A couple of days ago, I was in a session speaking to a Chinese who regrets not owning a Porsche. Coming from one of the country’s wealthiest “tsinoy” families, he feels insecure and unable to measure up when he and his siblings and other relatives get together. He shared how much he always appear to lag behind as he hears them telling stories of their latest luxury purchases and travels.
In far contrast, American-Canadian actor Keanu Reeves is a multimillion dollar action star who lives simply and rides the NYC subway train. Once, he donated 70% of his earnings from his Matrix movie to a worldwide health care cause. Life seems more than money for him. A minimalist, Keanu “disidentifies” his self from his wealth and fame.
Yes, that term “disidentification.” It refers to a basic exercise in the school of psychosynthesis created by Roberto Assagioli. It consists of discovering what the Self is not. It intuits your real essence and identity by disengaging all that does not belong to it. This psychological process allows you to loosen your grip on and let go of all false identities.
For example, if I have an aching foot, it’s important that I don’t identify my self with it, as if my whole being has become an aching foot. Therefore, in my mind I say, “I have an aching foot but I am not my aching foot.” Seeing this basic distinction allows me a better mastery of my existential reality or circumstances.
The same principle of “disidentification” applies in other aspects of our life. Nowadays, our culture is filled with stuff using money, fame, possessions, power, emotions, romantic relationships, and other externals as reference points for one’s value or being. These are “false identities;” they do not constitute the very essence of our being.
Thus, when I’m financially bankrupt and I say “I’m financially bankrupt but I am not my financial bankruptcy, because I am more than my financial bankruptcy,” I disidentify my self with it. If I find my self alone or divorced and depressed, I avoid believing or letting others make me believe that my whole being is only being alone, divorce, or depression.
Practicing disidenfication regularly is healthy. It gives you the needed psychological detachment or distance from your problems, so you can better solve them. Disidentification, which is a form of mindfulness or meditation, allows for greater discovery, awareness, and nourishment of your true self.