Who are you?
Are you your skin colour, sex and nationality?
Are you your career or history?
Are you your successes or failures?
Are you a local or an outsider?
This week we discuss identity.
Why is identity at the frontlines of the media generating modern tribalism?
Is it to garnish votes and to divide the people?
Is it to expose inequality?
Is it working or is this emphasising our superficial aspects of self causing more damage and separation?
Do we all fit perfectly into categories or are we all totally unique even within the identity groups we are placed within?
This week we had two human group sessions on the topic of ‘identity’; one online and one in person. The zoom discussion had only 5 humans who felt very comfortable with each other and were able to dive into the discussion with ease. The in-person group took a bit of time to break the ice and get into the flow of conversation. With both of the dynamics we stumbled upon rich discoveries as to the differences to what Eckhart Tolle calls ‘form identity and ‘essence identity’.
I had three exercises that I ran with each of the groups. Instead of a regular introduction we introduced a stranger or acquaintance with as much assumption as we could possibly make out from how they looked. The second exercise we introduced ourselves as the definition of identity; the fact of being or who we are. The third exercise we each introduced ourselves as a river.
The first exercise was full of laughter and some sincere qualities noticed about the other. The discussion then left off into questions and sharing of moments in which we have been pigeon-holed or have pigeon holed others and then been surprised to observe the incomplete natures of our own and others judgements of identity.
The second exercise sent us exploring the weight of our own identity or lack of complete identity as many humans were without a career title. One human mentioned on first meeting another person was like walking a tightrope whilst navigating potential conflicts in being. Another mentioned hiding behind a label so as to not explain further the obscurities of being who they are. There was a consensus as to our ‘form identity’ being almost like a magical tool of intention that can be projected onto another or spoken by ourselves which can then influence the way we are or they are with a person or within a community.
Introducing ourselves as a constructed character can also lead to separation and polarisation if we find ourselves interacting with a conflicting identity. For example talking about your love of nature could place you under the label of a greeny or hippie, or working for a mining company can place you under the label of corporate conservative. Once these labels are established we seem to find it difficult to not be influenced by these facts of identity which then obscure each others ability to see the fullness of the other.
The third exercise was introducing ourselves as a metaphor; ‘What kind of river are you?’. We not only discovered parts of our essence in doing this exercise, we discovered a dynamic tool that spoke of a range of states of being, infinite symbolic information and possibility. We could hear parts of the river that were calm, quiet and gentle, and parts that were savage, rough and hidden. There were many points of connection introduced into the space in which another could empathise and connect. When the essence aspect of identity is brought forth into our introductions of who we are there are more points of unification then there are of polarisation.
So how do we bring our essence identity into this world of form and our daily interactions? Is there a story or myth that can be placed at the forefront of our mind so that we see each other through our commonalities of humanness rather than our constructed characters?
Our ‘form identity’ acts as a strong influence upon our ideologies and actions in the world and we seem to be at the mercy of the collective idea of these labels. The power of intention or even placebo plays a huge role when we introduce ourselves.
What if we introduced ourselves as who we wish to be or our honourable higher selves or even as an unknown entity waiting with anticipation as to what we’ll do or who’ll we be next? Or maybe if we introduced ourselves as the change we wish to see?
Through the experiences shared by each of the groups we may be able to assist our own growth by how we introduce our identity.
‘The best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.’ - W.B Yeats.
Eckhart Tolle in commentary on the above quote believed that when a person has an inkling of ‘essence identity’ they don’t know what to do, there is no script, and the desire to do is not as overpowering as those who are identified with their ‘form identity’. The ‘form identity’ when completely attached can give us a role within the world to act out. Yet as the world and society has progressed these roles and identities seem to have lost a lot of their relevance and the earth through crisis, system collapse and pandemic is pushing forth the uncertainty of being that holds our essence and could even be thought of as the truest form of reality; nothing is known and everything is possible.
Our very convenient characters are being deleted from the scripts of society as we find they are damaging to the earth, to ourselves and others.
We are holding onto and fighting for our unstable form identities whose stories no longer exist in the same capacity and we can see this being acted out through identity politics, racism and any form of present day tribalism. Our form identities give us security and clear position within society and we hold onto them even if the story is oppressive. We fight each other so as to remain the victims of perpetrators so that we may not have to deal with the uncertainty of self responsibility and the ambiguous discovery of our mysterious essence selves.
Yet if we push forth our essence selves into the world, our skin colour, job, age, nationality, history and sex prove only to be trivial details that come with delusional stories that inspire separation rather than unification.
So I ask that our readers out there ask the next person they meet; ‘what kind of river are they?’.