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Friday, November 24, 2017

Morality and Identity

Written by  Janan Broadbent, Ph.D.

We’re living in times when our sense of right and wrong is being challenged. When you think of yourself, of what all makes you the person you are, what do you see? What do you also see when you look at the people in your life, your partner, family, friends, or coworkers?

In the November / December issue of Psychology Today, there is research mentioned on how our identity is closely bound with our beliefs about morality. What is at the core of our being is that notion of what we consider acceptable or unacceptable and that core belief is more crucial than, say, any personality trait such as shyness or being an extrovert.

Even more interesting is the finding that morality seems to be a more fragile component of the self than personality characteristics. For example, if you’re known as a social butterfly, but at one party, you don’t seem exuberant, most people may dismiss it as you are tired or just cooling your jets for a change and still maintain the perception of you as a sociable person. However, if you are accepted as being honest, and then discovered to have lied, the change in the perception is immediate. It may be that the major significance of morality within the self makes it more vulnerable to conflicting evidence whereas personality traits are considered to be enduring.

So this makes me wonder about how we deal with relationships when we discover sides of our partners we did not know. As a rule of thumb, it takes about a year for each of us to start to relax and reveal those aspects that needed, early on, to be presented in the best light. Deeper issues emerge then, both because we may discover about our own selves and of course, about the other. It is just at that stage that we start the work of the relationship. The person who used to kiss you goodbye starts to slack off. You forget to ask how their day went. Minor gestures, but signs we are getting comfortable, a good thing, but not so good if the partner or we feel less important. One’s connection would not unravel with a few transgressions, but this is why it is so important to set up some kind of a date night, or partner hour and be purposive about it to bringing such issues up, rationally and in a calm, relaxed occasion. Let’s face it; we dedicate at least eight hours a day to work. How much attention do we give to those who are important to us? I hasten to add that whether it is parenting, or cherishing our loved ones, it is the quality of the interaction that matters. You can spend five hours with a person, right next to them, but checking out social media or playing video games and not interacting – that is not a meaningful connection.

Time for us all to be eyeball to eyeball and pamper the connection that sustains our identity, reinforces moral beliefs and feeds our soul.

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