Identity-Cores and Identity Crises

At the core of one’s epistemic identity lies the metaphysical awareness of one’s humanness, as distinct from the animal world. But, being human is a given fact, the essential identity. However, being human alone doesn’t satisfy the human longing for self-identity. Essential identity (being human) doesn’t establish existential identity (being for…). Essential identity is naked without existential identity.

Existential identity is not a given, but a choice. One chooses to be what one considers is meaningful to be. What lies at the core of existential identity determines what one is and how he relates to the rest of the world. While it is not plausible to identify every instance of an infinite possibility of existentials that are assumed as individually meaningful by different individuals, we can at least attempt to identify few polarized cores, that can be distinguished from the other in the way that one distinguishes the merging colors of the rainbow.

In its isolated, polarized form, faith forms the identity-core of the fundamentalist. Here, identity is derived from the ruling propositional tenet of faith. This is faith that is willing to sacrifice anything just for the sake of faith. Faith is an existential leap from the launch pad of knowledge. Faith is the possession of and existential self-identification with knowledge that has been embraced as definitive of one’s identity. It becomes blind when it is segregated from Love and Hope.

Examples of people in this category are religious fundamentalists who become closed to anything other than what they have chosen to believe in. To such, any other view is not just antithetical but also antagonistic. Crisis of faith leads to identity crisis.

In its isolated, polarized form, love forms the identity-core of the communalist. Here, identity is derived from belongedness to the community. This is that existential love that is willing to dump anything just for the sake of love. Love is an existential bond that lies at the core of relationship. It is not one-sided by mutual. Identity is found in acceptance within the group. The opposite of acceptance is rejection. To people in this category, faith is not the defining factor; relation is. Love is what gives meaning and purpose and a reason for living to a man who has been broken by everything else. Viktor E. Frankl has spoken about people who found the meaning of their life when they found the answer to the question, “Who should I live for?” A communalist may not be one who holds on to a person or group (religious or whatever) because of his faith; he is one who holds on to it because he finds in this relation his self-identity and feels obligated to protect this identity. Any threat to this bond invokes defensive, even offence. Any violation evokes the desire for vengeance. Any failure prompts escapism, even suicide. In this category is the philosopher who will give up his philosophy over a tooth-ache, for ideas matter less. In this category is also the cultural nationalist and the religious communalist (who holds on to his religious group that gives him historical and existential identity because of a history of relation). In this category is also the man who will accept something if it is loved by someone he loves, and he will reject anything, including truth that is self-evident, if that thing is identified with someone whom he cannot appreciate. The extreme pole of extreme love is extreme hatred. There is also strong group conformity in this category. Crisis of love leads to identity crisis. Hurt to community are taken personally and responded with the same aggression. This might be one reason why the Benjamites chose to rather fight the non-Benjamites than hand over the perverted men to them (Jdg 20:13,14).

This pole is the strongest and the most predominant one. It can be self-annihilating.

In its isolated, polarized form, hope forms the identity-core of the utopianist. Here identity is derived from the vision of future. This is hope that ignores the present indicators because of the future vision it has absolutely embraced. Existential hope is the antidote to existential despair. There are two kinds of lunatics; the negative lunatic who is oppressed by negative fear, suspicion, and thoughts of harm, and the positive lunatic who is extremely self-confident about himself. The latter might be a laughing-stock of people, but can be also dangerous because of his willingness to undertake lunatic feats. The extreme utopianist doesn’t consider faith or community as essential or necessary in his walk towards the future. They are only useful as long as they may be instrumental. In this group is the one who is willing to exterminate the masses (the antitheses) in order to achieve a world devoid of threat. Crisis of hope leads to identity crisis. This was what prompted Hitler to shoot himself after witnessing, beyond doubt, his disillusionment with future.

NOTE: The above are not the only identifiers. It is possible that two or three of the above may blend with each other to form a combined identity core. It is also possible that a person's core may shift from one to the other, depending on the power of the identifier over his cognitive (faith), affective (love), or conative (hope, in the sense of will-to..) faculty. The above three analyses are only deductive inferences about the three polarized identifiers, isolated from each other.

A healthy core is one that possesses faith, love, and hope in balance; where faith works by love and is the substance of things hoped for (Gal.5:6; Heb.11:1). Such faith is open to reason, has no capacity for hatred, and takes risks only after calculation of things at hand (Luke 14:28-33; James 3:17). A healthy core is one where faith is personal (in the Eternal Person, Jn.14:1), love is spiritual (from the Eternal Spirit, Gal.5:22), and hope is substantial (by the Eternal Substance, Col.2:17; 1:27; Heb.1:3; 6:19).