Who am I?
How you answer that question says a lot, not just about how you see yourself, but also about how you see others and how you relate to the world. And it’s an important question at this time in history when the challenges of our global community are drawing us out of limited identities based on "me" and "mine" into identities based on the "we" of the whole planet.
Identities help us find our way in the world, navigate challenges and make choices. They can be founded on anything from the color of our skin or religious orientation, to goals we have achieved or dreams we hold. Often during times of stress those boundaries can contract and tighten—we protect what is ours more rigorously and separate ourselves from the needs of others.
But times of struggle can also be motivation to expand our boundaries. Instead of contracting around our own needs, we can open to the needs of others, share resources, and choose to cooperate. As we do so, our identities shift and the separation between "me" and "you" or "us" and "them" seems less compelling and defining. But how can this happen? Where do we start?
We can start by understanding how strong identifications can create enemies and contribute to conflict.
When we have a strong identity boundary, it is defined in part by an "other". We are men, not women. We are Red Sox fans because there is an entire league of other baseball teams we do not support. When the "other" is valued and respected, this way of confirming identity is healthy; it recognizes the diversity of life and the ways we can engage with and compliment each other.
But defining ourselves in relation to an "other" affects how we think and how we behave in ways we might not recognize. Social psychologists have found that when we have strong group identities, we tend to treat people in our group with more affection and trust, and we are more helpful to and work harder for them. Nelsa Curbelo, a former nun who works with gang youth in Guayaquil, Ecuador, sees great value and potential in our need to belong and in the collaborative relationships that can be built from that need. But she sees the real power in giving these boys something larger to identify with than a regressive identity based on fear and the need to belong to something.
[Original article from GlobalOnenessProject.org Web site]