Trying to figure out who we are |

Trying to figure out who we are

Out On A Limb
Ross L. Talbott
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

Some years back I was trying to improve my intellectual skills. I took some classes in psychology, which had minimal effect on my understanding.

Since that time, experience and observation have been enlightening.

I have commented before that I tend to oversimplify the complicated.

In this case, however, I believe that simplifying is really enlightening.

The foundational primary driving force in all human lives is the search for identity.

There are basically four levels. The first is the identity you are born with.

This identity is not only race, gender and nationality, but is tied to who your family is.

When I was a boy growing up people always said, “Oh, you’re Harry’s boy.”

Family has a great impact on how people perceive you.

Dysfunctional and broken families create a really difficult identity struggle for young people.

How they dress, who they hang out with, what sports they are attracted to and even the tattoos and piercings are a search for identity.

The second level is the identity you want to have.

We have a dream, sometimes hazy, of what kind of life we want.

The job we search for, the profession we want and the level of income are part of that picture.

The training we take, the place we live, the organizations we join and our dream house are indications of that drive for identity.

People move from place to place searching for the place where they feel complete.

I have traveled quite a bit but have found that being a Western Colorado native country boy just suits me.

The third level of identity is who do we want people to think we are?

Our outside appearance, the vehicle we drive and even the way we fix our hair or whiskers are an attempt to convey to others a message.

A really big thing in this area is a uniform.

Consider high school athletics. Winning in high school sports becomes really important so the students can wear the Bears or Demons or whatever with pride.

Unfortunately academic achievement is not nearly so important as lettering in a sport. You’ve got to be a cheerleader or athlete if you want recognition.

In the adult world the police, fire or military uniform announces an identity.

In private life you may be relatively insignificant but put on that fire gear and you can stand in the middle of I-70 and stop traffic.

Often we accumulate multiple identities. I have been an apple grower, hay farmer, bee keeper and a bunch of other stuff.

When a career military person retires he must search out a new identity.

Catastrophic events from divorce to deaths can precipitate painful identity changes.

That response can take many forms. They may present new possibilities or have bitter negative effects.

That brings up my fourth level of identity which is: Who are you really?

Deep down inside are you anchored in an identity that keeps you steady regardless of external circumstances?

Many people have a major segment of identity that is founded on their beliefs socially and politically.

They have built relationships on common beliefs and information that reinforces those beliefs.

They have listened to people they admired and respected and bought into that culture.

The problem with that identity is that when a contradictory idea or information comes along it is extremely threatening because it’s an assault on who you really are down deep.

It becomes extremely difficult to consider and analyze opposing ideas. Preconceived ideas are the greatest block to truth.

There is a religion that teaches that whatever is truth to you is truth.

Others also claim that the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth.

Is your identity built on the rock?

Read the poem “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson.

Who are you really?

“Out On A Limb” appears on the first Tuesday of the month. Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle, where he is a business owner.

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