July 22, 2016    Psychology

I Am a _____.

“I am a ____.” This blank space is scary. You want to be able to fill it in, so that you can respond to people with a complete sentence.

Democrat, Republican, American, French, Hillary supporter, Trump supporter, feminist, activist, Christian, Muslim, lawyer, writer, father, mother, environmentalist, Apple engineer, New York Times writer, Stanford alumni, etc..

These are choices you make and positions you take. Every one of these labels is infused with cultural significance. When you fill in the blank with them, you inherit their significance. This has a stabilizing effect in your psyche. It’s like you are tied to a big ship while floating in the middle of a big ocean.

To change your fundamental position is like cutting off the rope that connects you to the big ship. Would you cut it off just because someone pointed out some flaws in the big ship? It’s not likely that logic would motivate you to change your position. Why? Because your urge to take these positions did not come from logic in the first place. You use logic to rationalize your positions after the fact.

When you contemplate the possibility of cutting off the rope, suddenly you notice the other ships you are connected through it. The idea of cutting it off becomes increasingly scary, because of the unpredictable chain effect. Your confidence comes from these ropes; how many you have and how strong they are.

So you wonder: What is the benefit of cutting it off? What would I get out of it? Why sacrifice my confidence? Why suffer the feelings of insecurity and uncertainty? Why should I float alone in the big ocean?

For me, it’s been about allowing me to be where I need to be. If I’m tied to other ships through these ropes, I can’t move to where I want to go. For that reason, the more blank that space is, the better.