Psychology and Philosophy of Identity

Plato talks about eudaimonia. Aristotle discusses practicing virtues as a way to achieve a complete character. Emile formulates an optimal way (in his opinion) to educate children. All philosophers have their unique ideas about particular concepts. However, these ideas share a common theme: identity. 

Everything that we do contributes to our own stories of who we are. How hard is it to figure out our identity? From what I learn from my psychology class, it involves a lot of struggle and confusion that can be explained psychologically. If you are in college, you are most likely in the fifth stage of Erikson’s 8 Stages of Development, which is Identity vs. Role Confusion. So, as a college student, we often try to find who we are by meditation (Plato – enriching your soul), community service (Aristotle- practicing virtues), studying (Emile- following your study habits developed in early age), and many other ways college offers.

A problem that we might encounter is identity foreclosure. It means taking on moralistic and conventional identity without knowing why. The source is our desire for security (which majors associate with which jobs that pay a certain level of salary). Yet, when someone asks you about your intrinsic motivation (ignoring the external circumstances and societal beliefs), you cannot explain the rationale behind your beliefs. A common solution is moratorium, which is taking time to explore options before committing to an identity. Exploring options here means trying to seek inner clarity (conversation with your unconscious) and figuring out your intrinsic motivations for life in general. Chances are that you will not find it during your college career because it is a characteristic of self-actualized people (about 1% of the entire population. An example is the Dalai Lama). However, the importance is “YOU are STILL in college”. Thus, you still have time to make mistakes, so make mistakes and live! That’s how you can actually find your identity.


3 responses to “Psychology and Philosophy of Identity

Leave a Reply