I’ve written a little about the persistence of identity through the passage of time and its non-‘thingness’. Today I want to talk a little about what it’s not.
After my mother died last year I looked at various photos of her across the years of her life. They told me everything about the different ages and stages she went through, but nothing about her. Nonetheless she herself shone through; the person she consistently was despite her changes – the innocent child, the naïve but hurt adolescent, the beautiful young woman, the knowing adult in her thirties, the sad-eyed middle-aged woman, the still poised yet vulnerable elderly lady and finally dead on her hospice bed, her eyes locked open in one direction and her tongue permanently stuck out in the other.
Who you are, your identity or sense of self, comes into this world with you and you take it away with you when you die. All your hopes, anxieties, aspirations, joys, sadnesses, everything. We all know that to be true, regardless of our beliefs about an afterlife or absence thereof.
But do we? Aren’t these feelings things too, separate from the person who feels them and who takes them with her when she dies?
Who are we, if we are not our thoughts and feelings?
Religious people talk about souls, but psychotherapists, who may or may not agree with that, focus their attention on the whole caboodle, each person’s body and soul, circumstances and feelings, their causes and purposes, from birth to death through the course of their lives, or even before and after these events – ALL of what it takes to make each human being precisely and uniquely who she (or he) is and no-one else. Her feeling, her thoughts, her relationships.
Though all these things may or may not be left behind when a person dies it is just because birth and death bookend who we actually are in our time on earth, that each moment of it is so important.
Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre
For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforcounselling.com/theteam/