Just a warning: this is a “thinking aloud” post. While it’s organized, there are progressions/changes in thought as you read along. I think I made some important discoveries for myself as I went along, though. Ramble with me if you’d like…
There’s a line in one of my favorite songs, Nightminds by Missy Higgins, that says, “you were blessed by a different kind of inner view / it’s so magnified. the highs will make you fly / but the lows make you want to die.” For obvious reasons, I really identify with that description.
As I mentioned in my video journal, my little brother shares a lot of the same BPD (for lack of a better term, good grief) symptoms as me. We were talking about identity disturbance the other day, though, and he has a different view of it. While I tended to view my inability to naturally fit with any “type” or “group” of people as a personal failing, a personal emptiness that others didn’t have, he seemed to view emptiness as the default human state, and our “BPD” recognition of it as privileged knowledge. Basically, he thinks we are able to see the scaffolding behind anyone’s identity, to realize that identity is totally constructed for everyone, while most people just don’t realize that. When you think of it this way, this understanding of how people work and what they’re doing when they’re choosing the ideas, clothing, bumper stickers, books, hairstyle, etc. that make up their identity gives us a lot of inappropriate power. We know who they want to be. We know what makes them feel good or feel bad. I never really realized this before, but I think it becomes currency for manipulation (though we don’t have to use it.)
Another way of looking at it is this. Identity is a contract people enter into with the world and society. A person might say, “I’m going to dress in skinny jeans and thick glasses, listen to new music, create artwork, and have a tattoo. I’m going to hang out in the artsy part of town.” The world responds by accepting him as a “hipster”: other people who want to do those same things flock to him, people who see him mentally accept his self-created image. He may not realize he’s created an identity for himself, though: those outfits, songs, and artwork might’ve just resonated with him. But someone who feels they have no identity and is keenly aware that they have to create one (e.g. someone with identity disturbance) will look at him and see the contract. They’ll see his identity creation and the world’s acceptance of it. In some ways, this undermines the legitimacy of his identity in their eyes, because they can see the man behind the curtain.