A thought experiment

There is this theory according to which our identities are something that we construct, and, if our constructs are shaken too badly, we must reconstruct them. Let´s say that´s correct. Of course we will want our worldview and self-conception to be consistent, we want to think of our constructs as plausible, otherwise we will demoralized. This means, though, that very often when a theory or someone else´s worldview threatens our self-conception, we will argue with him. We´ll have very personal motivations, a very personal involvement, and that´s normal. It doesn´t mean we´re just quarrelsome. As long as we are fair, as long as we are honest with ourselves and don´t try to believe something that apparently isn´t true, logical and plausible, we cannot really be judged. It also means that there will always be conflict and arguments. It´s part of how we form our identity. Dr Stoneface once asked me if or why it mattered so much who was right. It matters because it affects my entire identity, my self-conception, the actions I will take. I don´t know if his idea of healthy is that I should take a step back and stop worrying about what is correct (not right in the moral sense). Or about my self-image. I thought it was bad if you care too much about your self-image, but it has to do with identity more than with vanity. Wanting to know who´s right is honest and legit.

Resolving conflicts or threats to your identity requires creativity. It´s really not so much about soul-searching and finding some truth inside, but about creating a third perspective that goes beyond the two conflicting ideas. Making sense of them. It might be about synthesis more than about analysis. It takes creativity to resolve what appears to be paradoxical. It´s like writing a consistent story about a very inconsistent character and trying to give it a plausible happy ending even though he´s a very difficult person.

I think I´ve had my self-conception shaken very badly at a point in my life when identity building should have taken place. My understanding of myself was basically torn apart. It was very much a Truman Show moment, but a very torturous one: It seemed I had to realize that absolutely everything I´d ever believed about myself, and the way I had perceived the world and other people, was dead wrong. And there was no nice real world and some lovely girl waiting for me out there, no. I ended up at the bottom of the psychological food chain. I was crazy and toxic. I´m not sure to what extent questioning oneself during puberty is normal, but this lasted many years (is still not over). There is this thought experiment by Descartes: “What if everything I believe, I perceive is wrong? What if an evil demon has been deceiving me? What if I cannot even trust my own mind?” To me, that wasn´t a thought experiment. I felt it.

In my last few entries (well, bar the very last one) I fleshed out several things from which I can construct an identity that will somehow be consistent with my experiences. A character and a story, if you like. Here are those things summed up:

1) Above-average intellectual capacities

2) Raised with two belief systems that contradict each other

3) Strong sadomasochistic tendencies and being a lesbian

4) Tendency towards grandiosity, with all its ups and downs

and now 5) Been through a lengthy period of having my self-conception torn apart and my identity undermined, very ready to believe in anything that could undermine my identity again, mind blown wide open for anyone to walk over it, very vulnerable to epistemic pitfalls, hopefully about to emerge from this.

What do I want most?

What I want most is to arrive at the point of knowing what I want to do with my life and getting started with doing it. That may sound trivial, but overall, that is my most pressing problem now. It is what´s on my mind most often.

What I´ve realized so far is that my grandiosity is currently hampering me in trying to do so. Nothing, no plan whatsoever can live up to the “greatness” that I envision. The reason for that is simply that this greatness is nothing concrete. I could be the Queen and I´d think that this cannot be all I get from life. How to deal with this I don´t know yet, but knowing where it´s coming from might be of some help.

Oh well.

It makes me so happy that this makeshift identity also contains problematic traits. That makes it more likely that it is an identity that can actually be lived.

Here´s a thought: I think my vulnerability to others´attacks on my self-conception might be caused, to some extent, by my urge to be able to put myself into absolutely everybody´s shoes. To be able to see through every pair of eyes and understand every point of view. It has a lot to do with me wanting to be a writer. Writing seems to allow me to slip on multiple pairs of glasses, and the ability to empathize with so many different viewpoints is what enables me to write stories. I was never comfortable being pinned down on just one identity, that seemed to narrow, it seemed to limit my thoughts. So in a way this whole shaky identity thing is my own doing. More often than not I´m the one undoing myself. Still, though, there has to be a possibility to construct an identity which allows me to have both: a sense of self and the ability to put myself into other peoples´shoes and tell others´ stories. That calls for a post of its own.

All these things I sketched out seem to connect, and that, too, is a good thing. They seem to be melting into each other, overlapping.

Uh…actually I just wanted to scribble down a little thought. Now I might as well post this, because it´s not that bad after all. Quite incoherent, I guess, but never mind.


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