Stephen King was asked in a 2013 interview what scares him the most. King, an authority on fear, answered without hesitation that neither the boogeyman nor the supernatural scare him, but the thought of losing his mind and identity does. This gave me pause: Could it be that we are our own boogeyman when we allow life changes to threaten our identity?
Beyond medical conditions which threaten our awareness and cognition, we can cling to identities of an earlier self. Observation suggests those who are more stable maintain and develop:
Social networks (family, friends, clubs, churches, etc.)
Purposeful tasks (work, school, volunteering, hobbies, etc.)
Analytical thinking (reading, problem solving, puzzles, etc.)
Positive attitudes / good humor
Our psyche is balanced by the fluid interconnection between multiple identities we assume. For instance, identities of mother, wife, volunteer, athlete, teacher, etc. comprise structures to carry oneself through daily life, and provide a reference for self-value. The importance of developing more than one identity can not be overstated. It is a difficult adjustment to change or suddenly lose an identity. It is devastating if that loss happens to the sole identity one has developed. Devoid of self-purpose and self-value can prompt crisis and depression.
Social demands for adjustment in our roles and development of identities start very early in life. Learning pathways in our brain emerge to meet these demands, which help us plot courses through bigger and more challenging changes later in life. Rather than comparing who we were then and how we are now, it is more useful to reflect on how past transitions helped us understand our limitations and recognize potential areas of growth. Adopting new identities can be both freeing and stimulating.
Navigating changes can be frightening. However, recognizing that our roles have always been changing, and our adjustments are generally successful, entitles us to claim "champion of our own identity."