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A Road Map for Becoming Mindfully Aware of How You Operate—Step 1

An excerpt from my recent book, Your Mind Is What Your Brain Does for a Living, now available at Amazon.

Getty Images

Getty Images

One of the concepts I find valuable in helping me to mindfully look at how I think and act when I allow my default programming to run me is the concept of identity. By identity I mean the way that we present ourselves to the world when we’re on automatic pilot.
Our identity can include an infinite combination of personality attributes, qualities, and patterns of behavior that become part of our image, and our identity is complex because different aspects of it may come into play in different situations. We want to be a different character to someone we want to date than we are to someone from whom we want to borrow money. Some aspects of our identity may even lie dormant for years. All of it is our identity, however, and we show its different facets to the outside world depending on how life unfolds and how, when we’re on automatic pilot, our machinery responds to the different circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Step 1: Recognize Your Identity and How It Keeps You Trapped
Your identity, with all its aspects, is a way that you’ve invented and refined, often without being consciously aware of it, to cope with past situations, starting in childhood. It’s part of your programming and embodied in your hardwiring. And that’s the problem: Once your identity is formed, your machinery keeps you stuck, repetitively playing the same roles that are part of your identity. This makes it hard to break out of the patterns of behavior, attitudes, and points of view that are aspects of your identity and that, because you are not conscious that your identity is programmed, you believe are the true you.
As long as you’re on automatic pilot, you’re in your identity, and your identity is a fixed way of being, albeit with many costumes into which you can change to present yourself as a variety of sub-characters. The vital word in this definition is fixed: Even though your identity has different aspects, different roles—many of which contradict each other—that you play in different situations, your identity and all the roles it consists of are static, unchanging.
Regardless of how many roles your identity is made up of, regardless of how much energy you put into your identity and how vital other people may perceive it to be, operating on automatic pilot within the confines of your identity robs you of aliveness and makes spontaneity impossible. Operating within the confines of your identity is like imprisoning yourself; you have little or no room in which to move or air to breathe. To free yourself, you have to become aware of what your identity is, learn to dis-identify with it, and make mindful choices in the present.

  • 15 Sep, 2014
  • Posted by Steve Fogel
  • 21 Tags

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