Building the essence of one’s own identity is becoming increasingly difficult. We live in a world overflowing with information, with constant stimulation and contradictory messages.
To avoid becoming over-saturated with information, we naturally employ a psychological defense mechanism called introjection. Introjection consists of the automatic incorporation of all that we take in from our environment, like speech patterns and mannerisms. We end up accepting these things subconsciously without passing them through our own personal filters of judgement.
Introjection: configuring our identity
Introjection is something that we will all be exposed to eventually and experience on varying levels. In fact, in a certain sense, it is necessary. It only becomes a problem when it overpowers us.
In our day to day life, we are continuously exposed to norms, laws, behaviors, ideas, and beliefs that we must comply with in order to be integrated and accepted in society. From childhood, we have been inundated with all different kinds and variations of these elements.
From the start, we have received many different types of messages just from our immediate familial environment. As we enter adulthood, these messages echo in our minds, and when we don’t accept or comply with them we tend to feel a sense of guilt.
We have integrated messages transformed into commands without breaking them down, without having assimilated them, nor having passed them through our own personal standards or judgement.
Messages like: “You have to have an important job if you want to be someone in life,” “expect the worst, and you won’t be disappointed,” or “real men don’t cry…”
These kinds of concepts that seem to be part of us tell us what is good and what is bad in terms of our behavior and play a huge role in the formation of our identity.
How does introjection help us?
Introjection is also a way to please the people around us. It serves an adaptive function, helping us to be accepted.
But when the mechanism of introjection guides our lives, it can become dangerous for our identity. We can begin to lose our essence and our own original way of being.
When we lose ourselves in satisfying others, adopting the role of being “good,” and doing that which others hope of us, then we lose the ability to discern the difference between our own real world (the world we want) and the world that has been imposed upon us by others.
When our actions are dictated by the mechanism of introjection, we are live according to the expectations others have for us, and what they hope of us. The messages we receive form part of their needs, and don’t take into account our own needs.
This happens when we are forming our own thoughts about others, too. We don’t question the signals being transmitted, and take them in without fully processing them. But we should; these signals are what direct our life and build our destiny.
In this way, our own way of being and the essence of our identity cannot develop freely. We lose ourselves in the mechanism of introjection, which leads our behavior to be driven by the motive to please others and live up to their expectations of us.
However, introjection also has a creative side to it. It can stimulate the impulse to take the useful information out of everything we have learned, to internalize it, and to pick up the positive values that we to be part of our identity.
How can introjection be a useful resource?
Introjection has an adaptive function that helps us to be aware of those around us, to be able to incorporate different ideas and beliefs, and to learn from traditions and conventional wisdom.
We must make sure that this mechanism does not govern our lives, causing us to end up building our destiny and identity based on what others think and want. To ensure this, it is absolutely essential to be conscious of it.
An important step towards becoming aware of this is to figure out in which circumstances, in which moments, and with what kinds of people we tend to act automatically. When and with whom do we act without considering our own values and identity.
By becoming aware of the messages that we don’t question or analyze, we will be more alert and able to transform those messages into a useful resource. We will be able to reflect on them and pick out the lessons that we find most beneficial.
By questioning and analyzing everything that comes from an external source, we are giving ourselves a chance to make deeper and more coherent and consistent choices with our own way of thinking, feeling, and understanding life.
If we take responsibility for interpreting our reality and all the messages we receive, we will become conscious of what kind of identity we want to create.
We will be the true architects of our own lives, building our destiny based on our decisions and the lessons we choose to learn, in agreement with the reality in which we live.
In order to do that, it is essential to always take in and personally filter everything we learn. This will facilitate the development and expression of our own way of being.