Why Old Identities Can Feel Hollow & Not Meet Our Needs

In my last post, I made the realization that my feeling of stuckness in my life, wasn’t really a “problem”, as I initially believed it was (i.e. What’s my problem?) but rather it was arising from my perception of my “problem” which related to my identity. This in turn made me realize that the question I needed to be asking myself was, “What’s my identity?”, because this stuckness is arising from an old sense of self not wanting to let go of itself to allow for a new sense of Self to emerge.

What’s funny though is that I’ve been feeling this old identity coming to this realization for the past few months with increasing frequency. It’s that Senior Web Developer guy who learnt so much about building great communities and great cultures within them. And he loved helping people to “level up” within these video game communities, so much so that he tried to go back to these virtual game worlds the last few months to see if he could rekindle that meaningful energy that he once had within them.

But he can’t and I can’t. That’s because I’m no longer that same guy. I’ve changed. Yet the base cultures of these communities have effectively remained the same. The (predominantly male) gamers within these communities are primarily focused on meeting their base psychological needs by gaining and maintaining a sense of command and control by exploiting a mastery or mechanism within the game (a microcosm of what’s happening in real life). The game developers realizing this, psychologically manipulate the players by creating an addictive pay-to-win element to the game that in turn gives the players a temporary sense of dominance within the game…until the next pay-to-win element is released that makes the previous element obsolete.

So when I go back to these online game communities, they just feel hollow, empty, and meaningless, like a dried out husk of what they previously were. It’s because I see nothing meaningful within them anymore because they are focused on limiting values that I’m trying to grow beyond, since they’re no longer sufficient for my higher order needs.

But even if I try to communicate the underlying problem of these communities to the people within them and how they relate to their identity as well, I can’t, because the people within these communities can’t perceive and see what is under their very noses (that they themselves are intentionally blinding themselves to as well). Thus they themselves don’t want to let go of their old identities, so they just addictively stick with them, even though the experience of role playing them feels empty, hollow, and meaningless as well.

Thus there is no going back to my old identity. All I can do is go forward. Note though that his doesn’t mean I can’t go back to these old spaces and communities. It just means that if I want to go back to them, I have to create something new within them as my newer Self, for them to feel energizing and empowering once again. In effect, if I want to see a change in the environments I’m within, I have to take responsibility and make a change within them myself as my newer Self (thus “becoming the change I wish to see”).

When a living myth dies, it doesn’t disappear. What departs is the energy, the living quality. The shell remains, like a fossil in a dried-up riverbed where the water once flowed. What was once work becomes labor. What was once a way of life becomes a set of social expectations. What was once a symbol is reduced to propaganda.

D. Stephenson Bond
Living Myth

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for The Adventure of Your Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.

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