If roles within any given culture are what mediates our understanding of and construction of our identity, then roles may be understood functionally as a container or compass for each person to orientate their current position.
For example, it is good to know who is the pilot and who is the passenger. It would also be good to know who is the inmate and who is the guard (some would argue this example). In this case, inmate and passenger are temporary roles unless the inmate has strongly identified himself/herself with this role.
At the same time, a strong cultural influence often pressures the personality to organize itself around rigidly defined roles that it has been assigned. Using the Internal Family System language, the core identity blends with the role itself. Pulitzer Prize winner Ernest Becker posits,
“Each of us is in some ways a grotesque collage, a composite of injected and injected parts over which we have no honest control. We are not aware that we carry such a burden of foreign matter…Little wonder that we spend our lives searching in mirrors to find out who we “really” are.”[i]
We spend our lives seeking validation for the roles in which we have been socialized or consciously accepted. Our core personhood has often been organized around various roles that may have little to do with or be compatible with our genetic and limbic makeup.
Authenticity as it is being used in this book refers to the recognition and acceptance of roles/parts that comprise the totality of our personality or b-e-i-n-g-n-e-s-s along a lifelong continuum.
Authenticity then becomes freedom of choice vs. denial of our collective personhood. That does not necessarily mean that I have to like an aspect of myself but it does mean that I notice, accept and take responsibility for the multiplicity of the person that I have become. In the end, it really does not matter how we have become who we have become, what matters is what we do with all that we have become.
“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds”. R.D. Laing[ii]
If this is the case, where and how do people access those parts of themselves which have not been recognized and validated? Would recognition of parts give more meaning and freedom of choice to their lives?
If society validates us only for the roles we’ve become, where is the outlet with which one might untangle and liberate the potentially deeper meaning and expression of self-states that lie within the human person? …To be continued
[i] Ernest Becker, The Birth and Death of Meaning (New York, NY: The Free Press 1971), p.35-36
[ii] R.D. Lang. Quotation #34029. Classic Quotes.