Identity Problems – A Frank Discussion

Several weeks back, I made the declaration that the more labels a person adopts, the harder it becomes to be a person and know who you are.  Multiple labels saddle a person with mental struggles that become physically exhausting.  Each label comes with social responsibilities, cultures, and expectations that cannot be shirked as long as a person has adopted that label.

For example, I am a dual-service disabled veteran.  Thus, I carry the cultures, expectations, and responsibilities of sailors and soldiers.  Consider what the expectations of a soldier are, and that image is part of the identity and societal responsibilities for being a veteran soldier.  Being disabled carries societal expectations, both mental and physical burdens.  Consider the Marines, and every Marine is a Marine for life!  You graduate basic training and earn the title Marine, and you will ALWAYS be a Marine!  Again, that title and label hold societal expectations voluntarily onboarded, and never will a Marine lose the attitude and social expectations of Marines.

The same is true of every single label a person voluntarily chooses for themselves.  The label will attract specific people into your social circles, but only as long as you willingly live the life expectations of that label.  Each label selected will form identities and mental challenges to meet the social expectations, a heavy burden indeed!

In a recent Tik Tok video, a person proudly declares more than 50-labels, preferred adjectives and pronouns, and identities. The video lasted more than 3 minutes, and I felt sorry for the exertion this person will face every minute they have these identities onboarded.  Another person watching this video declared that the subject claiming their labels was mentally ill; I agree with that sentiment.  Why; because the subject will never know who they are because of the noise of the labels, which includes the social pressures, the responsibilities, and the expectations.  I do not know the name of the person in the video, I would not share that video due to the privacy respect I have for others.

Who are you?

Even though current society in 2021 declares confusion between who and what a person chooses to be, not what are you.  For example, I do not like, nor do I onboard, the identity of disabled.  I am NOT disabled, handicapped, injured, and working on healing, but NOT disabled.  Consider the power of words for a moment.

The transitive verb “dis” means to show disrespect, insult, or criticize.  As a prefix, “dis” is defined as the opposite of something, depriving someone of something, excluding someone, or expelling someone.  Thus, a disabled person is either being disrespected, insulted, or criticized, deprived, excluded, expelled, or is the opposite of able.  Frankly, when we are made aware of the etymology of words, we are then more aware of why people choose to adopt or not adopt certain words and labels.  Do we understand this problem of labels just from an etymological perspective?

Regardless of plasticization, words hold power over the mind.  Words become identities, thoughts become things, and research supports that labels hurt mental processes and can permanently scar.  Yet, who and what a person chooses as their identities are not considered a problem in current society or a mental illness.  People’s choices reflect their identities to attract those in socially accepted circles.

Thus, who are you?  Who do you choose to be?  Are those identities sufficient?  While not as important as who a person is, the last question ranks a close second.  How many identities can you physically onboard and live successfully?  As a fan of simplicity and a follower of the KISS rules, as detailed by Murphy, the god of perversity, I keep it supremely simple to protect my energy levels and allow my identity to shine through.  Having only a few identities enables me to select social commitments, restrict the mental noise and exertions, and hold myself accountable to a few identities to grow as a person.

Returning to the Tik Tok video subject and their 50+ labels, identities, and preferred pronouns, we must ask, what is sufficient?  A follow-on video by this person reflected the physical exertions from conforming to identities and social pressures.  Worse, this person had onboarded several more labels and identities. They reflected the mental illness and physical drain caused by trying to live up to all the label responsibilities.  An extreme example; unfortunately, no; the pressures to onboard labels and identities have grown exponentially, mental problems are too significant to quantify, and they are growing.

Not just in America, the confusion about who a person is, the identities, and their inherent loads, have become a global phenomenon.  What are the mental health professionals doing; causing harm by not discussing the physical and mental exertions of onboarding too many identities.  It is up to the individual and parents of minor children to understand and help learn and teach simplicity in labels allows growth as a person, not more identities, but less.  Fewer identities provide freedom for growth, identity exploration and empower mental health, leading to improved physical health.

Identities

As a pre-teen, I struggled with the concept of my identity.  Religion was a curse, my family was worse, and I did not know who I was, thus strangling what I could do or become.  I got jealous of how my sister could get away with breaking the rules and thought I should be a girl.  I struggled with wanting to be a girl for several years as I learned who I was and what I wanted to be.  If this problem occurred right now, professionals would counsel me to adapt and change my body through drugs and surgery, compounding my identity problems.  Yet, what helped, was getting to know me!

I had several people help me form an identity I could be comfortable living with as I explored my options, fought to understand my role and purpose, and embraced my potential.  It took time, lots of time.  It required patience with myself, a moral code I could live in, and a desire to learn—all of which I had to develop from scratch.  My identity is forged in the fires of adversity, for the consequences of my choices during this time played a role in how I went to school, what I chose to learn, and where I found employment and socially accepted company.  Some of those consequences hang around even all these many years later.  Some consequences I have been able to live long enough to survive.

Worse, as I have learned more about myself, my identity has changed, bringing with it consequences of change.  Music, movies, humor, education, and more are part of an identity that forms a life.  Choices bring consequences; how we value those consequences (e.g., good/bad, profitable/unprofitable, etc.) will determine our eventual destiny towards understanding who we are, so we can become what we desire to see in the mirror.  More lessons I had to learn, then and only then, could the value of religion be discovered, the value of family understood, and honor and pride and commitment to self appreciated as an identity to live.  Crucial to this growth and development, I know when to cut social ties, drop music and movies into the trash, and I am imperfect in changing, but I have some lessons I would see others learn to avoid pitfalls.

      1. Commit to learning using the question, “Who am I?” as a core principle to discovery.
      2. Allow yourself time to think, ponder, and consider before committing to an identity. I always wanted to be a soldier, but I loved the ocean.  I did not understand the value of these paradoxical options, and by rushing headlong, I had to learn an identity after living that identity.  Arduous path; know first, then adopt an identity.  Let me try and simplify that with my favorite axiom,  learned as an Emergency Medical Technician, “Never take your body where your mind has not traveled first!”
      3. Comfort is key. If you are not comfortable, your conscience tells you something is wrong.  An identity should require physical strain and mental confusion.  Yes, you can delude yourself for a time/  Ultimately, your conscience, spirit, intellect, whatever you call your inner voice, will break through and tell you your identity is not mentally acceptable.  If your identity choice is not comfortable, it will affect your physical health negatively.
      4. Never stop learning; learning leads to change, and change is good!
      5. When in doubt, turn to lesson two, give yourself more time before committing to an identity.

I love hard rock, big hair bands, and southern rock.  Steel guitars, banging drums, and headbanging to an excellent beat are an identity with power.  But headbanging gives me incredible headaches.  Too much rock and roll, and I cannot think clearly, and the ability to control my thinking is paramount to me.  Do I adopt the headbanging identity or not; sometimes, I am all in for a solid rock fest.  Mostly, I listen to the inner voices and moderate my music.  See, lesson two continues to hold power and lesson four keeps me thinking how much longer will I affect my identity with an uncomfortable identity with physical pain.

Choose carefully, evaluate often, and allow yourself the freedom to grow by not onboarding labels without due consideration.  Please, consider your gender and biological sex as integral to your ultimate destiny and comfort.  Before you are comfortable in your skin, you have to be comfortable in your mind!  If you want to explore identities, explore, but explore smartly and be cognizant of the social responsibilities, expectations, and cultures inherent with an identity.  Observe those with those identities closely for the consequences of thier identity.

I cannot betray a confidence, but I have witnessed how traumatic experiences can be the impetus for forcing an identity change.  A close associate went to a party, had a mickey slipped into their drink, and woke to a new reality.  The consequences of other people’s identities can negatively impact your identity, especially if you do not know who you are!

I have never been comfortable with the hard rock, headbanging social aspects of rock and roll identities.  The illicit drug use, the promiscuous sexual encounters, and the extremes in living frankly scare the hell out of me!  But, I love the music, and I love much of the wardrobes in this identity, even though I will NOT wear makeup and cannot play a musical instrument.

Life is a journey; travel safely using the axiom, “Never take your body, or anyone else, anywhere your mind has not already traveled.”  Think, ponder, consider, and then act confidently.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Contentious Voices – Exerting Control

QuestionA colleague of mine mentioned something in passing that has me thinking about the contentious voices surrounding our lives.  Consider with me for a moment; when the last time you heard just the news was?  No commentary, no hidden bias, no reporting for emotional reaction, simply a description of the events of the day, news?  I cannot remember when I last heard a news report.  It seems that to get the local news, I have to question the motives on the stories, compare news broadcasts for opinions and biases, tune into three or four different radio stations and compare them to the TV, and those to the newspapers, and even then, 90% of what is reported still has to be discounted.

My colleague mentioned that the efforts of contentious voices are to exert emotional control over the audience, for if the audience is emotionally controlled, they are physically controlled.  If they are physically controlled, they can be bent, shaped, and molded into weapons of self-destruction for the entertainment of those controlling the contentious voices.  This insight has me thinking—self-destruction through contentious voices exerting control, all through unbridled emotional understanding.

Exclamation MarkWhen emotional intelligence was first coming out, feel free to read the early papers and books on this topic if you doubt what I am reporting.  Emotional intelligence was declared as the ability to read the emotions in a room and then control the people through their emotions.  For which I have adamantly opposed emotional intelligence as a concept since inception.  I have always felt that trying to control others through their emotions is wrong, in poor taste, and can easily backfire when those being controlled wake up and realize what has been happening to them.  Yet, emotional intelligence has grown as a concept, has broadened in scope, and no one is asking why anymore.  Well, I am, and so are a few others, but the media is working hard to keep us silenced and sidelined as “aluminum hat-wearing non-conformists.”

Yet, contentious voices continue to prey upon people’s emotions nightly and call this “learned commentary,” “democracy dying in darkness,” “in-depth reporting,” and “fair and balanced news,” among many other things.  Republicans against Democrats, Liberals against conservatives, eco-Nazis from both extremes of the planet is going to hell debate, and the list of contentious voices is long and formidable.  Yet, they all have the same playbook, use emotional hooks, sink the emotional hook deeply, and keep pulling that emotional hook every time a person tries to think for themselves.

Dont Tread On MeWell, I would see you escape the hook, wake up mentally, and arise as a powerful individual.  Capable of independent thought and able to reason and think using your own instinct, talents, skills, and innate reasoning.  I am not making a plea to your emotions, and if you ever think I am playing to your emotions, feel free to call me out!  I am not here to enslave your mind, but to free your soul and empower your spirit, to support your goodness, and justify you being the free-thinking person you already are!

Thus, the following reminders regarding emotions.  These are not my thoughts; they originate from Robert Solomon’s incredible book “Not Passion’s Slave: Emotions and Choice,” which you can purchase from any reputable bookseller for a minimal fee or find in a local library.  If you are close to New Mexico, send me an email to lend you my copy.Not Passion's Slave - Emotions and Choice

  • Solomon begins his book with a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre:
    • For the idea which I have never ceased to develop is that in the end, one is always responsible for what is made of one. Even if one can do nothing else besides assume this responsibility.  For I believe that a man can always make something out of what is made of him.  This is the limit I would today accord to freedom: the small movement which makes of a totally conditioned social being someone who does not render back completely what his conditions has given him.”
  • Emotions involve social narratives as well as physical responses, and an analysis of emotions is an account of our way of being-in-the-world.”
    • Emotions are not occurrences and do not happen to us.
      • Emotions are rational and purposive rather than irrational and disruptive, are very much like actions, and that we choose an emotion much as we choose a course of action.”
    • Emotions are intentional: that is, emotions are “about” something.
      • All emotions are ultimately “about” the world and never simply “about” something particular.
      • Feelings do not have “directions.” The relationship between my being angry and what I am angry about is not contingent between a feeling and an object.
    • Emotions change with our opinions, and so are “rational” in a very important sense.
      • But the rationality of the emotion is time-sensitive, socially sensitive, and environmentally contingent. Unless our societal makeup allows this emotional crossover, emotions cannot often cross between social situations, peer groups, and environments.
      • The cause of an emotion is a function in a certain kind of explanation.
        • Contentious voices know this as a truth and use their contention to drive the emotional functionality of the arguments to spur emotional growth to your detriment!
      • The line between emotions and beliefs is often negligible and non-existent.
        • Another truth contentious voices use to spur emotional hooking in the audience to the audience’s detriment and destruction.
      • Emotions are a normative judgment.
        • We decide the correctness of emoting, based upon the social, environmental, and peer aspects at the time the information is provided.
        • Emotions are cognitive judgments of socially wired animals (humans) who use the lightning reflexes of the brain to make these judgments for personal benefits in a social situation, advancing peer associations, or to survive in a specific environment.
        • Emotions change with our knowledge of the causes of those emotions.

Bobblehead DollOn this last point, consider Joe Biden and his words to different audiences on the campaign trail.  To one audience, he pledged to put oil company officers in jail for unspecified environmental crimes.  To another audience, he promised not to kill coal.  Both declarations were later denounced as verbal gaffes, miss spoken words taken out of a larger context, and phrases that did not mean anything on the campaign trail.  Yet, the words fit the emotion being witnessed, and the crowd forming the environment and peer group being addressed.  All politicians do this, and it is referred to as “politicking” or “playing to the audience’s emotions.”

Finally, consider something with me, a thought, those controlling the contentious voices believe you, the audience, their slaves, for they can control your emotions, like 2-year-olds control play-dough.  Are you a slave?  Will you master your emotional judgments to protect yourself and your family?  The choice is yours, and yours alone to make.  All I can do is offer information and ask for your consideration.  But I will make a promise; if you refuse to master your emotions, you will be destroyed by the contentious voices clamoring for your attention.  These breeders of contention will pull you apart emotionally, creating depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and other self-destruction options.

Image - Eagle & FlagThose terrorists rioting over the spring and summer of 2020 were pawns and self-destructive actors to the contentious voices.  We are all living in a time where social influencers play the most extensive role in the lives of people than ever before, and they can play this role because we have unbridled our emotions and refuse to believe that emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a tool for social integration.  While the masses are not taught these things, those controlling the contentious voices know these truths, but they also practice hiding this information to destroy the groups they enslave.  Please, free yourself from bondage, take control of your emotions, and never allow anyone to control them ever again!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.