Every human being has a certain picture of him- or herself (in the rest of the article, I'll just write “himself”, please forgive me imaginary female readers!). This self-created picture is called identity and it is dependant upon the values that matter to you. While one person might be constantly exaggerating when expressing their feelings, others will act much more cautious and try to keep up a calm manner; basically everyone is living in a way that is matching the identity he created for himself as close as possible.

The self-image that we created for ourselves doesn't always match the image that others have. Interestingly enough, only few people share this insight. If someone says: “I am […]”, he actually means: “I want to be […].” It's not upon him if he's really expressing what he wants to express – this is much more dependant upon the discussion partner.

This topic is extremely fascinating as most people can immediately get a grasp on it, but controversially, they never did so before. If you're digging deeper into it, you'll find stunning examples; I want to share one of my favorite ones with you here:

During a war (if I remember correctly, it was the Korean war), American captives have changed sides quite often. How did the opposing force do this to the Americans? At first, a single captive was isolted from his buddies. He was then not tortured on purpose, but kept in solitary confinement. After a long period of time, he was asked to write down something positive about communism. Not surprisingly, he often complied to this request as a week in solitary confinement in a dark cell without any human interaction can have quite a drastic effect on you. An alternative method was to have the prisoner write down something negative about capitalism or the American system.

Then, these signed documents were shown to the other American captives while the prisoner who had been in solitary confinement was present. He couldn't come up with an excuse for his “unpatriotic” statements as he hadn't been tortured. This resulted in his former friends calling him a “traitor”, a weakling or excluding him in other ways.

A person can't stand acting in a way that is not in accordance with the identity he created for himself. In this case, an American soldier who thought of himself as a patriot, someone who is serving his country well, couldn't stand the ongoing conflict with his identity. Therefore, he created a new identity for himself and from this moment on, he himself thinks he is a traitor.

This allowed him to live in accordance with his values (that dramatically changed, nonetheless, but this is not that important here) and not be in conflict with himself. Furthermore, he would now give away more valuable information and become a traitor in every meaning of the word. He would even turn his back on his former friends.

The effects of a little psychology can be amazing. I do realize that I'm currently changing the identity that I created for myself in certain ways. I consciously try to identify with my new position and support players in every way possible as a Community Assistant. It can be quite an exciting ride if your're aware of what's happening in your own head.

Did you make similar experiences or do you think different about some of your behavior in the past after reading this post?

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