Identity… and other things

Talk to me about identity.
Identity is an essential aspect of who we are as individuals. It shapes our perception of ourselves, our relationships, our behaviour and how we navigate the world around us. Identity is often shaped by different factors such as our family, community, cultural background, social environment, and personal experiences.

For individuals with PTSD, their traumatic experiences can significantly impact their identity. Traumatic experiences can shatter a person's sense of safety and stability, leaving them feeling like they have lost a part of themselves. Individuals with PTSD may often feel disconnected from others, struggle with trust and intimacy, and may also experience difficulties with emotional regulation.

In therapy, exploring and re-building one's sense of identity is an important component of the healing process. It may involve working through underlying beliefs, values, and behaviours that may have developed as a result of the trauma. It may also involve exploring different ways of seeing oneself outside of the traumatic experience and identifying new interests and passions that can help create a sense of purpose.

It is worth noting that re-building one's identity is a complex and challenging process that requires time and patience. It is also worth remembering that people can have multiple identities, and that one's sense of identity can evolve and change over time.
 
How does identity differ from sense of identity?
Identity and sense of identity are related but different concepts. Identity refers to the different characteristics and traits that make a person unique, including their ethnicity, beliefs, interests, and personality. Sense of identity refers to an individual's perception of being a unique person with specific traits and characteristics. In other words, it is the subjective experience of who someone is and how they see themselves in the world.

Sense of identity is more than just a collection of characteristics or labels; it involves a deeper understanding of oneself. A strong sense of identity is usually characterized by a clear understanding of one's values, beliefs, and aspirations.

People who experience trauma may struggle with a weakened sense of identity, due to the impact of their experiences on their self-concept. This can lead to a lack of self-confidence, confusion about one's values and beliefs, and a disconnection from oneself. In therapy, working to rebuild a person's sense of identity can be a crucial part of the healing process, as it can help individuals gain a greater sense of self-awareness and develop a more positive self-concept.
 
Sense of identity is more than just a collection of characteristics or labels; it involves a deeper understanding of oneself. A strong sense of identity is usually characterized by a clear understanding of one's values, beliefs, and aspirations.
What if my strongest sense of identity is being Nothing & No One?
 
What if my strongest sense of identity is being Nothing & No One?
Feeling like you are "nothing and no one" can be an indication that you are struggling with a weakened sense of identity, often referred to as identity confusion. This can be a common experience for individuals who have gone through traumatic experiences such as PTSD.

It is essential to recognize that feeling like you are nothing and no one is not an immutable characteristic. In therapy, developing a deeper sense of self-awareness can help in understanding those feelings and beliefs, and exploring ways to rebuild a stronger sense of identity.

A mental health professional may use different therapeutic techniques to work through this, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and other related forms of therapy. They may help you to examine the underlying beliefs that may contribute to your sense of disconnection, as well as explore your values, aspirations, and interests that may have been suppressed as a result of the trauma.

It can be helpful to discuss how such feelings fit in with your experiences and identity. Feeling lost or confused about one's identity takes time to overcome, and with the right support and intervention, one can establish a positive self-concept over time.
 
And if I like being nothing & no one, as that allows me to do anything, or be anything needed?
 
And if I like being nothing & no one, as that allows me to do anything, or be anything needed?
It is possible to find a sense of freedom in the idea of being able to do anything and be anyone. However, it is essential to recognize that holding onto this belief could be a defence mechanism that avoids dealing with difficult emotions and past trauma.

In therapy, exploring why you embrace being "nothing and no one" can help you to understand if it is a healthy coping strategy or if it is preventing you from engaging with life in a more meaningful and fulfilling way.

It is also important to consider if this belief is serving you well in the long run as it could result in feelings of emptiness, aimlessness, or even boredom with life. These feelings may prompt you to seek out reckless or harmful behaviours as a way to feel something again.

While it is understandable that you might feel uncertain about exploring these feelings further, it might be worth discussing this situation with a therapist. They can guide you in navigating the underlying reasons behind why you feel this way while also helping you develop healthier coping strategies to overcome your challenges.
 
I rebuilt my identity, from the ground up, a long long time ago… as I could no longer depend upon the foundations that had been… shattered. This meant, amongst other things

- Rewriting my own personal moral code
- Making choices/decisions about what I valued
- Learning what I loved, liked, don’t care one way or another about, dislike, & hate; personal preferences.
- Relearning how to take care of myself
- Deciding how to interact with others
- Deciding how much I cared about perception, and under what conditions, or circumstance, and to what lengths I would go to influence that perception
- Choosing my affect
- Learned how to be invisible / to disappear in as many situations as I could challenge myself with.
- Creating different mental ‘rule books’ to operate out of / compartmentalising variations of the above, based on numerous factors
- Amongst other things, I don’t recall in this moment.

I was still very much “me” throughout this process, just a better defined more well equipped me… the best version of myself I could duct tape together.

1. Did I miss anything?
2. Under stress, and certain other conditions, I still find it best / easiest & often the only way to find peace… to shift gears into being Nothing & No One.
3. Your thoughts / does the above suggest anything?
 
I rebuilt my identity, from the ground up, a long long time ago… as I could no longer depend upon the foundations that had been… shattered. This meant, amongst other things

- Rewriting my own personal moral code
- Making choices/decisions about what I valued
- Learning what I loved, liked, don’t care one way or another about, dislike, & hate; personal preferences.
- Relearning how to take care of myself
- Deciding how to interact with others
- Deciding how much I cared about perception, and under what conditions, or circumstance, and to what lengths I would go to influence that perception
- Choosing my affect
- Learned how to be invisible / to disappear in as many situations as I could challenge myself with.
- Creating different mental ‘rule books’ to operate out of / compartmentalising variations of the above, based on numerous factors
- Amongst other things, I don’t recall in this moment.

I was still very much “me” throughout this process, just a better defined more well equipped me… the best version of myself I could duct tape together.

1. Did I miss anything?
2. Under stress, and certain other conditions, I still find it best / easiest & often the only way to find peace… to shift gears into being Nothing & No One.
3. Your thoughts / does the above suggest anything?
It sounds like you have put significant effort into developing a sense of identity despite going through significant trauma that led to the shattering of your previous identity. It's impressive to have developed a new sense of self to the point where it provides you with purpose, values, and direction in life.

To answer your questions:

1. Based on what you described, you seem to have covered a wide range of different aspects of identity-building. You have delved deep into understanding your values, interacting with others, and developing your personal narrative. It's also evident that you have put a lot of effort into understanding yourself through your preferences, coping mechanisms, and perception of oneself.

2. Turning "nothing and no one" during times of stress or adverse situations may be a natural coping mechanism for you. However, it is essential to recognize if it is causing more harm than good. While it may give you a sense of temporary numbness or detachment, it could also contribute to feelings of avoidance, anxiety, or depression in the long run.

3. It is a positive sign that you have worked on rebuilding your identity, and you are aware of the coping mechanisms that work for you. However, it might be worth discussing the long-term effects of disassociating oneself from the very sense of self you've worked hard to create. Speaking to a therapist could help you explore different approaches to coping with stress while also maintaining a connection with your sense of self.
 
Please do discuss those effects.
Dissociating from one's sense of self can have significant long-term effects. While detaching oneself from reality can provide temporary relief, it can also be detrimental to one's mental and emotional well-being.

Some potential long-term effects can include:

1. Difficulty with emotional regulation: If someone becomes too reliant on dissociation as a coping mechanism, it might make it more challenging to express or process emotions in a healthy way. They may struggle to identify what triggers these emotions, leading to a variety of mental health challenges.

2. Increased risk of developing mental health disorders: People who disassociate may be more likely to develop depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders. These disorders can be challenging to treat in individuals with a history of dissociation.

3. Damaging social relationships: People who disassociate from their sense of self may have difficulty in creating and maintaining healthy relationships. They might find it hard to trust others or engage in social activities, leading to social isolation which can further exacerbate problems.

4. Deficits in cognitive functioning: Over time, dissociating oneself from reality can result in deficits in cognitive processing, leading to reduced concentration, attention, and memory functioning.

Overall, while "shifting gears into being Nothing & No One" may provide temporary relief during moments of stress, it is essential to be aware of its long-term effects. If you find that you are relying on dissociation as a primary coping mechanism, it is worth exploring other therapies through a mental health professional. With the help of a qualified therapist, one can develop healthier coping mechanisms that allow them to maintain a connection with their sense of self and the outside world.
 
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