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The Habit of Identity

Uploaded by palma on Oct 09, 2000

Sam Vaknin's Psychology, Philosophy, Economics and Foreign Affairs Web Sites


In a famous experiment, students were asked to take a lemon home and to get used to it. Three days later, they were able to single out “their” lemon from a pile of rather similar ones. They seemed to have bonded. Is this the true meaning of love, bonding, coupling? Do we simply get used to other human beings, pets, or objects?

Habit forming in humans is reflexive. We change ourselves and our environment in order to attain maximum comfort and well being. It is the effort that goes into these adaptive processes that forms a habit. The habit is intended to prevent us from constant experimenting and risk taking. The greater our well being, the better we function and the longer we survive.

Actually, when we get used to something or to someone – we get used to ourselves. In the object of the habit we see a part of our history, all the time and effort that we put into it. It is an encapsulated version of our acts, intentions, emotions and reactions. It is a mirror reflecting back at us that part in us, which formed the habit. Hence, the feeling of comfort: we really feel comfortable with our own selves through the agency of the object of our habit.

Because of this, we tend to confuse habits with identity. If asked WHO they are, most people will resort to describing their habits. They will relate to their work, their loved ones, their pets, their hobbies, or their material possessions. Yet, all of these cannot constitute part of an identity because their removal does not change the identity that we are seeking to establish when we enquire WHO someone is. They are habits and they make the respondent comfortable and relaxed. But they are not part of his identity in the truest, deepest sense.

Still, it is this simple mechanism of deception that binds people together. A mother feels that her off spring are part of her identity because she is so used to them that her well being depends on their existence and availability. Thus, any threat to her children is interpreted to mean a threat on her Self. Her reaction is, therefore, strong and enduring and can be recurrently elicited.

The truth, of course, is that her children ARE a part of her identity in...

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Uploaded by:   palma

Date:   10/09/2000

Category:   Science And Technology

Length:   4 pages (799 words)

Views:   1672

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