Sooner or later the personality strategy we adopted in childhood to survive our family circumstances becomes an obstacle to our further unfolding. And this inevitable leads to some kind of identity crisis, forcing us to look more consciously at what we have been doing to ourselves. In this way, identity crisis often marks the beginning of a path of unlocking the intelligence, sanity, and other powerful inner resources that have been locked up in our conditioned society.
How we negotiate such identity crisis will determine the direction of our lives. Even though we might recognise that our old personality structure constricts the larger life within us, how can we let go of what has given us a secure sense of existence? “Who am I if not this familiar identity? How will I cope, feel safe, or survive without it?” Insofar as our identity is originally built as defence against nonexistence, the prospect of letting go brings us face to face with primal fears of death and the unknown. In any process of growth, psychological or spiritual, we always reach this existential choice point, where we must decide whether we really want to move forward into the unknown. “If I give up my old, familiar ways, who will I be, and what will become of me?”
Excerpt from ‘Toward a psychology of awakening’ by John Welwood