Re-establishing a Sense of Identity
What is our identity?
Just saying the word "identity" conjures up visions of thieves and hackers trying to take away our "most valuable possession" as noted by the popular Disney movie, The Incredibles. In financial terms, our identity provides us with the power to access our financial resources. We have usernames and passwords for programs that contain our vital information. We have account numbers and membership numbers for each organization of which we are a part and should these be lost or stolen, we are in a world of hurt!
In the same way, disaster, sudden loss, and trauma steal our identity. They leave us feeling vulnerable, lacking a sense of purpose and frame of reference from which to make decisions and determine our own destiny.
When this happens, our emotional health is undermined, and we no longer have the ability to use the personal resources we have within us. Even positive transitions, such as marriage, childbirth, changes in employment, and moving can have similar affects. Anytime our world view changes, the foundation of our identity is affected.
Loss of identity, whether having to do with our finances or life's circumstances, requires the same series of steps to re-claim it:
- Determine where, when, and how the breech occurred
- Close the account and stop using it for further transactions
- Open a new account in a more secure environment
- Use the account frequently to establish credit stability
The following paragraphs explain how we can apply this in our lives.
Determine when, where, and how the breech occurred
In order to understand what is happening, we need to identify where the identity breech occurred. If we are fortunate, we have an agency that provides our credit report to us on a regular basis. We can check to see if the information in the report will give us some clues. Other places we can check are bills and statements from our various accounts. Activity that we did not initiate can only be found by doing a line-by-line analysis of the statement.
When our financial identity is threatened, it is readily evident by our inability to use our financial resources. When our personal identity is threatened, the signals are more subtle. They come in the form of fear and inaction. We feel unsure of ourselves, like we have lost our sense of purpose, or that we cannot go forward because we don't know which direction to take.
When this happens, we need to be just as diligent in figuring things out. A thorough search of the recent events of our lives is necessary. We can ask ourselves:
- What is happening?
- How am I responding to it?
- Do I want to continue in the direction I am currently going?
- Is there something better that I could be doing?
Sometimes, it is difficult to be honest with ourselves. The last thing we want to do when we are out of sorts is to have a heart-to-heart talk and keep records of what is happening! It is much easier to escape, crawling into a tunnel of darkness where what we do is hidden from the world. Unfortunately, when we do so, we only dig ourselves into a hole that is worse than the circumstance we are trying to avoid!
When we look at the events that are occurring, we need to check for beginnings and endings, major changes, transitions, or sudden loss. No matter what their source, any of these circumstances will bring changes in our world view and how we see ourselves in relationship to others.
- The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale - Stress Management from MindTools.com
Stress can cause poor health. This stress scale helps you measure how much stress is in your life - and whether you're at risk of becoming sick.
The Holms and Rahe Stress scale gives the stressful events of our lives a scoring number. As we check the items we are currently dealing with, it gives a total score of the amount of stress in life. At the end of the scale, a number is indicated that shows the likelihood of our being ill in the near future due to the difficulty level of the stress.
One of the reasons that stressful events make us ill is that our world-view is compromised. We freeze in our tracks and suddenly we are washed over with a wave of ill health from all the negative feedback and reverberation we are experiencing. Fear of the unknown is one of the side-affects of an identity crisis. We do not know what will happen, how we will deal with it, or where our future lies.
Close the account and stop using it for further transactions
Once we find the identity breech, we would do well to close the account and stop using it for further transactions. This may sound simple, but it really is not. It means that we have to use an alternative method of getting our financial needs met. If a bank account is the issue, and the institution is not willing to work with us, we would do well to find another institution. If it is a credit card, shred it and open a new account.
Decisions that are based upon our life circumstances may not be as straight forward, however, the same principal applies. Closing the account indicates acceptance of the need for change in the situation. Ceasing to use the account shows a willingness to move on to another way of doing things.
Closing the Account
Ceasing to use it for further transactions
If the person is available and willing, talk through what happened, why the changes are occurring, and how the relationship can adjust
Learn the skills necessary to be successful or find another line of work
Death of a Loved One
Find the positive things that have happened as a result of the loss
Look for opportunities to rebuild better than before the disaster occurred
Determine a desirable legacy to leave for the next generation
We have to be careful when thinking of "closing the account," especially in our relationships. We don't want to go too far, too fast, and totally cut of all contact with a person due to something that has happened that damaged our relationship.
Just as with our finances, it is best to talk to someone at the place of business and try to reconcile or solve the problem first. In our relationships, talking about what is happening and working toward resolution enables all the past positive experiences we have had with that person to be salvaged, in spite of the current difficulty.
In the balance of life, we want to make sure that the positive outweighs the negative. Our perspective will often determine how well we are able to see the good from our past versus the negative of the present. Continuing to give the past credit where credit is due may just be the grain of rice that tips the scale.
Open a new account in a more secure environment
Part of the process of moving on past an identity breech is finding a new method of getting our needs met. Whether it is a new account at a financial institution, or a new credit card with the same or different company, either way, we have to be cognizant of what it is that we are trying to accomplish. First and foremost, we want to avoid another identity breech. We want to investigate the options thoroughly to make sure we know what we are getting.
We also want to see to it that precautions are taken to protect our identity in the future, whether we purchase identity protection, or simply start being more wise in the use of our usernames and passwords. Either way, opening a new account caries with it a degree of risk and a fear of the unknown. We don't know what will happen. We are having to extend our trust in people that we perhaps have not known very long, or haven't done business with in the past.
When it comes to adopting a different mind set in our feelings of identity, we face the same types of issues. We have to look at how we define ourselves and figure out what would work better in our current situation.
We may be moving between the following:
- I am what I do
- I am where I fit in
- I am how I feel
- I am what I am
There is danger in basing our identity on what we do, where we fit in, and how we feel because each one of these changes with the circumstances in which we find ourselves. If we identify ourselves by what we do, and a shift in the economy or in the use of technology changes our career path, we are out to lunch!
If we identify ourselves by where we fit in, and something happens to our priceless relationships with our immediate or extended family, we no longer have a foundation on which to base ourselves. Identifying ourselves by how we feel is probably the most dangerous. Feelings are nothing more than manifestations of our thoughts and beliefs, and these change regularly!
The only sure way to keep our identity intact is to base it upon who we truly are. We are children of our Heavenly Father, and he loves us unconditionally. That is the only identity that withstands the tests of time and circumstances. No matter what happens to us in our lives, we can turn to him for assistance, knowing that he will never leave us comfortless. He is the only constant in this universe of change.
Use the account frequently to establish credit stability
No matter what new habit we start, it takes time for it to become a part of our daily lives. Using new financial resources and practices are no exception. Perhaps we have made changes in the way we store our information, or in the way we present it when making a payment. We run the risk of losing valuable time while we develop a routine that works.
The same is true for our beliefs regarding our identity. Time is required to develop new thought patterns. If we are accustomed to identifying ourselves and basing our feelings of worth on what we do, where we fit in, or how we feel, we have some adjusting to do to recognize the automatic thoughts that accompany these mindsets.
How do you most often identify yourself?
Positive affirmations are one way to re-program our identity. The following are sample affirmations that are based on the premise "I am what I am." These are constructed based on positive attributes we all have:
- I am lovable
- I am important
- I am needed
- I am ready to learn
- I am able
- I am a gift
- I am strong
As we repeat these affirmations on a regular basis, internalizing them into our thought patterns, they assist us in recognizing messages that are based on other foundations.
Basing out identity on the fact that we are children of God gives us a sure foundation, one that we can depend upon that will not change with the circumstances of life. The more we use the affirmations based upon this mindset, "I am what I am," the more likely we are to re-build our sense of identity, and with it our purpose in life, and our ability to be effective individuals.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Denise W Anderson