Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


And Then Along Came I:

The Genesis Of Identity

Claremont Way, Napa, California, USA

November 30, 2012

"Who you mean when you say 'I' is not you. It's just something that shows up for you."  ... 
This essay, And Then Along Came I: The Genesis Of Identity, is the second in a trilogy on I - The I Essays:


Foreword To The I Essays:

Language provides the tools for generating and sharing experience. Tools in my toolbox may be inadequate. A tool may not be as sharp  as it needs to be. I can render inadequate tools adequate in the context of Conversations For Transformation by tightening the definitions of words and including them in The Laurence Platt Dictionary. I can sharpen a tool ie I can sharpen my language  in the context of Conversations For Transformation by adding rigor.

Here's me adding rigor to what I'm indicating by "I" in the titles of The I Essays:

In the title of the essay I, the first in the trilogy comprising The I Essays, "I" indicates who I really am, context, space, possibility.

In the title of this essay, And Then Along Came I: The Genesis Of Identity, the second in the trilogy comprising The I Essays, "I" indicates my identity  and how it came to be.

In the title of the essay The Illusion Of I, the third in the trilogy comprising The I Essays, "I" indicates me  which doesn't exist out here.



One of the things about writing Conversations For Transformation openly and freely like this for an unlimited, un-preselected worldwide internet audience is I don't assume any agreement  from my audience. Assuming I'm preaching to the choir  (so to speak) is an easy and deadly  error to make. I'm responsible for making Conversations For Transformation available without qualification or expectation of any particular quality of audience listening, a choice which could work really well ... or  ... which could be a total fiasco.

With that in mind, here's some essential groundwork for this essay:

There are two possible definitions of "I", both of which I consider fait accompli:  the "I" I really am, and the "I" with whom I identify ie the "I" I consider myself to be  ie my identity.

<aside>

It actually works better to say "... the 'I' I really am, and the 'I' with what  I identify ..." than to say "... the 'I' I really am, and the 'I' with whom  I identify ...".

However, to say "... the 'I' I really am, and the 'I' with whom I identify ..." is good enough for jazz.

<un-aside>


Who Says Who I Am? Who Asks  "Who Says Who I Am?"



You could say transformation happens as soon as I can tell the difference between the 'I' I really am, and the 'I' with whom I identify ie the 'I' I consider myself to be ie my identity. It's more than that actually. It's as soon as I can tell the difference between these two "I"s, then I have the choice to no longer be constrained by the arbitrariness, by the smallness, by the boundedness, by the reasonableness of the 'I' with whom I identify ie the 'I' I consider myself to be ie my identity. At that moment I'm no longer constrained by its fixed behavioral, attitudinal, emotional, and conceptual limitations unless I choose to be. That's transformation: giving up heavily investing in the "I" I've fixedly considered myself to be (my identity) becoming instead the 'I' I really am: context, space, possibility.

Listen: there's a familiarity  with, an attachment to, a comfort  in, an ease around the "I" I've fixedly considered myself to be. The very idea that there's another  "I", the "I" I really  am, leaves me disconcerted, afraid, upset, even aghast  ... that is at first.

Here are some characteristics I've erroneously assumed are of who I really am, the error being the result of confusing who I really am with my identity: it's my soul  (if you will), it's a part of me which is inside my body (I call this the "bag of skin"  illusion of what a human being is), it's my location  (as in "I'm over here  and you're over there"). Then there's an entire raft  of considerations  I have which define how  I am - in other words fixed unchangeable traits  which comprise who I am: "I'm not good at (whatever) ...", "I am  good at (whatever) ...", "I can't do (whatever) ...", "I can  do (whatever) ...", "I need (whatever) in order to be happy ...", "I don't  need (whatever) in order to be happy ..." etc etc "... because that's just the way I am.".

The focus of this essay is on one possible explanation of how my identity ie the "I" I consider myself to be, came into existence in the first place. OK, so how did  this "I" I've fixedly and erroneously considered myself to be, come into existence in the first place? And furthermore, can I shift my relationship with the "I" I've fixedly and erroneously considered myself to be so I no longer confuse it with who I really am, so I correctly distinguish it as my identity, as the "I" that shows up for me, as the "I" I occur  for myself as (as Werner Erhard may have said) so I'm no longer limited by its fixed, predictable, familiar way of being and am open to possibility instead?

Werner's differentiation between who I really am  and my identity, the "I" I occur for myself as, is a simply marvelous  distinction. In one powerful, decisive blow he lays bare the domain of who I really am unconfused with the domain of my identity.

Q: If my identity occurs  for me as ..., then who is it who says  "My identity occurs for me as ..."?

A: Who I really am.

Gee! I hope you get this.



Origin Of The Species



Before there was identity there was context, space, possibility. In the beginning everything was taken care of for me: food, shelter, warmth, bathing. As I grew I became more and more aware of my particular relationships with the faces and the people who were most often around me, my parents, and my surroundings. Gradually I discovered I could move. With movement came play, discovery, pleasure, enjoyment, knowing and being known.

As great as all this was, not much of that pre-identity persona  (if you will) was formed out of choice, out of weighing up alternatives and then freely selecting. In particular, neither was that pre-identity persona formed out of avoiding invalidation, danger, and / or threat  - mostly because there was no  invalidation, danger, and threat at that tender age. But when they finally do arrive (as they inevitably do) at that tender age, invalidation, danger, and threat are real or imaginary. And at that tender age the ability  to imagine is there, but not yet the ability to tell the difference  between what's real and what's imaginary.

If I was invalidated (really or imaginarily), if I perceived myself to be in any danger (real or imaginary) having learned from a prior occasion  of that which can hurt me, or if I perceived a threat (real or imaginary) to my physical or mental well being having learned from a prior occasion of that which can threaten me, I reacted. It was more than that actually: it was I learned. Man! Did I learn! I learned how to compensate  for being invalidated. I learned how to protect myself. I learned how to avoid threats. In other words I learned how to keep a low profile and to stay out of trouble.

The collection of all such learned behaviors, the sum total of the way(s) I learned I had to be (in fact the way(s) I assumed Life was showing me  I had to be) is the foundation of my identity, the "I" I consider myself to be. It set my boundaries. It set my limits. It set the level of risk  I'm willing to tolerate. And the thing is it wasn't set and in place for just a few hours or days or weeks after it was formed. No, it was set and in place for decades and decades  after it was formed. In fact without the interruption  (if you will) of Conversations For Transformation it was set and in place forever.

There are two essential insights to get from this:

One, when I tell the truth about it, the formation of, the setting in place  of my identity, wasn't a wholesome, wonderful, creative, inspired by and guided by angels  event. No, the setting in place of my identity was a reaction to failure:  failure to be validated, failure to be safe, failure to be unthreatened  (in other words a sense of failure or inability to respond adequately  to threat) and more. Wow! That, when I fully grasped it, was a real shocker  for me: my identity, the "I" I consider myself to be is constructed entirely out of the experience of failure  - as a reaction  to it, as a protection  against it, as a balm  to soothe it, and as a compensation  for it.

Listen: given our identities, given the "I"s we consider ourselves to be, given these "I"s at the heart of everyone's interactions with everyone else on the planet are constructed entirely out of the experience of failure, as a reaction to it, as a protection against it, as a balm to soothe it, and as a compensation for it, is it any wonder the world is in the state it's in today?

<aside>

Compare the state the world's in today as a result of humanity essentially playing the game as "coming from failure"  with the possibility of humanity playing the game as Werner Erhard's proposed "coming from win".

But that's a subject for another conversation on another occasion.

<un-aside>

Two, distinguishing this failure constructed identity, this "I" I consider myself to be, not as who I am  but rather as how I occur  for myself, is the access to transformation. This "I", this identity is not me. It's just something I constructed out of the experience of failure, which now occurs for me as "I". It's just something that shows up for me (as Werner Erhard may have said). This is a critical differentiation: who I really am is distinct from how I occur for myself. Without  this distinction transformation isn't possible. No chance. Dead on the vine. With  this distinction comes transformation and the access to full choice in the possibility of who I'll be.



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