This is just a small thought. My mind is jumbled up today—lots going on up there, and this little thought kind of dropped down out of the pinball machine.
I think we don’t realize that our identities are joint constructions made of our social roles, histories, preferences, and tastes that we mostly don’t examine. It’s just “me.” If being capable and assertive got you attention and value in your family, then that might become a part of who you are. It was something you could do, something supported by the people closest to you, and you might never think about that being a part of your role in your family, especially if your family is not wildly dysfunctional and nothing about being capable and assertive begs examination. Identity is so much an agreement between how you feel you are and how other people think you are or allow you to be.
There are a lot of things that accumulate as a part of ourselves that we just don’t think about if they are coherent and don’t cause any problems. Over years, bits of identity get added on or adjusted—our identities evolve through our affiliations and experience.
However, if you don’t have stable objects, those roles and tastes and things that make you feel you belong aren’t stable either. You might suddenly take on the persona of a motorcycle gang member, because briefly there is some sense of belonging with that group, and there is no homebase to anchor it into anything—so that it isn’t a gradual evolution of self. It’s jumping around.
I don’t know if that is coming across clearly. I am just saying lacking a clear sense of “I” has to do with not having an internalized “other” who constructs that “I” with you, even when they are not physically present with you, but having many different “others” of the same importance who might have very different views from one another.