Who am I? From a social constructionist perspective, it's a difficult question to answer.
In fact, it’s problematic to say anything meaningful about an essential ‘me’ without thinking about myself, how I am, within a particular context. After all, we never exist in an existential or experiential vacuum. Perhaps it’s a bit like 'figure' and 'ground' in Gestalt: I am who I am against a backdrop of culture, experience etc. and, of course, God. So, if the context changes, who I am changes too.
So again, who am I? Lots of things, partly depending on my ego state at the time. The notion of ego state has been developed in transactional analysis (TA) as a way of understanding how we are in relation to ourselves and others. It suggests we are in constantly shifting psychological states which influence how we are, feel, perceive and behave towards others and, therefore, what we correspondingly evoke in and experience of them.
You may have heard of TA’s parent/adult/child model. Sometimes I relate to another person a bit like a nurturing or, alternatively, punitive parent, at another time I may relate to the same person as an equal (‘adult’), at another time I might relate to them as a playful or mischievous child etc. How I relate to the other evokes a response in them, potentially shifting their ego state too and creating all sorts of interesting dynamics between us.
I was asked recently which ego state I like most, which feels most like the ‘real’ me. It’s a great question and it begs all sorts of other interesting questions, e.g. what does a real me actually mean? How can I know which is the real me? I can prefer to be in certain ego states at certain times but what influences that preference, i.e. why do I prefer to be in it rather than in another state?
It’s quite possible that in any given moment, one 'me' would like to hold a sensible adult-adult conversation, another 'me' might simultaneously reject that and prefer to be more playful, like a free & cheeky child, another 'me' may frown on my own behaviour like a critical parent...all at the same time. This is one reason why social constuctionists challenge the notion of a single, unified persona.
Perhaps we are more fragmented, inconsistent, potentially self-contradictory and conflicted then we normally feel aware of or comfortable with. It’s challenging to think of ourselves in this way, to imagine the boundaries between our selves and our contexts being less firm, less fixed, more permeable, than we normally assume. It’s challenging to think of ourselves, the person we are, as fluid, shifting, evolving...what do you think?
4/7/2011 02:37:11 pm
thinking is all i have done today...i think that the assumption to the blog post is "we think we are consistent... have a one real me etc".. I think that if we already know that we are self conflicting, perhaps it will not be the "real" me as much as the me I want to be for the most part...
13/3/2013 10:53:34 am
Hi guinea pig and thanks for your comments. I liked your emphasis on being sincere in the person you portray...not to lie or be deceitful in what you are portraying...as much as possible. It's something about being authentic, as far as we can be. I guess a question it begs is whether it's always culturally or situationally considered acceptable or appropriate to be who we are...and who decides. Would love to hear if you have any further thoughts on this. With best wishes. Nick
4/7/2011 03:21:56 pm
I think it is a holiday and every one of my"Mes" are glad to be celebrating with a day by the pool with my Mini-mes.
13/3/2013 10:54:46 am
Hi Heidi and thanks for the note. You made me smile! :) Hope you enjoyed the holiday with your mini-mes. With best wishes. Nick
4/7/2011 03:30:09 pm
I agree about the sincerity thing. I want to be constantly evolving and emerging but I also want to be constantly true to some dearly held values.
13/3/2013 10:58:24 am
Hi Bridget and thanks for sharing such profound reflections. I liked the way you articulated a potential dilemma between being constantly evolving and yet holding true to your values. How do you handle the tension in practice? I would be interested to hear more. I also really liked the way you applied Transactional Analysis so well to how you felt when you read the blog. :) With best wishes. Nick
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