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25. The New Identity: Antidote to an Age of Anxiety

Identity Old and New

Two concepts of identity exist; the old and the new. The aim of the present article is to highlight the practical benefits of applying the new.



The old is, essentially, indescribable and ineffable. Dictionaries are unable to capture its meaning because it’s burdened—at core—by a paradox, as epitomised by the Ship of Theseus (article #15 GKIS). Not only is it inadequate as a term of communication; it’s responsible for much suffering and anxiety in contemporary society.

Utter Confusion

Almost everything that is currently written about identity depends on the old concept and presents us with a situation in which we must, somehow, find ourselves amongst our thoughts, choices, roles, activities, relationships—even though these aspects of our lives are affected, in turn, by age, location and external changes that are taking place in the world of technology and in society at large. Of course the problems multiply when we include issues such as ethnicity, culture, sexuality, gender and politics.

Being ineffable, our old perspectives of identity are, at best, descriptions of who we appear to be during disjointed moments as we float alone in a series of continuously heaving seas. In this state of utter confusion it’s no wonder that some have a tenuous grip on who they think they are.

Identity is Important

Despite the confusion surrounding its meaning, it’s generally agreed that identity is an important element for us. But, in the confusion of the old concept some actually believe they can lose their identity. And if we don’t have one or cannot define it, we become anxious. Loss of identity can be terrifying, leading to a feeling of worthlessness, as the following comments show:

  • “I spoke to many people who defined their identity and self-worth by their educational and career achievements. When they succeeded, their lives felt meaningful, and they were happy. But when they failed or struggled, the only thing that gave their lives value was gone—and so they fell into despair, and became convinced they were worthless.”[1]
  • “Losing your identity brings with it immense pain and confusion.”[2]
  • “… in the depths of my soul, I was convinced and terrified that I had no real identity.”[3]
  • “Loss of identity may follow all sorts of change … This leaves a gap, an abyss, an empty space. Such loss of identity can result in increased levels of generalised anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, a loss of self-confidence, social anxiety, isolation, chronic loneliness, all of which threaten our ability to connect with other people.”[4]
  • “It is often the fear of losing one’s identity which prevents one from moving forward and doing what one must, what one should, and what one needs to do in life.”[5]
  • “… with the rise of the Internet and ubiquitous social networks, the world is entering a new era of anxiety over identity.”[6]

Identity Cannot be Lost

The new objective definition of Identity circumvents any notion that it can be lost. Of course, we can lose our job and feel decidedly uncomfortable; but the inference that we have, somehow, lost the essence of who we are is false. For many, the termination of employment has been the very impetus that, after a period of personal suffering and struggle, projected them into a totally different and more fulfilling and meaningful existence than they could have imagined. Moving on after a disappointment is difficult. Imagining that we have become a “nobody” is insulting to our potential and does nothing other than make the pain of loss much worse.

The new concept of Identity is not new; rather, a resurrection of the original definition. Nevertheless, it is new in the sense that it’s derived from recent discoveries in our DNA; it belongs to the age of human genetics (article #17 GKIS).

To reiterate: we can never lose our Identity; no one can take it from us; we are unique representatives of one human community. The new concept forces the study of Identity, irrevocably, beyond theory to functionality. In other words we no longer ask who we are, but how best we function or live our given Identity.

Acronym GKIS Gerald Keogh Identity Series

[1] https://qz.com/990163/psychology-shows-its-a-big-mistake-to-base-our-self-worth-on-our-professional-achievements/

[2] https://home.isi.org/node/68602

[3] http://theaquilareport.com/identity-slices/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=identity-slices

[4] http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/i-dont-know-who-i-am-anymore-losing-my-identity

[5] http://blogs.lawyers.com/attorney/administrative-law/federal-employee-attorney-representation-in-opm-disability-claims-loss-of-identity-31234/

[6] https://pando.com/2014/09/11/whispers-michael-heyward-on-the-fragile-fragmented-nature-of-identity-in-the-social-age/


Wikimedia Commons Anxiety Edvard Munch (public domain)


Identity: a scientific perspective