the perceived threat an opposing identity has to one’s own. If we identify too strongly with being a manly-man, then of course we are going to get flustered when there is a growing acceptance of homosexual men. This is not to say that all “manly-men” would necessarily be provoked by the existence of gay men. On the contrary, most people who would identify themselves as “macho” would not have a problem with it at all, but only when they do not go “all-in” on their identity. There can be other threats to one’s identity as well. One such example would be the threat that the loss of bodily functions associated with aging has to the person that identifies as the “sporty one”. Another would be the threat that environmentally-friendly legislation has to the person that identifies as a “car-junky”.

With the last example, you will be amazed what lengths people go to to protect their identity, even if it means hurting the planet. The other day I was driving behind a car that had a plume of black smoke coming out of its tailpipe and a big sticker on the rear-windshield saying “No Gas, No Party!”. This person has clearly felt provoked at the growing trend of environmentally friendly vehicles and feels the need to provoke back. In their minds, their entire identity, which they may have been building for 50+ years, will die with the expansion of environmentally friendly vehicles. That is not the only example sadly. Just yesterday I read an article about a man harassing workers at the Tesla Factory. Apparently, he was part of a group that thinks the company is destined to fail. The only reason why people would be so passionate about the failure of a company is if they stand to gain from that failure and a lot of people who identify with muscle-cars do want Tesla to fail because they can’t possibly see themselves living in a world with clean cars. This is a classic example of when one’s identity gets in the way of one’s happiness and the progress of society. This man has got a restraining order placed against him and will likely go to jail if he does so again. A stupid act, driven by the survival of one’s identity. Can you imagine the anguish within this person? If he is motivated by the failure of this company, imagine what will happen if the company succeeds? If he stays this way, he is destined to suffer from depression and maybe anxiety attacks as well.

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Another example (and a very frustrating one at that) is the current state of politics. Not only in America but in all countries. We have moved from a political system that considers all views and opinions to one that is “win-at-all-costs”. People are now either extreme right or extreme left and won’t be caught dead reasoning with the other side. This started when the, albeit well-intended, concept of political-correctness vilified people for having an opinion. We were too quick to jump to conclusions about people because they had a different opinion to us and cut them off from the political process all-together. Imagine feeling disenfranchised like that. The political sphere was no longer open to dialogue. We were all obsessed with quashing the enemy tribe and getting in their faces about it.

A third such example would be the perceived threat of immigrants to people who identify too strongly with their nationality. Although there can be a lot said for the logistical difficulties mass immigration has on a country, the main reason why people react the way they do is because they think that the existence of immigrants is going to alter what it means to be from country X. This is true, as a population becomes more diverse and multicultural, the meaning of “being from country X” changes. The only people that would have a problem with this though, are those whose sole-identity is this.

It is actually quite understandable when you think about it. Imagine being so devoted to one aspect of your identity, then having someone arrive or something happen that directly threatens the meaning of that identity. I’m not saying that the reactions are condolable. I recall being very frustrated with the person driving the car in front of me and being irritated with people who talk ill of people who have travelled very far just to live here. But, I understand what they are going through. When I see it this way, I feel very sorry for them. They are suffering from a depression based solely on their identity. And I want everyone who reads this to be aware of the effect their identity has on them. Never let your identity motivate your actions. You will cease to exist when your body dies, not when your identity does. You can always get a new identity if need be. And don’t get hung up on silly-arguments either because the only loser is you. The conflict that arises within can lead to a prolonged depression and hurt your chances of living a happy life.

Do you have any thoughts about how your identity has affected you? Has your adherence to your identity caused you to suffer from depression? Please give us your insights by commenting on our facebook post for this article. And while you’re at it, like our page.

Philip Andersson

Life Coach

Cross Culture Therapy


Finding Freedom In Your Limitations

In today’s article however, I would like to focus on setting limits as a way of relieving yourself of responsibility. This relief will lower levels of anxiety, stress and depression. What’s more, you will find a freedom in your limitations that will bring you a lot of happiness…

Philip Andersson – Life Coach

Philip Andersson is a life-coach who is currently studying to become a psychotherapist. He treats people suffering from depression, phobias and anxiety. Having been raised in Hong Kong and having lived in England and Japan as an adult, Philip also treats people who are overcome with feelings of displacement and rudderlessness associated with a global-nomad lifestyle such as Third Culture Kids, Cross Culture Kids, Migrants and Asylum Seekers.

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Cross Culture Therapy offers 1-on-1 online therapy sessions to people suffering from depression, phobia, anxiety as well as to people who suffer from displacement issues associated with a globally nomadic lifestyle (i.e.Third Culture Kids – people who have grown up in a culture different to their parent’s passport culture – and Cross Culture Kids) Our sessions are conducted via Skype for a duration of 50-minutes and can be purchased in packs of 1-session, 3-sessions or 5-sessions. If you are interested in purchasing a session, click on the Book A Session tab on our menu or click here.

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