All these modules based on this one word, identity, has got me thinking. What is an identity? For some reason, I think I associate it strongly with someone’s personality.
The dictionary definition states that ones identity is the fact of being who they are. In psychology terms, trait theory is an approach to the study of human personality. These theorists believe primarily that traits (habitual patterns of behaviour, thought and emotion), are relatively stable over time, differ from person to person and influence behaviour. Is this not closely related to our identities? If our identity is the fact of being who or what we are, then the way we behave must be one of the biggest contributing factors to our identity. But what other factors contribute to this? If we’re talking in terms of our personality, of who we are, then surely our past also plays a considerable role in who we become. How we react to certain situations in our lives can actually be influenced by our genetic makeup and more importantly, the development of our brains. There is an organ inside the brain called the amygdala, which is located in the limbic system. The amygdala serves as the “emotional switchboard of the brain, receiving information from the senses and then signalling the rest of the brain and nervous system how to respond.” This part of the brain has been linked by Jerome Kagan to be associated with what causes introversion and extroversion in a person. I think this is one of the simplest but most important parts of someone’s identity. It influences how someone reacts in social situations, what they value in life and the impression that others take away of them. This is part of the identity you cannot change, but are there other aspects that can be changed? Does your identity always stay the same or does it change as you gain experiences, meet new people and find yourself in new situations? University is known as a place where people often reinvent themselves. But how much of yourself can you actually reinvent? How much of your identity is set in stone?
“A man has as many social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares. He generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups.” – William James.