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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To Everyone Who Hasn't Had Sex Yet, Wait For Marriage, It's The Right Move

If you have not had sex yet, wait.

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Premarital sex is not a new concept, no matter how much people like to pretend it is. You can trace scripture and historical texts back thousands of year to see that lust and fornication have been a problem since… well, since we humans have been problems.

They tell you in sex ed that sex causes you to form a bond with someone. They throw some big chemical names at you that are apparently in your body and cause that emotional attachment to happen, then you move on (or back to) how important condoms are and why STDs are so scary.

As a middle schooler or teenager, you can't understand what it means to become permanently connected to someone as a result of a quick, physical act.

If you haven't even had your first kiss, you really can't imagine what it's like to develop such a complex and intimate connection with someone because you have yet to feel the butterflies in your stomach from a kiss. So you really don't know what it's like to have a whole different type of feeling in your stomach.

You never forget your first love. It's one of the most cliche things you consistently hear, but it's true. Ask anyone. I guarantee your parents can still spurt out their first love's name in a few seconds. And most people never forget their first time. I know all my friends can recount that often awkward and slightly terrifying moment as if it happened an hour ago. When you mix those two, especially if you are in your teens, oh boy.

You never forget that. No matter how hard you try.

Everything you hear about sex is true: it's amazing, fantastic, life-changing, etc. There's a reason people have done it as frequently as they do, for as long as they have. But every time you sleep with someone, you leave a piece of yourself with them. Every time you choose to take that final physical step with someone, you cannot go back and collect that piece of your dignity and soul that you left with someone.

So, imagine what happens when you break up with someone you've slept with. Or that you just hooked up with. You have given someone a little slice of yourself forever. And you can never get it back. And imagine what happens when you do that multiple times. You give a piece of yourself to five, 10, 15, 20 or more people. Then you meet the person that you want to spend forever with. And you no longer have that whole part of you. You've given pieces away, and you can no longer give those to the love of your life.

So, save those pieces for your future spouse.

If you have not had sex yet, wait. If you have, consider not giving more pieces of yourself away to people who are not your spouse. Sex was created to be between two spouses, nobody else. So we need to try to maintain its integrity.

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I've Never Been to Church, but I Believe in a Greater Being

Written during an existential crisis

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I was raised without religion - not necessarily as an atheist but just had never been involved with a church or any church's teachings. This wasn't particularly any decision on my own part, just how life unfolded from my background. An issue that I've constantly struggled with, as early as when I was in first grade, is how life came to be. Quite often, I've had strong, mentally burdening existential crises land on me - possibly because of the lack of religion in my life. When these crises happen, I think often of religion, and in the possibility of a greater being.

Though I've never spent a day in my life at Church, I've developed my own beliefs in a greater being over the years.

The main reason for this is the irrationality of life. There is no proven explanation for how we came to be. Though we can trace back to a certain point - such as how our person, continent, world, planet, solar system was created, there comes a point when we can't explain any further. Everything comes from something. The first cell split into two cells, which continued to split. But what could have caused the first cell? What could possibly have caused something to come from nothing? There are theories that attempt to explain this, such as a disturbance in the blank universe which created the first cells. But, what caused this disturbance? This is something that I'll never be able to prove or even to wrap my head around.

Beyond this, there are so many other parts in our existence that don't make sense or can't be explained. For instance, in quantum physics, particles will split apart for no apparent reason, but when you put a camera up to watch the particles up close (all factors remaining the same), the particles no longer split. Also, there have been proven variations in the most basic physics laws, such as gravity. But no explanation to explain these small 'mistakes'.

For me, I've considered religion to explain these, and I've also considered conspiracy theories such as the simulation theory. The simulation theory and religion share the idea of a greater being - of a creator. Though I haven't had much experience with religion, I can explain the idea of a creator through the simulation theory. In a nutshell, the simulation theory argues that we are in a simulation - the being simulating our world could be in a completely different universe - perhaps different dimensions, different rules of physics, etc. Whatever their world is, it could be something that we can't even fathom - and it could also be a universe that does make perfect sense. Our universe is riddled with mystery and confusion - what if the greater being's world is one that isn't? To think of this, imagine how in a 2D world, the people living in it would never be able to fathom what it's like to live in a 3D world - what we take for granted. In the same way, we may not fathom what it's like to live in an elevated life. If it's likely that we'll ever be able to simulate life, then we ourselves could be living in simulated life (since that technology can exist). This could offer an explanation for our existence, but we would never know. A similar explanation could also be made with religion.

I read an amazing metaphor for believing in a greater being. Imagine when you were first conceived, and living in the belly of your mother for months. At this point (assuming hypothetically that you're conscious), you would have no idea what's to come next. You may believe that birth is death - it's bringing you into something you've never experienced, and you may think this means disappearing. However, you take a leap of faith and you soon find that birth, in fact, leads you to a new chapter of a life. But of course, you would never have known when you were in the womb, where all you knew was what you were experiencing.

It never hurts to have faith. It grounds you and can help you through rough existential crises. Whatever for the reason for our existence, we most likely will never actually find out - possibly in the afterlife, but no one has lived to tell the tale.

Thanks for reading my thoughts, and musing with me during this existential crises.

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