Roles Are Inseparable from our Identity


bigstock-Surreal-Cubist-Eyes-And-Faces-7736887 (1)One’s “role” plays a central place in the social sciences because it is a medium for how and what an individual internalizes in terms of human behavior. It provides a way of “being.” The late Ernest Becker observed that “Identity is inseparable from the role one is assigned … and that “The social environment remains to his death the only source for validating that identity”.[i]

Unfortunately, we become attached to our roles as if they were our core identity instead of realizing that we merely have roles like mother, father, daughter, son, male, female, banker, teacher, student, etc.  Ultimately, at our core we are much, much more than the role that we endure.

“The psychological dilemma plaguing most of humanity is that the archetypes live us instead of us living them. Unless we become aware that there are such things as blind forces or archetypes in our unconscious, unless we become cognizant that we are in their grip, we will remain in a state of identity with these blind, unconscious, archetypal forces.” We must wake up to our deeper realities and dynamics if we are going to stop being menaces to ourselves and others.” [ii]

Perhaps from a base of different social, scientific and spiritual disciplines, we need to re-think what it means to be human at a fundamental level. We acknowledge that we are fundamentally relational beings living in a culture that to a very large extent socializes us into a solitary being by virtue of extolling the virtues of “rugged individualism”.

If we are too focused on others, we are at best “co-dependent” and at worst pathologized. Yet research repeatedly tells us that we are social animals and as such, our physical and psychological well being depends on our connections with other people.

Adults remain social animals: they continue to require a source of stabilization outside themselves. That open-looped design means that in some important ways, people cannot be stable on their own—not should or shouldn’t be, but can’t be. This prospect is disconcerting to many, especially in a society that prizes individuality as ours does. Total self-sufficiency turns out to be a daydream whose bubble is burst by the sharp edge of the limbic brain. Stability means finding people who regulate you well and staying near them[iii]


[i] E. Becker (p.82)

[ii] Eugene Pascal, Jung To Live By (Warner Books, New York, N. Y. 1992) p.89

[iii] Lewis (p.86)

[iv] Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth 2006 A Plume Book, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.(p. 22)

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