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Integrity, Self-Image, and the repeated Bifurcation of the Self (Part Two)

Updated: Jul 3

Hello, and welcome back!


In my last article, the first part of this series, I discussed 'personas' as being facets of the self, and discussed how identity, the imagined self, and societal expectations can impact our self-image. If you haven't seen that, you can catch up here: https://www.kineticquest.ca/post/integrity-self-image-and-the-repeated-bifurcation-of-the-self-part-one


Personal Struggles with Societal Expectations



Let's pause and examine situations where individuals may struggle to fully express themselves and the potential repercussions. My late father was an incredibly supportive husband and father to my mother and I, showing deep affection towards us. However, he navigated the societal norms of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s as a bisexual man, which posed significant challenges.


Despite increased social acceptance of homosexuality during those decades, it's why I've chosen this topic for the month, focusing on queer identity and its intersection with awareness. Happy Pride Month. Despite the gradual relaxation of attitudes, my family and my father's friends were not open-minded about his sexuality.


I believe my father, like many queer individuals, experienced a division within himself. His sexual identity conflicted with the persona he felt he had to maintain to be a good father, husband, and provider. This internal conflict is partly a result of societal and cultural expectations.


Reflecting on childhood, the initial split between the desired self and the expected self begins early. I think that the first bifurcation is between the child as they feel free to express themselves, and the child that is ‘on their best behaviour’.  In religious societies, which dominated much of Western civilization in the 1900s, moral values are deeply ingrained. Children may find their natural inclinations labeled as sinful or perverse, shaping their self-image.  Some of these desires and tendencies may not necessarily be damaging to the individual, to society, or to others, but are still labeled as abnormal or in some way ‘wrong’.


Religion, and the other forms of more conservative communities, serve to provide a sense of belonging and purpose within those communities. However, it also perpetuates certain norms and expectations. Anything diverging from these norms may be condemned as sinful or immoral, largely because these behaviours don’t contribute to the strengthening of a particular persona which will enable a person to functional well within that societal structure.  In Part One I misquoted Goeshe by saying that if one has art and one has science, then one also has culture and society.  …but if one doesn’t have either art or science, one truly needs religion.  What I believe he was referring to is a sense of belonging, a sense of community, an understanding of where we belong and what we’re supposed to do.  What our purpose is on this big rock that’s hurtling through space.


My father, influenced by the society of his time, felt unable to express his true desires. He couldn't openly acknowledge his attraction to men and the unfulfilled part of himself yearning for sensory connections with them. This suppression of his true self had profound consequences.


The Consequences of Suppressing Facets of the Self


I believe that when there's a desire you've harbored for a long time, or perhaps never acted upon, it begins to build up within your nervous system. Freud delved into this concept, highlighting how true relief and happiness stem from the release of long-frustrated desires. It's intriguing because it hints that Freud viewed human existence as primarily miserable, with happiness as the exception.


In my father's case, he had a desire, and his happiness, or perhaps his wholeness, depended (at least partially) on seeing it fulfilled. But before delving into his specific situation, let's imagine a similar scenario for yourself. Maybe you've always wanted to perform on stage, and then you finally have the chance—perhaps singing karaoke or participating in a local theater production. The experience leaves you with a sense of wonder and excitement.


Over time, you find yourself thinking about it more often, perhaps even incorporating elements of it into your daily life—like adding show tunes to your playlists or browsing stage equipment online. This gradual pull towards that experience reflects a growing desire to revisit that part of yourself.


Recently, I came across something that struck me. It discussed how ignoring your desires can intensify them over time. Imagined images or sensations related to fulfilling those desires can become more frequent, akin to having a song stuck in your head. Ignoring these impulses can eventually disrupt your life.


Now, let's return to my father's story. He never felt he could share his true self with his family, so he sought fulfillment elsewhere, secretly. The risks he took, which remain unknown to us, led to him contracting AIDS with a brain infection. For over a dozen years, he hid this from us, bearing the weight of his deception.


When he finally revealed the truth, our relationship fractured irreparably. He lost his motor function, memory, and his marriage. All he was left with was his shattered self-image. It was another decade before we were able to begin repairing our relationship.


My father paid the ultimate price for trying to compartmentalize his identity. Perhaps, given the circumstances, he felt he had no other choice. However, his story serves as a poignant reminder of the dangers of suppressing parts of ourselves.


Integrating Disparate Parts of Ourselves


I believe many people experience internal resistance. Staying up late, wrestling with racing thoughts, often involves grappling with unfulfilled desires. For instance, I worry about financial stability because that aspect of myself hasn't found expression. Similarly, there's a longing within me to create theater, to engage in art, to seek specific types of connections and interactions, and to maintain organization in my life. Each of these aspects has the potential to become like a song stuck on repeat, intruding on my thoughts and hindering my functioning.


I have a friend who describes his constant mental fog, using marijuana to clear his mind and focus on a single task. In my case, it often feels like all my internal voices are clamoring for attention simultaneously. Some turn to alcohol to quiet these voices, to live in the moment without the burdens of the past or future.


However, I'm not advocating for substance use to regulate oneself. Instead, I believe it's crucial to find ways to integrate these disparate parts of ourselves. One approach is to find activities or pursuits that satisfy multiple aspects of our identity simultaneously. This might involve incorporating neglected interests into our existing hobbies or careers.


Additionally, it's essential to identify and address any inhibitions preventing certain parts of ourselves from being expressed. Whether it's a person, a job, or a place, we must examine if these inhibitions can be shifted or removed to free up our authentic selves.


While our brains naturally categorize and compartmentalize, it's vital that each role or behavior remains connected to our core identity.


If you resonate with these ideas, consider exploring my More Than Meat series on my Youtube Channel for further insights and discussions (https://youtu.be/7aiQSVv2blQ). And if you've found value in this piece, please share it with others and help spread the word. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram, like my articles and videos….generally help the internet know I exist.


Once again, thank you, and happy Pride Month!

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