One of the best books I’ve read this last decade is Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree. It is both heart-wrenching and reaffirming, honest without judgement and a candid look into the struggles of the author himself.
The subtitle is Parents, Children and the search for identity. The exploration is of value to everyone. At its simplest, it’s the two sides of the coin that people with disabilities (which Solomon applies in the broadest sense) both face and find themselves on. It provides reflection for understanding the very grey/gray area surrounding all of our stories; what they mean to us and how they are perceived by others.
My current read is Michael Pollan’s How to change your Mind in which Pollan explores (as researcher and exponent) the world of Psychedelics. Apart from the fascinating history and recounting of experiences, one brief excerpt really struck me having read several of Pollan’s books.
Pollan is completely candid in response to his own question of whether he really wanted to go into the depths of where psychedelics would probably take him:
“…No!-to be perfectly honest. You should know I have never been one for deep or sustained introspection. My usual orientation is more forward than back, or down, and I generally prefer to leave my psychic depths undisturbed, assuming they exist.”
Boom! There goes my long-held belief that everyone wants to dig deeper into who and why they are here, and all that stuff.
No, they don’t!
I’m not sure if I’m envious or sorry for those who don’t want to delve like I do. And so I loop back to Andrew Solomon, his wisdom informs me the correct response is to ‘accept’. It is what it is, it just is.
Everyone deserves to be and, I expect, wants to be, validated. Without such a ‘process’ “identity” can be challenging or even impossible to find.
When I find others who “want to know more about themselves” it validates who I am, and because of that I readily validate them.
What do we do when we encounter those whose identity is different to ours? Do we reach out to validate or do we shy away? Do we attempt to understand or do we avoid the dialogue?
I suspect we are all ‘guilty’ to varying degrees of staying within our own ‘identity cocoon’ when so much richness lies just outside of it. I also accept that occasionally my own responses have strayed into the realms of ignorance, conceit and arrogance.
What if we start each interaction with Stephen Covey’s Fifth Habit “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”?
If you read Pollan’s book you may believe the simpler answer is that we all just try some psychedelics, but given the challenge associated with that, how about we simply begin with a change in mindset with how we approach each day:
Who’s identify can you validate today?
How could you do that?
*Note this is the first in a brief series of posts I have written around the concept of identity. Post to follow are:
- Te Reo and my search for identity.
- Corporate culture and personal identity.
- Why we need to be able to greet in multiple languages.