So, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and misrepresentation; truth and the power of lies. We’ll see if this is a cohesive post by the time I’m done with it.
The idea of a spirit or soul
I’ve always believed people have a core to them, something that, while it may be unspeakably damaged or hidden away for all time, will essentially not change. I don’t know the nature of this thing, except that I don’t think you can give it away to anyone, it is immeasurably complicated, and in it’s own way is some sort of evidence to the existence of a higher power. It’s a little infinity within us, maybe a piece of a larger infinity that I call God, and is what causes us to look for meaning in our environment and a greater depth to our existence. Some piece of this higher power is within us, wanting to be in communication with its source.
Part of this belief comes from, or has at least been solidified by, an experience I had/am having. My first two years of college I was in an incredibly abusive friendship. One of the most damaging things he did to me was make me believe that everything I had ever loved, ever valued, ever feared, hated, or cast off; everything that made me me, had to be run through his filter of who I should be before it was “good” or even real. He puppetteered my every move even when he wasn’t around using the fear and shame he instilled about what I was allowed to think, feel, and be. After two years and one last, terrible conversation in May, I wiped myself of everything he ever said to me, everything I felt about anything and everybody, and started over.
It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I discarded the personality he had twisted around me and all I was left with was this sun-deprived, battered soul that I had forgotten how to listen to.
It was also the most liberating. It has taken some months, but I’ve regained a lot of self confidence, even more than I had before I knew him. And a huge part of that was learning how to listen to that core and ask myself what was truly good for me, what would help me know myself, how I best listen to other people, and how to express all of the complexity in myself and accept other people’s complexity. I’ve gained some new personality traits having gone through this – I am less trusting, especially of authority, and am less comfortable with ambiguity than I was. I am also more loyal to my friends and more vocal about my opinions. There are some things that really haven’t changed at all though since before: I’m terribly absent-minded, compassionate to a fault sometimes, I love writing and playing with words, and am eager to be enraptured by all the beautiful things in the world. These persisting traits, among others, and their indestructibility, are enough evidence for me to believe that there is some resilient, maybe immortal, core to each of us. I find that very comforting.
I don’t even know, man. That’s way too big a topic, with a lot of exceptions.
The one thing that should not be excepted though is that aforementioned core. You treat someone or something as they are. You treat a person like a person, regardless of whether or not they want you to. You treat an animal as an animal, which is less than a person but still a creature with certain rights. You treat God as God, which to me is a single higher power, unsurpassable and always greater than any other thing. You do not treat people like animals or gods; you do not treat animals like people or gods; you do not treat God like a person or an animal.
So, I suppose your rights are dependent on the nature of your core, on the core of your identity. I’m not exactly sure why right now, but that feels significant.
Misrepresentation and power dynamics
When someone misunderstands you, you lose power. They can be accidentally or willfully ignorant, but not acknowledging someone’s identity, any part of it, robs them of their agency. This is extremely frustrating because even though you didn’t do anything to remove your agency, you still have to pull yourself back up after someone else takes you down.
This is clip from The Crucible that seems appropriate (full scene at 3:30, and the most relevant to this topic around 5:20). It is the end of the play when John Proctor untruthfully confesses to dealing with the Devil, and then takes it back for the sake of his identity. At first I thought it was silly that he was fighting for his pride, his reputation, but I thought about it further and what he was really doing was repenting and fighting for his humanity. He was fighting for recognition of his inalienable right to be judged as a full person in the eyes of God, and defending that right for all of the accused.
You can also lose agency by not knowing yourself, or doing any number of things that give other people or things power you once had (not speaking up for yourself or someone else, neglecting hard work that would lead to growth, etc.).
In certain situations giving up your agency is ok and even healthy. Making sacrifices for people you love removes some of your agency. What makes it healthy is if the person for whom you make sacrifices also sacrifices things for you. That’s love. It reciprocates.
Something like a conclusion?
A lot of my source of anxiety over identity and reality recently comes from, I think, a fear of misrepresentation. I want people to know who I am and I want to know who I am so I can be fully functioning member of the human race, and not be fighting constantly for the voice I have the ability and right to use. If I am to be cast aside for any reason I’d like it to be because of something I said rather than for being complacent and willfully disempowered. So even though not all of these things are in my power, and even though I’ll probably royally fuck up a few (by that I mean many) more times in my life, I think that being confident and compassionate, in and for myself and others, are good goals to strive for.