I’ve written before about identity – and in particular, the forces (or “modules”) in our mind and how we can organize them. I’ve also written about making sure no one else hijacks your mental A/I – our interface between those forces and the world.
But what if someone can hijack your modules? Not an ad company trying to control some frivolous “love of soda” part of the mind, but a person, who makes you doubt who you are?
That’s insidious. And I don’t think most people would intentionally be that diabolical. And yet we do it to others when we try to mold them into what we think they should be. Parenthood can so easily veer into this unfortunate pattern as can other close relationships.
When this happens, it is up to us to “name” ourselves. I’ve written before about what a powerful tool a name is. In Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wind in the Door”, a major convention of the plot is that people sometimes need to be “named.” That is, people need someone kind and affirming to help them back to who they are. If you aren’t named, you lose your way and the consequences are dire.
Fiction is full of other examples. It’s a basic part of the Hero’s Journey to feel like there’s something wrong and to quest off to solve the problem, learning about yourself along the way. But sometimes the confusion is so great that you need help.
Elsa from “Frozen 2” needs her mother’s help to name her as the fifth element (and hopefully, let’s face it, they just couldn’t say it: gay.)
Jenna from “Waitress” gets a nudge from her unborn child to describe who she used to be and her desperation to reclaim it.
Moana from “Moana” gets a visit from her late grandmother/sting ray before she sings her awesome song about who she is, listing out what she knows and what she has discovered: “I am the daughter of the village chief, we are descended from voyagers, who found their way across the world, they call me. I’ve delivered us to where we are, I have journeyed farther, I am everything I’ve learned and more, still it calls me. And the call isn’t other there at all, it’s inside me. It’s like the tide, always rising and falling. I will carry you here in my heart you remind me that come what may, I know the way: I am Moana!”
And Eleanor from “The Good Place” gets a dramatic illustration of that when she can’t remember who she is and is shown as different people. Chidi must remind her with affection.
None of the people who confused these characters meant to do so (except maybe Earl in “Waitress,” who is the worst.) People are often figuratively drowning, and they will hold onto their version of you tightly as they go down. But drag you down they will. It’s up to all of us to try to get our own modules together and to search out those who will help us do so. Maybe, hopefully, next time we can try to be the person doing the helping.