Human beings are looking for identity and meaning of life. 'What are we doing here? And why?' It is a question of all times and all ages. We want our lives to be meaningful. We want to matter, to be useful. And not only in a purely utilitarian way. We need something to hold on to and to believe in. A meaningful life is the way to well-being.
In search of identity
A part of our identity is predetermined. We belong to a particular society and a particular era. We belong to a particular culture, ethnicity or family. All these elements are beyond our control and are to a great extent unchangeable. They are what they are.
Our identity, however, is also and mainly determined by ourselves. What is characteristic for me? What makes me who I am? To whom and to what do I feel connected? Who do I want to be? With what or with whom do I identify? We are a life long shaping that identity.
Identity is something to hold on to. You know who you are and who you are not. You know who you want to be and who you do not want to be. You feel good about yourself and self-assured. That provides confidence and peace, something to hold on to.
Identity is not a fixed and monolithic entity. Identity is changing and evolving over time. Time changes and life changes. We grow up and get children. Our children leave home. Our parents pass away. We get old and wise, almost as if it were nothing. Identity changes, day by day.
Lack of meaning of life
The lack of meaning of life and the feeling of futility and meaninglessness are heavy experiences and can have far-reaching effects. They often go hand in hand with feelings of loneliness and depression.
Many persons have in some way lost the meaning of life and are looking for it. Human beings need to have a goal in life.
Belief and ideologies have been the pillars of community for a long time. They gave meaning to life. The traditional institutions, however, are becoming less important or are even disappearing. It is for many persons hard to find meaning and sense of purpose in our globalised world.
We are flooded with thousands of stimuli and possibilities. We have to make choices continuously and the social media are crying for attention. There are not enough stable values to hold on to and to find peace in. We do not need to be cultural pessimists, however. The search for meaning is essential and of all times.
We need time and some calm. We need to pause and reflect on what is truly meaningful and valuable to us. To reflect on the following questions: 'where do I come from? where am I? where do I want to go?'. As an individual, as member of a community, as part of society.
To give a meaning to your life implies that you accept limitations. Life has its limits. Life is finite and transient and has its inconveniences. Life is not only a matter of having success and performing.
We are looking for meaningfulness and happiness. Happiness, however, is not a permanent state. We have to cherish the moments of real happiness and we must learn to be happy with the little things in life.
Happiness is really different from immediate gratification and evergrowing prosperity.
Identity and meaning of life do not exist without the other
We always have an identity. We cannot exist without having an identity.
Unless we submit entirely to other persons or their beliefs. We can totally submit to our partner's wishes. Or get depressed and apathetic.
We, however, do need other persons to develop an identity and give meaning to life. We simply cannot exist without other persons.
We identify with someone or something our entire life. Not with one other person or with one thing. We identify with several things and several persons or groups of persons. And those evolve over time. We do not have one single identity, we have several identities.
We cannot exist without giving meaning to life. We want our lives to matter, we want to mean something. To mean something to another or other persons. To another individual or to a community.
The need for meaningfulness can be translated into the desire for love. The love a person feels for his or her partner or his or her children. Or friendship. Or the feeling of being connected to a group. We cannot exist without something to hold on to or someone to feel connected to.
When identity becomes uncertain and elusive
Sometimes persons become confused with themselves. They do not or do not longer know who they are, who they want to be. They are going through an identity crisis. The so-called midlife crisis? Whatever, that kind of crisis can also happen at other ages.
We might better name that an existential crisis. A person is panicking or feels very uncomfortable because of existential issues. Loneliness or the awareness of being mortal and transient can be the cause.
Hence the term midlife crisis. 'More than halfway through my life? What will be left? What have I made in my life so far? I have got a lot to catch up on.'
The causes or reasons or the onset of an identity crisis can be very different. Your beloved or once beloved partner may break up or pass away, your children are leaving home, you are retiring, you are getting old and having old age ailments. Or you are falling in love again.
When you are going through an identity crisis, psychotherapeutic counselling is recommended. It will give you the opportunity to find the meaning of life, the meaning of your life. Avoid hasty reactions, choices or decisions.
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