Identities as Malleable Theories

A typical person, from his own first-person perspective, regards his own sense of “identity” as self-evident. He fails to recognize that underneath his immediate sense of identity lurks a complex slew of ideas or theories. In taking his own sense of identity for granted as a unified, intrinsic aspect of his conscious experience, he fails to comprehend anomalous psychological phenomena such as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), in which a person experiences life through varied perspectives and “switches” among distinct identities. DID is no great mystery, however, to a person who recognizes that his own seemingly immediate sense of identity—far from being self-evident or intrinsic to his conscious experience—is in reality an emergent consequence of diverse, malleable, self-focused theories operating within his mind. Recognizing that experiences of identity are theoretical in nature, we can understand that a man experiencing DID is like any other person, except that his theories of self are varied and nonintegrated. Indeed, the vast majority of theories operating within a “psychologically normal” person’s mind are also varied and nonintegrated, indicating, ironically, that it is the widely held sense that our identities are self-evident, unified, and intrinsic to our conscious experience that is the psychological anomaly.

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