The power of rewriting your identity

Learn how to embrace stress by adding goodness to your identity to build resiliency.

I have been reading a book called “The Act Resilient Method: From Trauma to Transformation” by Jeanie Joseph Ph.D. due to a family member of mine having post-traumatic stress. There are 27 methods in the Act Resilient program. The third chapter of this book talks about a method called the “Power of Healing Identity.”  This chapter, in particular, made me realize that there are many approaches that can help and it all starts within. We all have the power to do good things! 

Joseph writes that where there is trauma, there is often a crisis of identity. Physical wounds are painful, but wounds to the self are very deep. A big part of healing is the restoration of a deeper sense of identity. The new sense of identity includes your past identity but adds rather than subtracts. It includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, rather than trying to get rid of anything. The Act Resilient Method key methodology is the concept of adding good to bad experiences. The goal is to focus on what is pretty in your world. In other words, change what you focus on. Joseph states that adding more good, is what makes bad experiences more manageable. The idea is to begin slowly rebuilding your identity based on not just your past version of yourself, but who you are becoming. Identity is never a fixed thing. It’s a work in progress a fluid, dynamic, ever-changing river of possibility. 

In order to rebuild, one must embrace the darkness. Joseph explains that you can’t erase something that already exists as a mental image in the mind; you can only add new possibilities. The solution is to not run from it, but turn and face it. The only way to be free is to include it as part of your identity. You don’t have to love it; you just have to stop fighting it, because what you resist persists.  

The chapter introduces a number of steps designed to help build your new identity. First, acknowledge that a wound to the core self has occurred. The second step is to practice forgiving yourself and/or the other person, spend time journaling or writing. Lastly, start using your imagination as a source of power. Writing and journaling those pretty or positive things you notice could be your first step. Challenge yourself to find a certain number each day and then increase the goal daily. 

Playfully and deliberately seeing yourself as someone you are not, is healing.  Joseph writes that the process of discovery happens naturally through the freedom that comes from improvisation. Through improvisation, you loosen your idea of who you think you are. Playing other characters stimulates the mind. By playing characters different than you, you flex your identity muscles. You realize you can play a role, even fully, and then drop it when the scene is over. This “being who you are not” creates more “identity flexibility” and seems to facilitate the reintegration of the core psyche. 

I recommend reading “The Act Resilient Method: From Trauma to Transformation,” participating in a community theatre, journaling or registering in a Michigan State University Extension Stress Less with Mindfulness or RELAX: Alternatives to Anger personal development health series to help manage stress.  

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