Navigating Crisis: Accepting A Loss Of Identity

Navigating Crisis: Accepting A Loss Of Identity

Moving forward means not only focusing on parts of our identity that we have lost, but also how we have changed.

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I won't even say how I've lost a big chunk of my identity, and perhaps that speaks volumes to how devastating what I've lost the past few months. Of course, I'm not the only person that feels this way. Any person undergoing some major transition or loss in their lives, form losing their jobs to moving to another place to losing someone close to them feels, to some extent, that their identity was taken from them. So what should we do when it happens?

According to psychologist Guy Winch, in a 2013 TED Talk, the pathologies of a loss of identity are eerily similar to heartbreak after a breakup. From his 20 years of private practice, what he learned was this: "when your heart is broken, the same instincts you ordinarily rely on will time and again lead you down the wrong path. You simply cannot trust what your mind is telling you."

Winch tells the story of one of his patients, Miguel, who completely lost his identity after a breakup with his girlfriend, Sharon. "Miguel didn't just lose his girlfriend; he lost his entire social life...He lost his identity as a couple. Now, Miguel recognized the breakup had left this huge void in his life, but what he failed to recognize is that it left far more than just one."

The last point, in that a loss of identity is more than just a singular loss, but a holistic loss, is critical. That explains why it is so devastating when we have huge transitions in our lives. Those gaps in our lives need to be filled so we can heal, and not just one of them, but all of them. "The voids in your identity: you have to reestablish who you are and what your life is about. The voids in your social life, the missing activities, even the empty spaces on the wall where pictures used to hang."

I found Winch's TED talk to be a great place to start. The more devastating losing something is when it's gone is a sign of how all-encompassing that thing is in our lives. But filling those voids in identity are easier said than done. When you lose your identity, you need to answer the "who am I?" question again, and try to find that again.

I still do not know how to handle the question of distance. I know I cannot cut the people I love completely out of my life, but I also know that the relationship I have with them has evolved and is no longer the same. There will always be people in our lives that love us despite whatever labels we put on ourselves and our identity, and one thing that has saved me during this time is holding onto those people. I hold on to them in a different way than I used to, just like after a breakup, an ex-partner becomes a close friend.

What now, though?

One thing is very clear: to regain a sense of identity, you have to accept that your new identity is going to be different. And that's not a bad thing. We don't move on. We move forward, carrying the person we lost. We cannot shut out our past lives, but we need to look back on them to grow from them. Likewise, we cannot shut out the loved ones from our past. According to Eleanor Haley, "trying to go back to how things were before the loss just isn't possible." Haley goes on to say that "though there will always be a deep sense of grief around the people and things in life that we lose, this does not mean there will not be other things that bring a sense of purpose, joy, and contentment and that will slowly become part of your identity."

I am in a transitory state of identity and loss, and so are many people, including some of you reading this article. One thing that is absolutely necessary is to take more time for ourselves to reflect on our identity, according to Haley. "Consider how your identity has shifted. Make an effort to focus not just on the losses, but also on gains. This may be the new relationships that have formed, positive changes in perspective, [or] new skills or growth that have come." Moving forward means not only focusing on parts of our identity that we have lost, but also how we have changed. "This means bringing pieces along, acknowledging pieces that will never be the same, and establishing new pieces of the self that are built on things that came before."

Applying this mindset to myself, I look at pieces that I have built in this transitory state, and the one thing I have gained is hope. It's not hoping for outcomes or positive circumstances anymore; those are expectations, and expectations so often fail us. My faith in Christ has grown substantially in this point of my life, and I believe that it is God's plan and design to gift us in our suffering. I have hope for how I treat others and how I see people. As someone who wishes to be an educator, seeing others and particularly young people as capable of doing anything, I believe, is the most important gift I've gained throughout my recent struggles. God kept me alive and gifted me in so many ways, and because I'm so lucky, I intend to make the most of it and move forward, even if I'm not the person I was a few months ago.

I've lost a lot of who I am and what I stood for. But I have also gained so much, despite how hard that is to see right now. Because of what I had, what I have, and who I will be in the days to come, I look back and look forward with only fondness. I believe this, to the fullest extent: I am the luckiest person in the world.

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I'm Tired Of Trendy Christianity

Life with Jesus is so much more than one big coffee break.
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Okay, you're a Christian. After all, you have all of the tools you need.

You have your densely highlighted and underlined Bible, your Eno, your Chacos, your Patagonia backpack and of course, your beloved Camelbak or Nalgene water bottle that is covered in name-brand stickers.

Your days consist of going outside, chilling in your Eno and blasting "Oceans" by Hillsong and "Good, Good Father" by Chris Tomlin. Your room is decorated with lots of inspirational quotes, maps with variations of "send me" close by and probably some pictures of your last mission trip. Your Instagram page is full of pictures of your friends that are "gems," captions of how thankful you are for certain things and pictures of the last country you visited that say "take me back."

Oh, and you might have a tattoo in Greek.

Okay, if you know me, you know that I literally just described myself. So, when I say what I'm about to, I'm not bashing anyone at all. I am guilty of all of these things and God has really laid these things on my heart that I've found myself doing time after time.

It seems that in the time we live in, if you're going to be a Christian, you have to have all of the right things, and I'm tired of it. Christianity is not about having a certain look or personality, but about having a deep, meaningful relationship with Christ. I think a lot of people have the wrong idea about what being in a relationship with Christ actually looks like. I'm here to tell you that it's not anything like what I described.

Being in a relationship with Christ is not easy, and it's certainly not the most trendy thing out there (maybe on your college campus, but not in the real world.) It's about surrendering everything you have to a God who sent his son to be crucified for things you've done wrong.

It's more than just drinking designer coffee and Bible journaling and "being intentional."

It's about finding peace and joy in spending time with our creator. I know a lot of people just like me who fit the stereotype perfectly who have some of the deepest, most meaningful relationships with Christ, but I also know a lot of people who fit the stereotype who are just faking it.

I'm so tired of people who do not know Christ thinking that they have to have a certain look or personality about them and it hinders them from running into the loving arms of Jesus. We've made Christianity a club, and that's not okay. We have taken God's beauty and grace and made a fad out of it.

So, friends, I'm not saying that we can't have these things and still be Christians (because honestly, I like the way I live life with these things I've been given, and this is just who I am,) but I am saying that having these things are not what makes us Christians. So, be careful how you live out your walk.

Are you just doing it to be trendy, or do you have a deep and meaningful relationship with Christ?

Walking with Jesus is more than just a big coffee break.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr/Psalm Thirty Seven Four

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I'm A Christian Who Practices Yoga And That's Okay

Yoga and Jesus: Is it possible?

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I have a confession: I am a Christian who practices yoga daily. I even teach it twice a week. It may not seem like a big deal, but to some, my yoga practice is considered demonic or blasphemous to my faith. I understand why other Christians hold this belief. Yoga is rooted in the Hindu and Buddhist tradition. Christians do not believe in actively practicing any other religion but Christianity, and monotheistic doctrine is 100% scriptural.

But, it is important to remember that in today's Western culture, many of the specifically religious parts of yoga have been stripped to offer a more inclusive approach to the exercises. To be honest, I have never attended a yoga class in which I felt pressured to conform to the ways of another religion. Yoga teachers see the melting pot of races and religions that walk into the studio every day and know that they have to make class inclusive or they won't have any students! I like to compare yoga to the Christmas tree. Christmas trees definitely have pagan origins, but Christians across America put up a Christmas tree to celebrate Jesus' birth. Although we are aware of the original purpose of the tree, we are also aware that such old traditions mean very little to society today. Yoga is a similar situation.

Most Christians who practice yoga know of its origins but also understand that hundreds of years have separated the practice from its original intent.

When I take a yoga class, I have a very specific mindset that I try to enter each time I approach the mat. This has very little to do with "altering my spiritual state." It's more about making sure that I'm getting the most out of each stretch and breath physically so that I am maintaining emotional regulation. All of these benefits, of course, extend to my spiritual life as well. Because my Christian walk is a part of everything I do, Christ has really, truly blessed me in my yoga practice. When I'm going through a flow, I pray, I seek answers, I ask questions. I get to focus on how God holds together all of my operating systems: physical, mental and spiritual.

Yoga is literally medicine. Doctors are starting to prescribe it like a pill. Here are just a few of the countless benefits of having a regular yoga practice:

- increased flexibility

- more effective circulation

- weight loss

- boosts immunity

- better focus

- increased oxygen intake

- sinus relief

- depression/anxiety relief (lots of serotonin!)

- better posture

- natural pain relief (even for menstrual aches and pains!)

- improved metabolism

- lowers blood sugar

- supports connective tissue

-maintains the nervous system

- releases physical and emotional tension

- relieves drug withdrawal symptoms

- prevents loss of bone and cartilage

- increased strength

- relieves insomnia and other sleep problems

For me and millions of others, the amazing benefits of yoga happen not because of calling on any other deity, but because of the strengthening and relaxation that happens when you go through the physical act of yoga. Of course, this physical positivity changes my emotions and spiritual posture with God, but for the better! I walk away physically invigorated, emotionally purged and spiritually more in tune with my Father's voice.

I think that's a really cool thing to experience, but it's not for everyone, and that's okay! If you're a Christian and do not feel inclined to start a yoga practice, that is valid! No true yogi would ever try and force a practice on anyone! But, it's hard to see a lot of my Christian friends bash yoga as "a practice from Hell" or "a way to open up portals" when it's been a Godsend for so many people ailing from things they never thought they would find relief from.

God, through the redemptive grace of Christ, is in the business of making all things new (Revelation 21:5). He can turn ashes into something of magnificent beauty, and I believe He can do it with yoga. Looking back, I can see how God has given me discernment with my practice to know how to worship and serve my God in yoga without compromising my heart in the process. Because of God's clear direction in my life, maintaining my spiritual integrity in yoga has not been hard.

I totally understand that an 800-word article may not change anyone's mind, and that's okay! I just ask everyone who might disagree with me to take into account not only all that I have said, but all that God says in Scripture, and use discernment to make a decision for yourself. I think that's really the heart of yoga today: asking others to consider a different way of observing life while staying completely true to themselves and what they believe.

Blessings.

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