Written by Kerrie Clarke & Vicki Henricks.
Do they change? Really? As in become someone they weren’t previously? Respond to things in radically different ways? Develop completely new interests, values, behaviours? Even those who say yes to this question, may be only able to count on one hand the people they actually know who seem to be quite different to how they remember them. Aside from those who have been strongly impacted by a physical or mental condition, in the main most people become more or less of what we know, rather than radically different.
It is more likely that the change we see in people is a lifting of a veil that sits on top of who they really are; their pure unfettered selfhood. We all have veils. Lots of them. The many veils of identity. What we see in each other is primarily a product of identity. The culture we are born into, society, community, family, our gender. All with their own rules and expectations, incentives and rewards. There is little free choice in who we are nurtured to be. This is not necessarily a bad thing, we all need that sense of belonging and a healthy concept of self.
Our experiences in life also impact how we are and can be a source for adding ‘protective’ layers if negative, or alternatively lifting veils in the case of transformative events. People reporting near death experiences often talk about the new perspective gained regarding what actually matters in their life and the layers that don’t.
As we grow we willingly take on many more concepts of identity that feed and reinforce our sense of self. Roles in employment, singlehood, parenthood, income bracket, social status, lifestyle. The many layers of identity. And all who presume to know us will confirm that yes this is who we are.
All these layers come with conditions. Like being in a club with codes of inclusion and no go zones. It’s when these rules become constricting, conflict with other parts of our identity or act as barriers to something we want, that we start to seek the wiggle room for change. Push through the edges of our known self to find more. In Process Work we say that there is a ‘secondary process’ emerging through the ‘primary identity’. Something new is emerging and wants expression. It may appear shy and undeveloped, but it is none the less calling for attention.
How do we know this? Because it captures our imagination, flickers in the corner of our eyes and features in our dreams. We notice a new energy, an excitement, a desire. Maybe we become frustrated or intolerant with something we used to do without effort. We seek freedom from our limitations. It persists despite attempts to push it back in the box (to a point).
Chances are it will also be terrifying because it takes us right out of our identity comfort zone. But still it feels good, and right, and we probably want more.
Is it a ‘brand new’ expression or simply true essence shining through, fighting for survival?
The personal work in becoming ‘who we want to be’, whether by changing our response to something, overcoming fear, developing new patterns or a myriad of other goals, is centred on questioning the identity packages we hold dear and the assumptions that come with them. Taking a good look at the value of certain rules in our life and getting honest about the baggage we are carrying in their name. We simply can’t move forward by staying stuck with an old script.
By lifting and offloading the veils of identity we can become more fully who we are. By dropping the expectations and rules (seen and unseen), we become free to choose. By forgoing the rewards and payoffs of a constrained identity, we are empowered to update our sense of who we are and pursue who we want to be. We can ‘be’ ourselves, instead of ‘do’ what we think we should.
Under the layers of identity is the essence of who we are. And who are we? Is this not the ultimate question in our lives?
We are raw, unadulterated being.
It’s who we were born to be.
Are you being who you were born to be? Coaching is a space to explore what is holding you back and how you can step more fully into yourself.