So, why is it that we give away our essence, exchanging the original for a copy? The answer is complex, nuanced, and case-specific, but here’s a bird’s-eye view of the problem.
You see, the brain translates life into information. Some of the information that we receive has nothing to do with us. We either ignore it or file it away for future use. But some of the information feels personally relevant. So, we examine it and hoard what’s useful. The information that we keep becomes our ego, our self-concept.
Over time, we get used to this information about us and begin to identify with it. For example, you get a few As in a graduate-level math class and you feel tempted to conclude: “I am a math whiz.” Or, say, you grow up in a coal-mining town, identifying with its ethos of honesty and hard work, and then run for a political office as “a son of a coal-miner,” on a mandate of what-you-see-is-what-you-get transparency.
One way or another, we all – up to a point – wrap ourselves in our informational and autobiographical resumes like togas until they cake on like second skin. But life, nevertheless, continues. Things change. And new informational inputs eventually challenge our self-concept; you finally get a B on a math test and your self-coronated math-whiz title suddenly needs a revision; or a sensation-hungry tabloid finally data-mines something shady on the goody-too-shoes, what-you-see-is-what-you-get son-of-a-coal-miner and another political ascent nosedives.
One way or another we all lose our info-halo (informational halo), our ego-halo.
Our usual way of dealing with information we don’t like is to ignore it, to question its validity, to question the validity of its source, or to counter it with other information. We get pretty stressed out trying to protect the old information about who and what we are. We go to bat protecting our image, our reputation, our self-view, our ego while all along forgetting that what we’re protecting is just information. We lose sight of a rather basic fact that we, ourselves, are not the information that we are protecting.
The point isn’t about disregarding or dismissing negative information. Chances are you already have these information-filtering self-defense skills. There is a different path, the path of dis-identifying from information altogether. What you have here is an opportunity to draw a boundary between you and the information about you.
Once you latch on to a certain set of ideas about who and what you are, you end up identifying with this information. And as this information becomes your identity, you lose sight of your essential self. Identity detox isn’t the dry-cleaning of identity. It’s not a reputation mop-up. It’s not a do-it-yourself image-management project or a self-esteem tune-up.
Identity Detox is a process of liberating you (your essential self) from the information about you (from your informational ego).
Adapted from Lotus Effect (Pavel Somov, 2010)
Sun and halo effect photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 11 Jun 2012