Thoughts on identity and identity problems – the source of many problems and many solutions, with remarks about the “pre-self”

Here is a thought I had:

Ever since the early 1980’s I have looked into what I call “identity problems”.  These are the various problems associated with identity which seems particularly prevalent nowadays in these overpopulated and dehumanizing times.

Initially, in the early 1980’s, I thought it was primarily males who had identity problems.  But by the late 1980’s I found that the female actually had more identity problems and suffered a lot of problems as a result.  Because of this, I have inquired more into that issue and have written many articles about this in this blog.

Looking at identity problems, over the years, I began to see that it is far more extensive than I thought.  In fact, it seems that many problems that people have today are, in actuality, an identity problem or is somehow related to it.  I think it wouldn’t be too far from the truth to say that we are in an “era of identity problems”.

The prevalence of this problem seems to be related to the growth of society in the past century in particular.  Things like population growth, media, technology, destruction of human culture, and so on have played a major role in the growth of identity problems.


I would define identity as a “mental framework” of the mind that allows the directing of passion in healthy and productive ways.  In this way, identity is part of the structural aspect of the mind.  The primary value of identity is that it directs a persons passion and emotions.  It behaves much like valves and regulators in a process piping plant, such as an oil refinery, which directs the flow of fluid in specific directions, specific quantities, and specific pressures.  As a result, identity is critical in maintaining the stability of ones mind and person.  A strong identity fosters things such as:

  • Growth
  • Integrity
  • Purpose
  • Meaning

Generally, the stronger the identity the more stable a person is.  In addition, the stronger the identity the more a person can deal with conflict and adversaries.  When identity is lacking there are a multitude of problems that appears.  For example, everyone knows how, nowadays, many people are oversensitive, overreactive, panicky, paranoid, accusatory, and such.  These are often signs of identity problems.  This isn’t all that surprising as, just as I said above, we are in the “era of identity problems”.


Identity originates from things like:

  • Experience.  This establishes ones association with the world and ones association with the world.
  • The discovery of self.  This establishes who one is, how one reacts to things, and ones strengths and weaknesses.  This means an acceptance of who one is and ones abilities.  I often speak of this as “following ones natural inclinations”.
  • Ones support.  This refers to the different things that one uses as ones support in life, such as ones family, friends, beliefs, and such.  Because they are part of ones support it becomes an aspect of ones self and, accordingly, it becomes part of who one is.  In this way, ones support becomes a part of ones identity.
  • Society.  This refers to the different qualities that establishes who one is in relation to others, such as a “carpenter”, an “uncle”, “rich”, and so on.

These all contribute to make a sense of who one is.  The effect of these qualities create a unifying effect of ones self.  This is done a number of ways:

  • Of who one is in relation to self
  • Of who one is in relation to others
  • Of who one is in relation to world 

These unifying effects create identity.  In this way, identity makes ones whole.

Many people think that identity is primarily a social phenomena but, in my opinion, the strongest identity originates from experience and discovery of self.  I tend to believe that society is a somewhat weak source of identity.  In fact, I am under the impression that an identity based primarily in society often predisposes a person to identity problems (see below).

Social identity

The greatest effect of society on identity, I think, is as a form of support and as a means of reaffirming our experience and discovery of self.  It does this a number of ways.

  • It confirms experience
  • It confirms discovery of self
  • It gives experience meaning and value
  • It gives discovery of self meaning and value
  • It gives our experience and discovery of self a place in society

By itself, society does not offer much to our identity but, in association with discovery of self and experience, it has great impact.  This reveals how social identity, or identity based solely on society, tends to be weak and frail.  But it also shows a number of things:

  • Personal.  In order for any social identity to have value it must support experience and discovery of self . . . a person must have a firm hold of who one is.  In short, it must be grounded in a reality of who one is and ones association with the world.
  • Social.  The society must have means of support, an image” to associate ones experience and discovery of self with.  If it does not have this “image” then nothing can be established.

If either of these is lacking then social identity tends to be very weak.  Really, we see two themes:

  1. Knowing ones self
  2. Being accepted, by society, as what one knows oneself to be

These must complement each other and support each other.  But, when there is a problem with either one of these then problems can appear, such as:

  • Disillusionment of self.  People think they are something they are not because they do not know themselves.  To me, the best example I see is females thinking they are male.  Another example is people thinking they’re rich when they’re not or that they are important when they are not.  The effect of this is that people become disillusioned as to who they are and become hypocritical, phony, artificial, etc. and will often feel empty, confused, and lost
  • Absence of social acceptance.  If society does not create an “image” that corresponds to ones experience and discovery of self then there is nothing to associate ones self with in society.  As a result, a person feels removed from society.   It can make a person feel “constrained” by society, that society doesn’t accept them, that they are outcasts, that society is against them, or that they are alone.  For some people, this can turn into a rebellion against society which is one reason why identity problem often causes social rebellion.  Another effect of this is that various aspects of our selves are never realized or come out as there is nothing to promote it

These tend to create something like a “disconnect” between self and society and a problem with social identity which can affect ones identity as a whole.  What we see, then, is that problems with social identity can end up affecting ones overall identity.

The “image”

Identity creates something like an “image” of who one is.  This “image” is a mental fabrication that tends display qualities such as:

  • It is unique.  This means that it has a quality that makes it different than anything else.
  • It is individualistic.  This means that it fits into ones personality and psyche.
  • It is holistic.  This means that it is generally made up of different parts made into a whole complete image.
  • It is removed from the rest of the world.  This means that the greater world is not involved in it.

This “image” can appear in a number of different ways, such as:

  • A sense.  This is a wordless sense of who one is.  It often has no visual image or an image based in principles.  It seems more like an awareness.
  • A conscious image.  This is an actual image of ones self, such as that one is “poor” or a “plumber”.  It is a visual image or based in principles.
  • A fabricated image.  This is a visual or principle-based image one creates of oneself that may or may not be based in truth.  Oftentimes, this tends to be an image of “what one desires to be”, which is a false image, but there are times when it can actually help a persons identity.

The strongest image is of the former type, an image based in a wordless sense.  It tends to hit the deepest and has the greatest effect.

This image creates an overall general framework of ones self in the world.  That is to say, the image is like a big spider web that unites the many aspects of ones self into a unified whole.  But ones self is always changing and ones relation with the world is always changing.  Because of this, there never develops a “complete identity”.  Identity, and its image, is a continual discovery as there is always aspects of ourselves which is lacking.

The “security” of identity

Identity tends to cause a sense of “security”.  It does this a number of different ways:

  • It creates a more holistic person
  • Since there is an awareness in self required in identity (discovery of self)  it creates a self-confidence
  • The experience required in identity makes a person more confident in ones association with the world
  • Passions and emotions are diverted in ways that do no involve or create conflict
  • Passions and emotions are directed in healthy productive directions
  • The acceptance by society makes one feel secure
  • The “image” that identity creates makes one feel “together” as a person

In these ways, a strong identity tends to create a more secure and stable person.  As a result, a weak identity tends to create a more insecure and unstable person.  If its particularly bad than it can lead to problems . . .


It seems, to me, that a lot of insecurity and instability in people is caused by identity problems or is related to it.  Identity problems create a multitude of problems that permeate all aspects of life:

  • Spiritual problems.  This refers to problems of “the meaning of life”, god, and the deeper mysteries of life.
  • “Life problems”.  This refers to all the myriad problems that happens in life.
  • Serious mental problems.  This refers to  more serious clinical problems.

What this shows is that identity problems is a the “human problem”.  In fact, one could say that, in some respects, identity problems is a base of the “human condition” and the dilemma of humanity.  This makes identity a major issue in life, something to not look at lightly.  It also means, in a sense, that one should seek identity all ones life.  This implies, in a way, that the purpose of life is to further identity.  Notice how I do not state “find identity”.  Life is nothing but a continual furthering of identity, of an elaboration from an existing identity.  Only by furthering ones identity does one grow and truly “live”.

The appearance of identity problems

Identity problems often appears in ways such as:

1- Problems with perceiving who one is

  • An uncertainty of who or what one is
  • An inability to understand ones self
  • Feeling disconnected with self

2- Problems with ones place and motive in life

  • A lack of purpose
  • A lack of meaning
  • A lack of worth

3- Problems controlling ones self

  • A tendency to be controlled by passions and emotions
  • A tendency to get out of control with passions and emotions
  • An inability to control ones self and what one does

4- Problems relating with people and society

  • A confusion that one is different than another person
  • An uncertainty of ones relation with another person
  • An inability to relate with other people and society
  • A feeling of being detached from other people and society
  • They don’t feel accepted by society
  • Rebelling against society

5- A loss of intention 

  • Stagnation
  • Apathy
  • A lack of ambition
  • No motive

6- A general inability to relate with life

  • A feeling of being disconnected with life
  • An inability to relate with things

7- Trying to be “someone else”

  • They take the identity of some other person
  • They think that they are something else than they are
  • They become hypocritical, artificial, or phony
  • They imitate things and other people

8- A slavish mentality

  • Blindly following things
  • They do whatever they are told
  • A desire to be controlled

Of course, not everyone displays all these qualities.  It seems that people with identity problems tend to focus on one form or another and often display several qualities in another form.  What this shows is that there are different forms of identity problems.  There are a number of causes for the different forms:

  • A persons personality and character
  • A persons life, conflicts, dilemma’s, etc.
  • A persons society, belief system, culture, etc.
  • The conditions one lives in
  • How the identity problems develops

These create a multitude of formations of identity problems.


These problems result from a number of things associated with identity:

  • A lacking of identity.  This refers to an identity that is there but not complete in some way.
  • An absence of identity.  This refers to having no identity whatsoever.
  • A distorted identity.  This refers to having the wrong identity or one that does not reflect ones self.

These all reflect an inability for an identity to become established.  In some ways, to not have an identity is like being “half done”.  Some causes of this include:

  • Little or no chance to discover themselves
  • A lack of social support and guidance
  • An “image” that is lacking
  • Too much of a desire to be like someone or something else
  • Too strong of an imagination where a person keeps fabricating a false identity
  • Being told what to do too much, which includes schooling and education
  • A conflict that prevents a sense of self
  • A conflict that prevents a “connection” with other people
  • Being misguided by something (a good example is democracy and liberalism . . . see below)

It seems, to me, that once an identity problem develops it tends to remain.  That is to say, a person doesn’t just “grow out of it”.  This, I think, is because identity effects a person so deep in ones psyche that ones conscious self is often not aware of it or has no control over it.  As a result, it remains there.  In this way, many people end up living with it.  This may be one reason why “illusionary identity” (see below) is prevalent . . . its a way to live with identity problems.

There are some people, though, who can “grow out of” identity problems.  It seems that this generally requires some form of a growth of self.  This can be caused by things such as aging, an event, being introspective, etc.


As I said above, society causes many identity problems.  There seems to be a basic conflict between identity and society.  This seems to be because of things such as:

  • That the identity of ones self is inherently unrelated with society
  • The illusion of social identity

This causes a natural dilemma of identity when living in society.

Often what happens is that the identity lost in society is replaced by a social identity.  What basically happens is that people hide their identity problems behind a social identity.  In this way, social identity is really  a “cover”, a “front”.  This makes it an illusion.

Typically, though, the illusion of social identity works as long as the society continue to exist.  In other words, the social identity works only as long as the society exists.  Once the society fails the identity exists and the underlying identity problem surfaces. 

The problem of Projection

A common phenomena of life I call projection.  This is a tendency where a person “projects” aspects of himself onto another person.  In so doing, this makes the other person a part of his self.  This establishes an identification with other people.  But projection can cause problems for people.  Basically, projection causes a confusion of ones self with other people and things.  In this way, projection often causes a disorientation and destabilization of identity, such as:

  • A confusion of self
  • A confusion of others
  • A confusion of motives
  • A confusion of purpose

Sometimes a person do so much projection that they can lose hold of who they are as a person.  This means that projection can lead to a complete loss of self.

The problem of Imitation

In this society imitation is big thing.  This has become an “imitative culture”.  But imitation can cause problems for identity.  This is because imitation becomes a substitute for identity.  It causes an illusionary identity that seems to work but is ineffective.  The self, or real identity, falls to the way side and does not develop.


Normally, we tend to view identity problems as reflecting individuals but I think that societies go through identity problems as well.  It appears in a number of ways:

  • Social problems
  • Changes in society
  • Conflict between people
  • An “exclusiveness” that favors certain people

I tend to think that there has even developed philosophies trying to deal with social identity problems.  A good example would be various ideas seen in the U.S., such as:

  • That we must all “love one another”
  • That we cannot hate or dislike other people
  • A blurring of people, of making everyone the “same” (in the U.S., they call that “equality”)
  • How you cannot have special groups directed to specific people

It is my opinion that the philosophies trying to deal with social identity problems actually create more identity problems but in another way.  That is, it solves it from one angle but causes another from another angle.

I also think that some societies have had identities problems for so long that social identity problems have become a way of life and a part of their identity.  This more or less means that some societies identities is actually based in the fact that they have no identity.  American society, in my opinion, is taking on this quality.


It seems that there is a close association between male identity and “intention” By “intention” I mean the deliberate direction of the self for specific motives.  When males lose their identity they lose intention and as if “spin their wheels” or become a “fish out of water” which ends up causing other problems.  In other words, male identity problems tends to start with a “primary conflict” which tends to lead to “secondary conflicts”.

Some examples of “primary conflicts” include:

  • An apathy – there is simply no intention
  • A confusion – intention seems to not know where to be directed
  • A disconnectedness – a person is alienated from their intention . . . they feel it but it doesn’t seem a part of them

“Primary conflicts” are the effects of the loss of intention.  These conflicts often set the stage for other problems in life that often seem unrelated with identity problems.  These are the “secondary conflicts”.

Examples of “secondary conflicts” include:

  • Rebelliousness
  • An inability to associate with people
  • Problems relating with society
  • An absence of ambition to do anything
  • An inability to control themselves or their emotions
  • A quality of being at a loss
  • Indecision
  • An overzealous and exaggerated adherence and following of some identity or ideal
  • A blind following to current identities

“Secondary conflicts” are dependent  and shaped by conditions.  In this way, “secondary conflicts” are really “primary conflicts” that are applied to the current conditions.  This fact, in many ways, further shows that this is a problem of intention.  Basically, the male has problems applying themselves to life.


It seems that there is a close association of female identity problems and menstruation.  This is because menstruation has a number of qualities:

  • It is a repetitive event
  • It is an event that the female has no control over
  • It is perceived as damaging to the female
  • It is associated with childbearing and the mother instinct
  • It entails powerful emotions and passions

Because of this, female identity problems tends to become menstrual problems or are somehow related to it.  This makes many female identity problems often appear to not be identity problems.

Identity plays a unique and powerful role for the female.  This is because of the power of menstrual passions which reflect childbearing passions and the mother instinct.  Identity plays a large and critical role in the controlling and directing of these passions. When the female loses identity these passions as if “run amuck”, so to speak, causing many problems for the female.

Female seem predisposed to identity problems.  This is because of the mother instinct.  Basically, the mother instinct makes the female “need” the child.  In this way, the child “completes” the female.  As a result, the female needs someone else to make her “who she is”.  I often speak of this phenomena as the “partial mind” or “partial self”.  Because of this, the female identity is not really complete.  It needs someone else to complete it.  I often speak of this as the “principle of the other”, as they need someone else, the “other”, to complete them.  Because of the “partial mind” and “principle of the other” the female never has a complete, self-sufficient, and independent identity.  This makes female identity more “unstable” and precarious.

A common way of dealing with the naturally appearing unstable female identity is the creation of what I often call the “female niche”.  This is a “society within a society” where females tend to congregate and be together with other females.  In this way, other females become the “other”.  They identify with each other having similar issues and dealing with similar passions.  The “female niche” becomes something like a support for female identity.  As a result, when the “female niche” falls there is a tendency for the female identity to fall and females have more identity problems.  This is exactly what happened as a result of the coming of bourgeoisie society after the Napoleonic wars.  Females abandoned the existing “female niche” and female society became aping the aristocracy and following trend.  The females are stilling doing a variation of this today.

Common reactions to female identity problems, that I see at this time, include:

  • They see themselves as victims or are preoccupied with being victims
  • They try to be like men even to the point that they think they are the same as men
  • The blindly and slavishly follow trend, social ideals, etc.
  • They are controlled by their emotions
  • They become particularly conceited, self-absorbed, or selfish
  • They view the female, and everything femalish, as bad or in a bad light
  • They grow to hate themselves
  • They feel threatened by the world and are particularly threatened by the male
  • They project many of their feelings onto other people

(I’ve written a lot of articles on female identity problems in this blog.  If you are interested in them you can look them up).


You could sat that democracy and liberalism “justifies” identity problems  with political and legal theory making it sound legitimate.  In this way, they actually promote it.  This is one of the reasons why I consider democracy and liberalism somewhat destructive.

Its probably no surprise that many of the ways they promote identity problems reflect their political/legal points of view.  Some of the ways they promote identity problems with political/legal jargon include:

  • Equality – they blur humanity by trying to make us all “equal” and the same
  • Freedom – they allow people to “be what whatever they want to be”
  • Revolution – they justify social rebellion

This creates a condition in which a person spirals even further into identity problems.  Not only that, it does not offer any means to develop an identity . . . everyone is the “same” and “can do whatever they want”.

In my opinion, democracy and liberalism has misled many people.  In some respects, its probably done more damage to identity than any other thing, perhaps in history.

The illusion of freedom-as-identity-problem

In many cases, they tend to view “having no identity” as the same as “freedom”.  This is what I call “freedom-as-identity-problem”.  In this situation, freedom is viewed as reflecting conditions such as:

  • Having no idea who they are
  • Having no idea where they stand in society
  • Having no idea what their role is in life
  • Having a belief that they can do and be whatever they want
  • Having the idea that no one can tell them who they are
  • Having no responsibility in life (which is like saying they have no role)

What we see, then, is that there are people who are confusing identity problems with freedom.  To go even further, there is often a tendency to glorify it on political/legal grounds.  In this way, identity problems, for some people, have become something like a cause, a crusade.  Watching this phenomena, over the years, is like watching a bizarre and weird play being acted out in front of me.

Liberalism and identity

I tend to associate liberalism with identity problems.  That is to say, liberalism seems to attract people with identity problems.  It becomes like a “cover” for the problem.  Its as if they hide behind it.  They use it as a defense as well.

A common viewpoint that is held by liberals, and which hides identity problems, is the idea of “equality” For many of them, this is a way to “politically justify their identity problems”.  Its like saying, “I can be whoever I want . . . because I don’t know who I am”.  As a result of this, the idea of equality” has done a lot to cause and promote identity problems. 

Many of them end up creating something like a “political-based identity” where all their justification of who and what they are is based in political theory.  In this way, political theory becomes the basis of their identity.  As a result, it tends to become a dominating viewpoint in their lives.  They begin to over rely on it and, as a result, try to create a world where it dominates everything.  Because of this, they want everything liberal.


Alienation and dehumanization is really a form of identity problem.  I tend to interpret alienation and dehumanization in these ways:

  • Alienation is a disconnected with self . . . an identity problem
  • Dehumanization is when one justifies ones alienation or identity problem

What this shows is that when one is dehumanizes one has really given up on identity.

There is often a growing sense of apathy or lack of responsibility. As a result, dehumanization creates an illusionary peace and calm. In fact, I think this is one of the appeals of dehumanization. What this is more or less means is that dehumanization has an appeal to it.


It seems, to me, that civilization, by its nature, tends to cause identity problems and in varying degree’s.  In other words, if a person lives in civilization then they automatically have some form of identity problem.  By “civilization” I mean a large society that is often organized to deal with its large size.

“Civilized society” seems to display traits of identity problems.  Some examples include:

  • A tendency to congregate in groups, classes, etc. – this shows how social identity is threatened
  • A great emphasis on ideas, beliefs, science, etc. – this shows how identity is being threatened
  • The many religious, philosophical, and existential problems that are only found in civilization – this shows the problem and dilemma of identity
  • An emphasis on following and “going with the herd” – this is a sign of identity problems
  • A tendency for people to feel disconnected in some way – this shows the problem and dilemma of identity

It seems that many things that make up “civilized society” are really ways of dealing with identity problems.  Some ways this appears include:

  • An emphasis on unity of some sort
  • An emphasis on “getting along”
  • A “herd mentality”, of following along what everyone else is doing
  • An emphasis more on an “inhuman system”, of laws and regulations for example, than a system based on human institutions
  • A tendency to display deep-lying fears of each other and authority
  • A tendency to “force” things onto people to get things done
  • The overabundant use of abstract symbols, ideas, principles, etc.
  • An organized and systemized belief system, such as “organized religion”

These are all reactions to identity problems and are attempts at solving them. Overall, I’d say that civilized society” does not solve identity problems but it does try to put a “band-aid” on it.  I would even go further and say that “civilized society” often creates more identity problems with its “band-aid”.  In this way, it actually compounds it.  But it ends up creating more “band-aids” as a result.

Primitive society – revealing the need of the “beyond the human”

As near as I can tell, people in primitive societies tend to not have identity problems.  These are people, remember, who live in nature and in which “nature is bigger than humanity”.  In civilization “humanity is bigger than nature”.  This suggests that one of the causes of identity problems is “too much humanity”!   That is to say, when you live in a world where everything is “human-made” or “human-derived” a person is prone to identity problems.  This includes:

  • Things that humans make
  • Philosophies, ideas, concepts that come from deliberate human thinking
  • Laws, rules, regulations, etc. that originate from human thinking

This suggests that “humanity alienates itself”.  It reveals that part of the human identity is in “not being human”.  That is, part of human identity is being a part of life that is “beyond the human”.  This includes things like:

  • Seeing one as being in nature
  • Acceptance of that “things are beyond you”
  • A belief in “something more”
  • The importance of mystery and not knowing
  • An element of faith in “something” which is often unknown

This seems to suggest aspects that can be described as religious, animistic, mystical, and spiritual.  From my observation this is the case:  people who display these qualities seem to have stronger identities.

What this shows is that human identity is a mixture of human and “beyond human” qualities, which are like opposites.  As a result, when a person lives in an “all human” world, such as civilization, then they tend to develop an inadequate identity and are prone to identity problems.


Since identity is based in being who one is, it brings up the question of “who am I?”  That is to say, “how do I really know who I am?”  The fact that this question is even brought up, to me, suggests identity problems.  Its really a philosophical question and philosophy, as I said above, is a product of civilization and its identity problems.

The problem with trying to answer this question is that we tend to answer it in too abstract of a way, rigidly and coldly.  In other words, we try to answer the question in a “too human” way, which is what caused the problem to begin with.  This is why trying to solve the question “who am I?” never seems to work.


I have always felt that the deepest sense of identity, and the strongest, has qualities such as these:

  • It is wordless
  • It is a sense
  • It is based in awareness of self and the world
  • It is based in experience
  • It is based in discovery of self

Some traits these reveal is that it is “fluid”, ever changing, and “not easily grasped”.  This makes the deeper forms of identity harder and more difficult.  This, no doubt, is part of its power.  But its also part of its truth.  As I said above, there never develops a “complete identity”.  We are always having to discover, rediscover, adjust, change, etc. to the varying conditions of life which causes a continual alteration of ones identity.  In this way, identity is “fluid”, ever changing, and “not easily grasped”.  This makes this a hard path to take.  But it is a reaction to real-world reality and conditions and that makes it deeper and more beneficial.


Lesser forms of identity, which tend to be weaker, include:

  • Philosophical-based ideas of who one is
  • Social-based perceptions of who one is
  • Ideas of who one is that is constant
  • Ideas of who one is that makes one satisfied with who one is
  • Ideas of who one is based on what one would like to be

Common traits of these lesser forms are that they are a defined, a concrete image, and cant be controlled.  This makes these forms of identity “easy”, constant, and “easily grasped”.  Because of this, they tend to be rigid and unchanging.  One of the results of this is that they easily become like a wall which a person can hide behind.  This tends to create an illusion of security and constancy.  In other words, it tends to create a false or illusionary identity that isn’t real and often hides and insecure identity.

And this brings up the question of illusionary identity . . .


Oftentimes, people with identity problems develop illusionary identity that appear to be identity but really aren’t.  This as if “remedies” the problem but, behind it, the problem remains.  In this way, its like a cover or band-aid to the problem.  Eventually, the problem surfaces.

Some examples of illusionary identity include:

  • Trying to be someone else
  • The continual pursuing of some “image” which could even be some “hero” or someone who they esteem
  • Blindly following things
  • A person who does whatever society says
  • A person who seems “nice”, friendly, kind, etc. (that is, they have no problems)
  • A person who hides behind knowledge (in this case, knowledge becomes a form of identity)

My observation is that most people have illusionary identity to some extent.  But there are some people where it becomes a way of life.  There are people who whole live is a “lie”, a self-deception, as if they are living another persons life.  But because it seems like a stable identity they seem stable.  This is the problem with illusionary identity, it makes a person seem stable.   


It seems, to me, that many mental problems, and “life problems” in general, are really identity problems or are rooted in identity problems.  This means that if people had a more firm, stable, and healthy identity then they wouldn’t have as many problems or mental problems.

In fact, it seems that many solutions to problems, as well as “cures”, are really nothing but various ways to develop a more healthy identity.  In other words, the solution to many of “life problems”, and mental problems, is a healthier identity.  This, it seems, to me, is one of the purposes of things like psychotherapy, religion, philosophy, thinking about things, reflection, and such.  They all foster and help afford time for a more healthy identity to develop and grow.

Some ways that these seem to do this include:

Increased awareness

  • Being more aware and observant of ones self, society, and the world
  • Being aware of ones conflicts, pains, and dilemma’s

Views of self

  • Discovering ones self and who one is
  • Discovering ones strengths and weaknesses
  • Being honest with ones self and who one is
  • By creating an “image” of self, in ones mind, based in what one is and not on what one would like to be or society expects them to be
  • Have a humility that one really does not know who one is or understand the world
  • Learning to like ones self and accepting of who one is
  • A willingness to abandon who you think you are

Life and world perception

  • Believing in something
  • Always seeking meaning and purpose
  • Trying to find an understanding of the world

Association with world

  • Getting away from the “human world” in some way
  • By participation in the world more intently
  • Living in a “dynamic way”, with the awareness that life requires one to continually change
  • Finding ones “niche” in life, a place where “one fits in”

In many ways, the solutions to identity problems seems to reveal that life has a tendency to make us stray off from who we are, causing us to lose a sense of who we are, and “get lost”.  

Also see “the “pre-self”, solutions, and “cures”” section below for additional information.


What all this seems to reveal is that identity is not really about the individual self but what I call the “self-in-the-world”.  This is the perception of self and our association with the world as a living dynamic thing.  In many ways, life causes a struggle where we are trying to establish, grow, and develop the relationship between self and world.  The issue is not really about our identity but the self/world relationship.  In other words, identity is really a relationship issue.  This means, more or less, that identity actually consists of the self and the world.  It is more than just the identity of self.

This relationship is based on three elements:

  1. The self
  2. The world
  3. The relationship between self and world

A firm identity has strong roots in all three elements.  That is to say, they must all be developed:

1-The self

The self requires things like:

  • Knowing ones strengths and weaknesses
  • Knowing ones character
  • Being aware of self

2-The world

The world requires things like:

  • Knowing the world
  • Being aware of world

3-The relationship of self and world

The relationship of self and world requires things like:

  • Participating in the world
  • Having a place in the world
  • Being aware that one is in the world

The importance of harmony

The relationship between these things, it seems to me, requires a harmony.  That is to say, they must all “work together”.  The different elements are like an orchestra which requires different instruments to work and harmonize together.  Just “having them” is not enough.

Many identity problems are caused by a lack of harmony between these three elements.  Some aspects of this include:

  • I feel that the modern world tends to cause a lack of harmony.  This is because the modern world creates, and has too many things, that are new, “out of place”, not needed, frivolous, disruptive, and so on.  This causes a problem with creating a healthy world perception as well as ones association with the world.
  • I often think that the harmony between the three element requires something like an “artistic skill” as, in many ways, it is an art.  As a result, some people may be better than others.  This would mean, more or less, that some people are prone to identity problems because they just don’t have the “artistic skill” to harmonize the three elements.  This may be one reason why so many people seek refuge in the “lesser forms of identity” (see above) as they are easy to do and require no skill.


There is a part of our mind where the three elements merge together and become one.  I speak of this as the “pre-self” (I’ve spoken of this in many articles in this blog).  This is an aspect of our mind that originates from our early years.  It consists of the condition where there is no self and world, where the self and world are perceived as one entity.  Basically, we begin our life with this sense.  Its only later that the self and world begin to be perceived.  This shows that the “pre-self” is the base of identity.

It is this sense that creates what can be described as a “religious sense” in us.  This creates things such as:

  • A sense of god
  • The sense of the divine
  • A sense of “beyond human”
  • The sense of “something more” in life
  • The sense of mystery

Its because the “pre-self” is the base of our identity that the “religious sense” is so important.  In other words, the “religious sense” tends to create a stronger identity.  I should point out that the “religious sense” doesn’t really mean religion with all its customs, traditions, beliefs, and dogma.  It is a sense that everyone has and may, or may not, be associated with religion.

The “forced awareness of self” and the fragmentation of the “pre-self”

Some identity problems, it seems to me, originate from when the “pre-self” divides into the self and world.  This division causes many conflicts for us.  Some of these problems persist to the day we die and are the base of many problems.

The “pre-self’s” separation into self and world is rooted in conflict and seems to come in two phases:

  1. We feel things like hunger, hot/cold, pains, discomforts, etc. and this as if “forces” an awareness of self as opposed to non-self (which becomes the world).  In short, there is a “forced awareness of self”.  The self is as if “woken up”.  This causes the perception of the self to develop.
  2. As the self is forced to be aware, and one associates with the world, there develops a stronger sense of the self and the world.  This causes a fragmentation of the “pre-self” into the self and world.  

Both of these create conflicts.  They cause things such as:


  • Terror 
  • Anguish
  • Pain
  • Shock


  • Confusion
  • Inability to “relate” to things
  • Inability to “grasp” things


  • A sense that one has lost something
  • Depression
  • Despair
  • A sense of discontent
  • A sense of death or dying


  • A refusal to accept the self or world
  • A refusal to “integrate” things
  • A desire to not be aware

With these conflicts several things must be kept in mind:

  • That, since these are from our early years (like the first year of life), they take place in a “wordless” condition.  Because of this, people tend to not be conscious of them as an adult.
  • Because they are so deep seated they are seldom experienced as a separate “emotion” or conflict.  Their nature is more in the line of a “coloring” of things.  It “casts its shadow” upon things.

It appears that the self is perceived before the world, as this is a reaction to the preservation of ones self against an outside world that irritates or causes discomforts or pains.  As the sense of the self grows the outside world begins to be perceived as a separate entity.  In this way, the world comes in two stages:

  1. Undefined sense of world – the irritation, discomfort, or pain that forces the awareness of self
  2. Defined sense of world – after self is established it becomes “opposed” or opposite to it

The self also comes in two stages:

  1. The self as dominant – it is “forced” to be aware
  2. The self in world – this develops after self develops and has experience in world

With this we see that the self/world relationship begins in conflict.  Being a conflict it often carries over into identity in some way or another.  Some common examples include:

  • The “forced awareness of the self” can be somewhat traumatic causing a sense of terror, anguish, and pain that can persist throughout ones life and make it difficult to develop a self or association with world.
  • The conflict creates a fear of the world.
  • The conflict creates a fear of the self.
  • Since the self is forced to be aware there is often a refusal to accept the self and world, almost like a denial of their existence.  This can make it difficult to develop a firm identity.
  • There can be a refusal to separate self and world.

I suspect that all identity problems probably have a base in the “forced awareness of self”, and the fragmentation of the “pre-self” into self and world, at least in one way or another.  


I have this belief that, deep down, we are all trying to reestablish the condition of the “pre-self”.  Another way to put it is that we are trying to “reconnect” with the “pre-self”.  By doing this, we are actually trying to “undo” the fragmentation of the “pre-self” and unite the self and world into one again.  In this way, we are trying to regress to an earlier frame of mind (like an infant).  There is a perception that this will end conflict, confusion, pain, and so on.  I call this the “drive to reestablish the “pre-self””.

I have always thought that the “drive to reestablish the “pre-self”” is not really an attempt at trying to become the “pre-self” and regress to an infant.  It is really trying to “start over”.  In this way, the “forced awareness of self”, and the fragmentation of “pre-self”, can be “relived” again so that it can be done properly and in a healthy way.  This seems to predispose a number of things:

  • A sense that “somethings not right”
  • An instinctual sense to “start over”
  • A sense that the “pre-self” is the center of ones self, though this is generally not consciously acknowledged

I also tend to think that the sense of the “drive to reestablish the “pre-self”” is required for a person to perceive an identity problem and is especially required to try to solve it.  But just because someone is affected by this drive does not mean they will follow it.  I tend to feel that this drive, when not sensed consciously (that is, its unconscious and unknown), often causes identity problems, such as:

  • It makes a person unstable with who they are
  • It makes a person always looking for “something”
  • It makes a person unable to be satisfied with themselves or things


It seems, to me, that the best solution, or “cure”, for identity problems is following the “drive to reestablish the “pre-self”” and “start over”.  In effect, the idea is to “regrow”.  This, I think, is part of what “solutions and “cures”” section above describes.  Most of them do this on a mild scale, though.  Part of the process to “start over” includes:

  • A “stripping down” of ones self and perceptions
  • A reestablishing of ones self and ones self in the world
  • Allowing one time to “start over” and get established
  • Allowing one to regrow again

In this way, the reestablishing or reconnecting of the “pre-self”, the base of identity, may be the solution to identity problems.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Dehumanization and alienation, Identity and identity problems, Imitation, imitative illnesses, and such, Male and female, Modern life and society, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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