Identification

Reprinted with permission from Mirror of Intimacy.

"Mirror of Intimacy" is a daily blog published by Center for Healthy Sex, offering professional help with sex and lust addiction.

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"I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen."

~ John Steinbeck

by Alexandra Katehakis, Staff Clinical Director, MFT, CSAT, CST (See all authors)

It's been frequently noted that to tell anyone, "I love you," we need first be able to declare the "I." And only when we develop a personal identity may we respond personally to life. So identification with another and with life is an art that starts with identifying ourselves. But there's a risk to thinking of all that happens only in terms of ourselves. Solipsism, the antique philosophy affirming that the universe is knowable solely through the knower's unique perspective, may become unhealthy if it justifies personalizing everything to the point of self-absorption. Someone with a preoccupied attachment style filters the world through a distorted, unmeasured egocentrism. Such a person sees a partner's independent preferences in décor, friends, or movies as a threat to the relationship. Because enmeshment was the parenting style, autonomy was never encouraged or even permitted.

In fact, most people tend to identify themselves rather narcissistically through narrow personal preferences and patriotic allegiances. It seems bizarrely superficial to build an identity based on our taste for certain flavors, clothes, or locales. Doesn't it make better sense to affirm our true selves by identifying with the universal experiences of others beyond our range of sheltered familiarity? Humanity is not one-size-fits-all, and any definition of ourselves or of others which applies stereotypical experiences broadly must miss the richness of genuine human relatedness.

Participation in support groups or community events lets us identify with people we never thought of as similar. By letting down our guard, we begin to uncover shared humanity. Like checking a side-view mirror, observing those we usually disregard can expose our own psychological blind spots. When we identify with others' trials and tribulations, we often discover unexpected truths for ourselves that might never have been brought to light.

 
DAILY HEALTHY SEX ACTS
  • Today, use "I" statements in all your communications. Focus only on your knowable feelings and thoughts, instead of assuming you know what's true for anyone else.
  • Stop the judgments. They only serve to isolate you. Identify with everyone you encounter on their terms, not your interpretations of them, by listening carefully to their words as if each moment held special meaning.