Identity is a complex thing. You are more than your name. In fact, your name is merely the symbol that encompasses ALL that you are.
Have you ever stopped to consider who exactly, you are?
Your gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, personal interests, challenges, quirks, religion or spirituality, values, strengths, hair color, eye color, health issues…
I could go on.
As you look over that very incomplete list, you can see where many of those things can be traced back to your family and ancestral line via nature or nurture. As you navigate life, you develop your very sense of who you are through those many lenses, most of which your parents are the root in this lifetime.
Imagine for a moment….
Perhaps you want to learn more about your lineage. Perhaps there’s idle curiosity about ethnic ties. So, you do a DNA test to better know yourself on another level.
The results are more than you bargained for.
One (or both) of your parents are not your parents.
You’re left reeling. And asking, ‘who the hell am I?’
Lies, deception and shame are as old as humans.
There are many reasons some of us are raised in the shroud of these lies, while family members in the know build masks and stories to maintain the myths and shame us if we get too close to the truth.
My grandma had a sister who became known as the luckiest girl in town. Being from a small share cropping town, many people never ventured more than a few miles from the place they were born. My great aunt got to go visit relatives several states away for several months, even missing a year in school! When she returned, she was peppered with excited questions, and no one could understand her silence.
The truth was that she’d become pregnant and was sent to a convent and forced to give away her child.
That’s the mother’s story.
What of the child? While we have no way of knowing in this case, we can wonder if that child was ever told they were adopted (if they were indeed adopted). In the 50’s, it was often seen as shameful if a couple could not become pregnant. Sometimes, they’d adopt but shroud the adoption in secrecy and pass the baby off as their biological child. The baby’s story a mirror of the mom’s.
Then of course, there’s adultery and previous marriages and children born out of wedlock.
The point isn’t so much the origin of a person’s conception but whether or not they have been raised in truth and love or lies, deception and shame.
The impacts of such lies can be insidious and shattering. We are talking about the most important people in our life, Mom and/or Dad, lying to us. The people we trust and rely on for our very existence throughout childhood; the people whose perspective of us holds so much weight in how we see and identify ourselves.
Experiencing deep betrayal such as this can and often does catalyze a full-blown identity crisis.
While I’ve not experienced an MPE event and I know that my parents are my biological parents, I experienced what I’ve thought of as a mini-identity crisis when my father abandoned me as a child and a full-blown identity crisis when my mom disowned me several years ago.
We can be left with all that we thought we are shattered into a million pieces, and we don’t know where or how to even begin reconstruction. Not only that. Even as your identity lays scattered, your sense of reality may also be shattered.
We’re left asking, not only, ‘who am I?’ but also, ‘what is real?’
If you or someone you know has experienced a betrayal trauma or an MPE event, please seek support.
We need each other. We need people in our life that we can trust. That we can lean into.
When all of reality has been stripped away, we certainly need healthy mirrors to support us in reconstructing all that is real and most importantly, who we are.
Learn more about the Friendship Wound on my podcast, Common Resilience.
When Mom or Dad Isn’t Mom or Dad, Part I
When Mom or Dad Isn’t Mom or Dad, Part II
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