The Choice to Identify With Things

November 10, 2016 Self-work

Something super fascinating to me is the concept of identification. We humans like to label, categorize and put things in mental boxes as a way to better conceptualize and understand them. It’s interesting to me how two people can go through the same situation, and based on the choices they make, have very different experiences.

We all have things we’ve chosen to identify with. The most obvious places of power we see this is in our relationships (mother, wife) and careers (doctor, lawyer).

We can identify with things that are both positive and negative. When we lose or let go of something positive that we’ve identified with, we often feel like we’ve lost/let go of part of ourselves. When we lose or let go of something negative that we’ve identified with, we can set ourselves free.

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An example:

A few years ago I made a choice to have a surgery done. I was very clear on my reasons for this, and also very intentional about calling in grace and ease in the process.

Around the same time another woman who I’d gone to high school with but not known super well also chose to have the same surgery and posted about it online. I’d reached out to connect, but quickly realized that although we were having the same surgery, our experiences of the process were very different.

In going through this, she chose to be very public about her process. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it was  interesting to me the specific way she chose to do this – essentially by identifying with her surgery and wearing it like a badge – any time or place she could bring it up and/or use her story to prove a point, fight against someone or stand on a soapbox, she would.

The great thing about life is that no matter what happens, we always (always!) have a choice in how we handle things and how we respond.

In the same way it was her choice to perpetuate her story over and over again, it was my choice to not identify with it. It was something that I actively chose to go through. Most days I don’t think about it. I’m always happy to talk about it if it’s useful for someone, but more as an afterthought, as it’s not at the front of my mind most of the time. I’ve forgiven any of the anger or sadness I had around it, so there’s not any kind of charge any more. I don’t need to convince anyone in a similar situation to make the same choice I did, nor do I need to make anyone wrong for choosing anything differently than I did. Neither her or I are wrong for our decisions around our handling of the experience. We simply made different choices.

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We all are making choices to identify with (or not) the things we go through all day every day. You can choose to do/be something and not take it on or make meaning of it. You can handle something you perceive to be negative that’s happened to you, and not make it be a part of who you are.

What are you identifying with that’s not actually serving you? What can you let go of that might set you free?