Together the concepts of role engulfment and sociological imagination come to show how people can wrongfully get stuck in one noun, while our life is built of so many more things than only one.
When we see an object, we often times do not think of it as being anything more than just that object. That's the way our minds are set up to work, which unfortunately transfers over into some harmful other uses. For the example of role engulfment, a person's identity can be overtaken by one dominant role in their life. We must consider that a person is more than that one thing and the person must live that truth. The development of that identity can make a person become more of that specific role.
This is very prominent in the prolonged effect of the identity, causing a change in the person's self-concept. This is true even within their daily activities. An example of this is when a person becomes sick; often times others and the person can see only the illness, completely forgetting that it is just one part of their much larger identity. They suddenly are engulfed in one identity.
Clearly illustrated in many ways, not becoming overwhelmed is something that humans already struggle with. So when an identity is given to them that is found as very altering, how could the person not be overwhelmed? Add in factors of other people's stares, commentary, and questioning. Then the presence of pure frustration becomes dominate.
Not only from academic studies, but I can speak from personal experience as it happened to me freshman year of high school. I still consider role engulfment in my life to be a fight at times, five years later, as I am constantly undergoing new treatments and just underwent surgery.
When first getting told you are chronically sick, your mind won't know where to go with that immediately. The emotions experienced will most likely fluctuate throughout different stages of this identity crisis in your life.
- Who are you now? What does a new and unknown identity, along with all it brings, hold in your life now?
I will be the first to admit that I thought my life was over when I got sick; however, the thing I lost was my perspective of the bigger picture.
Furthermore, that aspect of perspective is described as the sociological imagination; spoken of in "The Promise" by C. Wright Mills. Towards the beginning and still every so often out of frustration, I am not able or willing to "be capable of tracing such linkages among a great variety of milieux," in which to "that is to possess the sociological imagination" (Mills 6). We often say it's a small world but rarely do we think about how intertwined our life is.
Yes, I am a believer and a firm one in power of your choices. If getting sick gave me only two options to everything, no gray space, then I would have to choose.
- Do I want to lose my faith over not understanding the bigger picture or should I allow it to light my soul on fire with the life of love intended by God?
- Will I quit school out of feeling stupid because of having to drop honors classes or will I work five times harder to prove myself wrong every time a negative thought creeps in?
These are the choices that make us complex people who ought not to get engulfed in one role, whatever it may be. We are humans that are more than just objects and each of us has wonderful, special things that make us who we are. That is our identity - not one thing.