Identifying with the Self: Part Two 

 I had a counseling session with one of my clients.  She is a cutter and was questioning whether or not she would be getting any better in her life.  She was comparing herself with others who also receive therapy and who seem to be getting better faster. My client thought she was not improving like she should and asked about the concept of PTSD and resistance to treatment.

I try to explain to her that PTSD involves living in the past after a traumatic experience… versus learning from the past without necessarily reliving the past.  When we experience PTSD , we tend get stuck in the past and not move forward.  When the pain is avoided then we continue to experience PTSD and continue to relive the past and experience an emotional cycle which is nourished by substance-abuse, self harming behavior, and depression.

On the other hand, when we learn about the past, we develop new skills and we develop new ways to cope with the upsetting memories.  One of the ways is to talk about it, process feelings, write about it, and accept the fact that the pain was done.   When we choose to develop new skills and process feelings by accepting the pain, then we begging to acknowledge that it was a difficult time in our life and be able to move forward with new skills.

And then there was the question of why she is still cutting when she’s in her 50s now, when most of the cutters are either teenagers or young adults.

Then a lightbulb turned on in my head. I asked my client who she would identify as and she could not answer the question.  She first said “I’m already in my 50s why am I asking this question now? ” Then I asked her to not think about her current age but to focus on the question itself : who am I?

The observation that most cutters are teenagers or young adults gave me the idea that, since she has always been dependent on others to tolerate her who she is and what to do with my life, that sounds almost like what teenagers and young adults do in the early lives.

Basically my client is experiencing what most teenagers and young adults experience : finding their identities in life, facing the unknown after depending on the parents.  My client said she always depended on her parents and she was taking care of and nourished as a child even during her adulthood.  This can explain why she has difficulty identifying who she is now in her 50s. I explained that most of us experience the same identity crisis in different times of our lives. Most of us identify with what we have been assigned to be, for example our names, our ethnicity, our gender, and our religion. But we ultimately face a time in life, usually during young adulthood, where we start questioning  our assigned entities and find our own identities. And maybe that’s what my client is experiencing at the present moment.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, we mostly live inside our heads. Inside our thoughts and perceptions. We rarely get out of our thoughts and face reality. We don’t usually live in the present moment.  But we rather stay living inside our heads.  Inside our minds. But we rarely step aside and start perceiving ourselves as we really are.

Have the rest of us done the same thing in our lives?  Have we taken the bold step of “peeling the onion” all the way until we find our true selves?

In my own experience , that “true self” remains a mystery.  It remains a great part of the unknown, which is why I tend to ignore it and replace it with all the entities I have been taught to identify with.

I have learned to identify with being a Hispanic middle age male, an American, a mental health professional, a  Florida resident, a parent, a husband, a son, and many other entities.  All of these I can question and deny if I choose to.  What I have not identified with as much is what can never question or deny.

My true self.

But what is the true self?  Is it simply being human? Being a person? After all, isn’t that what we all have in common? Identifying with being Human beings ? Anything else could be used to separate and segregate us.  But being humans could only keep us united.

Identifying with the self

What makes us who we are? How do we determine our personalities ? Does the self even exist ?

Identifying with the “self” is what determines our feelings and perceptions. If I identify with the concept of being a “husband” , and my wife leaves me, then I would feel distraught..   If I identify with the concept of being a “professional” -and somehow I lose my professional license , I would feel ashamed and sad.  If I identify with the idea of being an “American citizen” and a terrorist attach occurs in my country, I would feel anger and rebellious.  But only if I choose to identify myself with these entities.  But do these entities really exist ?

It’s like living a comic strip where the bubbles above our heads are our thoughts and perceptions which we believe to be true … and which we choose to identify with.  

I read a quote the other day that said:

“As soon as we are born, we are assigned a name , a nationality, a religion, a race , a sports team. We will spend the rest of our lives defending a false identity.”

This is so true.  We are given several identities , simply because we feel that we need to belong to a certain organization or group so that we don’t feel vulnerable .  We need to think that we are part of a whole so that we are not alone. So that we can distract ourselves from the inevitable destiny we call “death.” We decide to continue to live an illusion that keeps us in a dream like state and prevents us from experiencing confusion and chaos.

But we can’t escape it forever. We will eventually realize and accept the fact that our various identities ; our numerous fictitious entities that we desperately try to defend and justify, are meaningless and useless when we are facing our final days.

It bothers us when things end because  we don’t like to admit our mortality.  We feel  sad  when a vacation ends … We feel disappointed  when our favorite sport team loses.  We often experience sadness when a loved one moves away or decides not to be our friend anymore.  We rather want  the pleasurable experience to go on.  It is like going to the theatre and enjoying a movie even if it’s fictitious, and we don’t want the movie to end because that would mean exiting  the theatre and facing reality again.  We rather stay inside and continue to enjoy the fictitious movie. We prefer  to pretend to be immortal and prevent having to face the reality of our existence.

We prefer to stay inside the “womb” which keeps us warm and comfortable.

But the closer we get to our inevitable death, the more meaningless all the fictitious fabricated identities become.  And the more we are forced to accept our true identities.

Going back to the “bubbles” above our heads, which represents our thoughts, can illustrate how we live our lives. We mostly live inside our heads.  Inside our thoughts and perceptions. We rarely get out of our thoughts and face reality.  We don’t usually live in the present moment.

But we need to, if we want to live this life more fully.

And the question remains : what is outside of our heads? What is this so called “reality”? What would we be facing when we live in the present moment ?

Peace.  Serenity.   Freedom.  Acceptance.

I will continue on this topic at a later post .

Papi, what is happening to you?: The unforgiving reality of old age


Visiting my Dad , whom I call Papi in Spanish, has been a sweet and sour experience.  I came to visit him in Puerto Rico for a few days… because I miss him and  I wanted to see him again.

During the time I spent with him during these few days , I start questionning again the absurdity of this existence.   What is, if any, the purpose of this life ?  Why are we born to simply die and cease to exist at the end?

Papi was an active man who worked very hard, had many friends and went to many parties.  He was known as having a good sense of humor and making jokes all the time.  He always dressed up with the latest fashion and style.  Papi often took good care of his belongings, particularly his hair.    He also has been a jovial and friendly individual.  He laughed hysterically and made jokes with his friends about politics and life in general. He enjoyed drinking with friends and eating spicy food.

He went to the army for a short period of time, but he often reminded us of his military routine.   Papi married my mom and had four sons.  He worked hard at a pharmacy warehouse . I remember visiting him at his job which was upstairs.   Papi would buy me candy and sandwiches “medianoche” for mid morning snack.   He also taught me one time how to ride my bike, how to take a shower, and how to clean my shoes.  He was very particular about his personal belongings.


Now most of that is gone.  He can barely walk and is more forgetful.  He is in his late 70s and does not eat very much. He is retired and can barely take care of himself.  It’s almost like he has become a different person.   It makes me wonder,  what is happening to my Papi?

In spite of the changes, he continues to do certain things that shows glimpses of who Papi really is. He enjoys doing word search puzzles.   Papi sometimes still makes the kind of jokes he used to make.  He remembers most of his family members and friends.

I can’t help but to question again the reason for this existence.   The purpose of us living in this state of awareness we call “life” if at the end it is going to be gone.  My Papi was a jovial and active man.  Now he is a weak and serious old man.   Like the winter that comes and takes away all the beauty of the trees and the flowers and the sunshine, so does old age take away the sunshine that I often found in my Papi.   Will there be a spring after this?

Most of Papi is already gone.  Most of what he reflected has faded away.

I guess Papi is not completely gone.  At least not in my heart.

What we are teaching our children

No matter if you insult and sexually assault people , you can still be elected president of the US.

No matter if you intimidate others , discriminate ,and cause division , people can still vote for you and become president of the US.

No matter if you discriminate and act arrogant, and have a grandiose complex, you can still be president of the US.

No matter if you make fun of disabled people, you still can make history and become president of the US.

All you have to do is act as if money is the most important thing to be somebody and be well  respected.  

Just be arrogant, self centered, and grandiose and people will want you to be their leader.   

This country has shown to the rest of the world that what we value the most are the things we once discouraged in our homes, school, and churches . But this country has made a big turn . 

 Because this country we call “America” has chosen a bullying billionaire who exhibits all these characteristics, and has become the next president of the US. 

Don’t Criticize 

If you are going to criticize me, first I ask that you try to put yourself in my shoes and consider all the stuff that I go through. If you’re still going to express your opinion, you can then give me some constructive feedback, but do so in a respectful way. If not, then I’m not going to listen and deal with any issues you may have with me.

I will continue with my journey in whatever way I choose to,  because I refuse to be intimidated by anyone. I am not going to be manipulated by your disrespectful and empty words. I refuse to accept any responsibility for what you think about me. Keep your misery to yourself. So close your mouth and continue your way.


Have a nice life.