Why is it so hard to figure out who we are?

Today, we consider #5: Context.

People who are identity achieved are more likely to have close intimate relationships. And most of us would prefer to be in a relationship rather than alone, assuming the relationship is satisfying. So why aren’t more people identity achieved?

Well, in our past few blog postings, we have been learning about the many reasons why it is so difficult for adolescents and adults to reach the Identity Achievement status. So far we have considered the need to maintain an Equilibrium, Instability as a defining characteristic of adolescence and young adulthood, how we must acknowledge external and/or internal Conflict, as well as the Curiosity that encourages us to explore.

Now we consider Context, or the environments in which we live. Think of your local botanical garden. At any time of year, you can visit it to see spectacular plants and gorgeous flowers in bloom. Why? Because the botanical garden’s conservatory creates ideal conditions for these flora to thrive. The same goes for humans.

That is, we thrive and grow best, in order to reach our full potential as Identity Achieved, when our contexts or environments support us. This holds for the adolescent who benefits from his/her parents’ support when coming out as gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender, the husband or wife who benefits from his/her spouse's support during a career change, as well as the parent who after many years of being a loyal congregation member, benefits from his/her adult children's support while leaving a house of worship in order to explore a different faith that may better fit his/her spiritual identity.

So, if you hope for a better world in 2012, please consider being emotionally supportive of family members and friends who may be considering or re-considering who they are – and who they want to be.

About the Author

Kristine Anthis, Ph.D.

Kristine Anthis, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at Southern Connecticut State University. She is the author of Lifespan Development, Sage Publications.

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