Misidentification and the Self

In Rienti Jr, Jennifer L. Faux, Laura A. LeVon & Caitlin L. Curtis (eds.), Proceedings of the 2011 Anthropology Graduate Student Association Interdisciplinary Graduate Symposium. University at Buffalo - The State University of New York. pp. 68-80 (2011)

Robert J. Rovetto
American Military University
An individual’s sense of self, their sense of identity, is often invaluable to their psychological wellbeing. Yet we find it all too easy to define ourselves in terms of mutable and impermanent things, such as our professional, financial, or interpersonal success. Likewise, we take our mistakes, failures, or rejections to heart, often viewing them as a reflection of our identity, our true self, or as indication of an inherent weakness, problem, superiority or innate talent. By identifying ourselves with these (and other) entities, we perform acts of misidentification. In this communication I aim to demonstrate that misidentification of the self is a cause of, or explains, a number of situations involving psychological suffering. The act of misidentification is based on false perceptions, a lack of psychological awareness, and involves harmful attachment and dependence. I explore the Buddhist perspective on identity and attachment as a psychological method to alleviating suffering. I argue that we must not identify with anything internal or external to ourselves, i.e., to no thing that is not our self. Further, I provide real-world scenarios in which this harmful identification may occur in order to demonstrate the value of these perspectives as tools to prevent suffering. In writing this paper, the intent was not to advocate Buddhist philosophy per se, but rather to explain how ideas found in Buddhism can help us understand our psychology and offer an avenue to alleviate unnecessary suffering resulting from ignorance, harmful dependence, and a mismatch between reality and falsity, rationality and irrationality.
Keywords self  persons  personhood  human nature  suffering  misidentification  Buddhism
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