Losing yourself in a relationship or just in general is not uncommon. Sometimes our identities need to be challenged and examined to have a better and fuller understanding of ourselves and our partnerships. I’d like to tell a little story that explains this.
Sometime ago I had the opportunity to attend a convocation at Berea College in Kentucky. It was quite a surprise to learn that Col. Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, was also in attendance. After the event ended I made my way to where he was, introduced myself to him and asked for his autograph. (I collect autographs) He did not want to sign anything but he did offer me his business card, which I gratefully accepted.
I really enjoyed telling friends about this encounter and the pleasure of meeting this famous Kentucky icon.
Little did I know that one of my friends, an employee for the state of Kentucky, planned a gift for me.
Months later he presented to me a certificate signed by Governor Wendell Ford
designating me as a Kentucky Colonel
Now, I am Jim Compton KY Col.
I had a lot of fun fantasizing having my business card printed:
Jim Compton DMin, LMFT, KY Col.
Then, when giving someone my business card, they will know who I am. But then I ask myself, is this who I am, really?
Have you ever thought deeply about who you are, really?
Husband? Wife? Son? Angry? Daughter? Student? Unemployed? Anxious? Retired? Expecting?
I could go on and on. But the question, ‘who am I, really?’ begs an answer.
For a number of years I was a psychotherapist in a hospital-based behavioral health center. It was the type of facility where most patients were admitted involuntary for a variety of emotional issues.
These individuals had to be admitted with a diagnosis followed by a treatment plan in order for their insurance company to pay for their treatment or for community-based services that would be available for those not having insurance.
It was not unusual for patients to identify themselves this way: ‘I’m bi-polar,’ ‘I’m borderline,’ ‘I’m suicidal,’ ‘I’m anxious,’ ‘I’m depressed,’ ‘I’m hopeless,’ ‘I’m a loser,’ ‘I’m a drunk,’ etc., etc.
Imagine, if you will, the shock on their face when I told them, ‘that’s not who you are.’
I was challenging their self-identity!
I had already established their trust and respect so it gave them pause for this ‘professional’ to suggest that there was another way for them to think about themselves.
I smiled when I saw a book in a store with the title ‘Using Your Brain—For a Change.’ On one hand the title suggested that the reader might not be using their brain. For a change why not start using your brain and begin to think differently about who you are?
This makes sense. Most of us are in a trance, on autopilot, doing our routines without any awareness of what we are doing.
Reminds me of the Buffalo Springfield song with the lyric ‘something’s happing here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.’
Something has been and is going on but we haven’t have clarity, understanding or awareness because we’re not ‘all in’ using out brain.
On the other hand, if we want a change to occur we might want to do something radically different — use our brain.
When I was a child I did not have the capacity to use my brain effectively. My cognitive ability was evolving only to become fully developed in my mid 20’s.
With this limitation I believed what the ‘big people’ in my life told me about me and about life.
So I, maybe like you, learned the story about ‘this is who I am.’
While it was a shock to hear ‘that isn’t who you are,’ it was a relief. It was like a burden was lifted off their shoulders and they felt lighter.
Author: Jim Compton DMin, LMFT