Knowing Who You Are
Resolving Identity Issues © Martyn Carruthers

We are what we repeatedly do.

Your personal identity is dynamic, not static. You are always in the making, and 
never fully made. If you wander from your purpose, if you lose your sense of life, 
you may feel emotionally empty or many unpleasant emotions. How do you get back?

Sense of Life – Sense of Self

Few recovery programs work. The effects of recovery programs rarely last. Altering thoughts or behaviors alone rarely provides a basis for lasting change. Willpower and hypnosis are not enough. Medication and drugs may only delay relapses.

Many problematic behaviors indicate a loss of personal identity. If important inner resources or qualities, or “parts” of you are missing, hidden or distorted, you may act and react in robot-like ways. Do you want to recover your lost or hidden self?

When I realized that I was going to live my whole life with someone I don’t like 
… myself … then getting your identity work made sense. 
I’m just sorry that I waited so long. 

Be Yourself – Remember Who You Are

Does, “Be yourself” sound easy? If you were raised in a family and community that prefers pretence to real people – you may have hidden the ‘real you’. Did you build masks and hide your emotions, unusual ideas, difficult questions and your need for truth? Were you taught to hide yourself? We often call this identity loss.

Depersonalization is a fancy name for identity loss, which is sometimes called a coping mechanism or defense mechanism for escaping intolerable situations. Yet a strong sense of self is usually essential for achieving your life goals.

People who are lost in life reflect this in their relationships. Our identity work helps people manage existential issues:

  • Immaturity – part of you is stuck at some young age
  • Identification – you believe that you are someone else
  • Identity Bonds – your behavior is bonded to other people
  • Lost Identity – you lose or diminish contact with your sense of self
  • Identity Conflict – you simultaneously identify with two or more people

In our systemic psychology, Lost Identity refers to chronic dissociation (imagine a stereotype professor deeply engaged in solving a complex problem). Identificationrefers to the unconscious acceptance of another personality (a medieval term waspossessed). Identity Conflict refers to bipolar behavior or mood swings (e.g. classic ideas of split personality) and Identity Bonds refer to beliefs and emotions that enmesh or entangle you with other people’s goals and agendas.

Some common indications of people who are lost in life are:

  1. Lack of emotions, empathy & love
  2. Chronic inner conflict / self criticism
  3. Impulsive motivations to immature behavior
  4. Dissociation (the lights are on but nobody’s home)
  5. Emotional outbursts & mood swings without apparent cause
  6. Body language gives very different messages to verbalized words
  7. Psychosomatic symptoms (medical issues without medical causes)

Emotional Outbursts & Mood Swings

Some common factors affect how people express emotions:

  1. Fatigue: Tired people may not respond or over-respond to stimuli.
  2. Physiological: Emotional displays are often affected by who is noticing.
  3. Relationships: Emotions are often influenced by important relationships.
  4. Drugs and Medications: Inappropriate medications and some food allergies can trigger strong emotions.

Emotions affect relationships. Whatever the causes, feelings of frustration, defensiveness, depression, etc, can sour relationships. Negative emotions expressed by a partner or parent may trigger unpleasant changes in other family members.


Many people try to make sense of an empty or senseless lives by identifying with other people. These people may feel normal, just and right, even when behaving in ways that other people call abnormal. They may justify their behavior with words that don’t make sense. They may experience strange negative emotions or psychosomatic symptoms.

Do you feel that something 
or somebody guides or directs your behavior? 
Do you feel negative emotions that do not make sense?

Personality identification can strongly affect your thoughts and emotions:

  • Do you express chronic fear or anxiety?
  • Do you express chronic anger, fury or rage?
  • Do you express chronic sadness or melancholy?

The symptoms are often easy to perceive – a person identified with a victim is generally suspicious and may compulsively annoy or torment people; a person identified with dead person is generally melancholy and may be obsessed with death; and a person identified with an abuser may feel motivated to hurt other people.

Identified people often feel the emotions of their role models. Expressing these emotions can be a massive relief, although there may be unpleasant consequences. Identified people often describe “feeling right in a wrong world“.

You said that my symptoms indicated that I might have identified with a dead person … Yes, my dead grandpa felt totally me – he felt more me than myself. Prague

Existential Conflict

Do you feel deep inner conflict? If you have identity conflict you may feel normal, just and right, even when switching between two distinct personalities. Such deep conflict is a common result of a people (usually as children) trying to make sense of two powerful conflicting influences (usually their parents).

If you have identity conflict, you may make decisions or promises, 
and quickly forget, deny or rescind your decisions or promises.

  • You cannot focus on one thing for long (attention deficit)
  • You show profound mood swings (between two different personalities)
  • You may forget or deny promises or decisions made by your other personality

These symptoms are so common that they may be difficult to notice. In a simple conflict, two sub-personalities (parts) may simultaneously express different motivations. A complex conflict refers to conflicts that have three or more simultaneous parts or motivations. Maybe see: Complex Conflict.

Identity Loss

People with identity loss may say that they feel empty – or that their emotions make no sense. Work and life may feel empty or robotic. They may have few goals, 
and wait for direction from other people, or from “voice-like” thoughts.

  • You cannot define your own goals
  • You have little motivation – you must be asked or pushed
  • You may feel an empty space or black hole in or close to your body
  • You express few or no emotions and appear preoccupied or distracted

Many existential issues are easy to recognize. You probably know people who lack purpose or who are so distracted by their daydreams that they have trouble making decisions or completing tasks.

Contact us if you want to resolve identity issues, such as:

We can help you find yourself and pull yourself together.