'Who do you think you are?',
asks our minister, Rev Peter Fairbrother
If you could inhabit an entirely different human identity for a day, or one that you rarely exhibit to the world, what would it be? Who would you be?
Would you aspire to become a 'higher version' of yourself, or would you seek to explore an aspect of your 'shadow'? Would you live your greatest fantasy or your biggest nightmare?
Hero or villain? Victim or persecutor? Inside or out? Lost or found?
A different you. How do you imagine it would feel? What do you think you would learn?
Perhaps you might relish the opportunity to step outside your existing sense of who you think you are and experience life from an entirely different perspective. Maybe you might delight in burrowing deeper into an identity already known, but not previously shared, and be with the joy of bringing it to others. Or perhaps the idea just feels ridiculous, uncomfortable, unsettling, impossible.
In our daily lives each of us occupies a variety of identities, often without giving much thought to stepping into each. Parent – child – friend – lover – worker - 'the team player' - 'the rebel' - 'the gentle one' - 'the bad-tempered one' - 'the social butterfly' - 'the shrinking violet' - 'goody two-shoes'- 'the bad penny' - and so on and so on. A myriad of different faces to the world: different identities at different times, in different circumstances, in different relationships, in different contexts.
Many personas, but which of them is the 'true self'? All of them? Some of them? None of them? Which are we happy to own? And which do we seek to bury?
Moreover, where does our sense of self-identity come from? I wonder how much of who we think we are is derived from what is projected upon us, and how much, in turn, relates to what we then subsequently project onto others?
‘I am not what you think I am. You are what you think I am’
Transference, identities intertwined. Is there really a single self?
In my last job, a colleague once cheekily asked me, further to making a particularly onerous request, if it was going to meet with my 'usual calmness and solemnity, or with humour and wickedness'. Manifesting more of the latter I responded: 'both, they are merely two sides of the same coin'.
My sense is that we are all the identities we hold: the selves we are proud to show to the world, as well as those that we are not; the selves we know and those we don’t; the selves we receive in transference and those we seek to project. May we hold ourselves and each other with tenderness and compassion in being with it all.
Today I am
(I dare you.)