Identity Crisis: Prequel – Square 1, or I think therefore I am

The New “Modern” culture obligates us each to carefully choose our values, priorities, ethics and morals.

It expects us to systematically disassemble our own identity and build it anew outside of any established patterns. Anything handed down to us from ancestors must now be examined, reviewed, analyzed and dissected. If we have varied heritage (and almost all of us do) this requires us to distinguish between the traditions of each, and selectively apply only portions that both resonate with our personal belief systems as well as fall within acceptable Modern parameters.

We have become obligated to eradicate parts of ourselves based on a new standard dictated by a court of public opinion and/or The Golden Rule applied in reverse – choosing what we would want for ourselves as our basis for comparison with established culture. In this brave new world we are often taught to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” – i.e., cut out any values that are associated with badness, now deemed “fruit of the poisoned tree”.

We must also ally with those of like mind, and schools of thought run deep – some values or beliefs are inseparable so we must now accept corollary values associated with those we’ve chosen purposefully. Should we disagree with any part of the school of thought we risk ejection from the group or public shaming/ridicule. Any attempts to broaden the horizons of the group as a whole can result in serious social consequences as well. Despite this requirement to participate in group belief systems, we are still expected to hold individualistic standards and keep to them regardless of group expectations.

This new culture demands that we defend our values against any who would discuss our view’s merits or demerits. This obligation extends to standing strong against our own families, partners, or communities if it comes to that – the individual’s values are to be protected despite social stigma attached to disharmony. Should defense of our values be questioned, the next step is to firmly deny access to our lives any person that would choose to hold a view separate from our own – again, even if that person is very close to us. This is deemed a moral obligation in regard to controlling access to our children.

In this scenario, we are groomed to protect our emotional space from others, who are marked as invaders if they presume to initiate or perpetuate interpersonal communication connected with values or practices of any kind.

Should we choose to risk our emotional space by considering an alternative viewpoint we are expected to apply it within our own existing framework only, without context or agreement on any premises. If we are to be brave enough to engage in this risky behavior, we must still ensure we make our own viewpoint known and provide a comparison or contrast to highlight the differences between our viewpoint and the opposition.

Changing our own view is even more dangerous. We risk appearing wrong, which is seen as the ultimate weakness or failure. If we choose to entertain the opposition enough to accept any portion of it into our belief system we must have evidence contradicting our existing belief, more evidence supporting the new one, and a safe enough social space to avoid the stigma of having changed our view. It can remain dangerous as we align ourselves with committed believers that refuse change at all costs – so the chances of repudiation are very real. Aligning with a new group can alleviate some of this stress, depending on who we leave behind in the previous group.

The “chosen family” is a concept built to fill the need of a committed social group without the hassles of genetic obligation. It gives people a chance to decide who they are or are not close to, yet it also gives people the opportunity to exclude based on fluid parameters that generally punish dissenters and freethinkers.

Navigating this treacherous territory of an impossible mix of standards results in cognitive dissonance, emotional distance, and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Moreover, it teaches the next generation that they can’t trust anyone else’s judgment past or present, that they must reinvent the wheel of morality, and then defend it to the death.

This burden is too heavy for any of us to bear, and we crack under its weight, giving in to lowering our standards or standing alone in defense of them.





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