(Epistemic status: Easy to say, harder to do; Probably another way of expressing growth mindset versus fixed mindset)
So, I’ve noticed this thing lately where when I’m thinking of something I do as a tool, it’s actually really effective. Like, I’m able to pick it up, and put it down when reality says “no, this doesn’t work like this.” I can modify the tool when needed and overall can aim at outcomes. This is much, much harder when something becomes my identity.
When something becomes part of identity, it becomes much less flexible. Instead of being “a” thing you can do, it becomes the thing you do. Worse, it becomes the thing you are. There’s a difference between “I want to sing” and “I am a singer”, for example. This is a simple example, but when I frame myself in the former paradigm, there’s a sense of wonder, desire, a wish to actually do it. When I frame things the latter way, I feel a need to defend it. This is basically a facet of growth mindset versus fixed mindset.
The Archetype system has become partially an identity thing for me because I spent so much time spinning my wheels trying to explain it to other people. It kind of became this thing people started asking me about and at first I felt kind of proud. I had a Thing! But now I’m noticing…I don’t really use archetypes anymore. I’ve put them in a little gilded treasure chest in my mind and put them in the museum of my identity. I’m the archetype girl, I’m not a girl who uses archetypes. It’s safer to just have the concepts and not use them, because if I use them, they may encounter reality and reality might say “no, this doesn’t work like this.” And instead of that feeling neutral, almost positive, it feels scary and bad.
Sparkliness also has become part of identity. Instead of it being this thing I do to seem charismatic and fun at parties, it’s become twisted to this thing I am, that makes me Special. I want to force the sparkle thing to happen rather than picking it up as a tool. I want to be sparkly all the time, because it’s Who I Am. I’ll try to copy it and I’ll get frustrated because I’m NOT DOING IT RIGHT. There’s this sense of fear and inhibition that gets in the way. There’s a fear of “showing my work” that I try to overcome with sparkliness because it’s very important to me but that just makes it worse.
This is something that happens a lot to me. There’s this period where I feel really amazing because I’ve found a new tool, usually mental. It’s something I can apply reliably because I’m thinking of each step, I’m actively going for an outcome (that’s important, I want to talk more about that in another post), and things start working. If it doesn’t work, I just toss it aside as a silly idea. The whole time perception thing was silly and non actionable on the level I proposed, so I only believe it insofar as I can use it (modeling future selves and such and seeing what I can do now to be them.) Time perception the way I describe it isn’t an identity. It doesn’t define me.
Overall, a lot of the walls I’m running into are forgetting to be humble, forgetting that mind hacking is a tool kit and not who you are, and forgetting that none of this is that serious. Something to protect is important. Something to defend is dangerous.
I will add that, I think there is a level on which adding something to your identity can be extremely effective. I think, once a tool becomes worn enough, well used enough, and you’ve explored and refined it through reality, it actually does belong in the museum of self. Having something as your identity gives you preverbal access to it. Like, people often identify as their jobs. It’s mundane, but it gives them quick access to the intuitions required for the job. A job is also the thing you are most likely to be spending years and hours on, refining. It’s easy to want to skip to that because it’s great to have that quick access…but shortcutting is the best way to make yourself completely impotent.
Discussion questions: What other intuitions about identity and tools do people have? How would you define the reality that refines our tools? Does anyone else feel addicted to accelerating the “tool -> identity” process?