What defines my identity

psychology The search for one's own identity

"With the help of the police, a man is looking for his identity: The 50-year-old has been in the hospital for a good two weeks and can neither remember his name nor his origins."

"When I ask myself, who am I actually, that is something that is a conglomerate of feelings for myself and - very importantly - of what others say to me."

"We have temporary identities that we feel we belong to for a short time, but we always have the freedom to switch to another program, also with regard to ourselves."

"In principle, it doesn't matter whether we call it digital or analog or say: 'Today I'm more of a father and tomorrow I'm more of a brother' or whatever, in the end it always leads back to us as individuals, and that's why it is digital identity part of the whole identity. "

"There are an infinite number of positions on the construct of national identity. And that makes self-definition much more difficult."

"In reality, however, no ego, not even the most naive, is a unity, but a highly diverse world, a small starry sky, a chaos of forms, levels and states, of inheritances and possibilities." - Hermann Hesse, in Der Steppenwolf.

Identity - a role play

"It is certainly true that identity is seen in a more nuanced way these days, and that it is above all more important."

Eva Jaeggi, meanwhile emeritus professor of psychology in Berlin, recently wrote a book with the title: "Who am I? Ask the others!"

"The question 'Who am I? Who are you?' has become extremely important in a society that has split up into very different groups, which is of course also organized according to the division of labor, and where the question 'Where do I belong?' cannot be answered so clearly because the roles are no longer so clearly are defined. "

Psychology plays a major role in identity theories. Siegmund Freud and with him psychoanalysis have a particular focus on the "I". Identity is first of all "a feeling for one's own person", an indispensable aspect of human development in the demarcation from other people.

"When children start to recognize themselves in the mirror, when they are able to speak, I say, then you can say that the child has a first vague idea of ​​who it actually is, and that is also part of identity, that actions or also Feelings are something that comes from within. "

Freud had already emphasized that the "I" arises on the one hand from the "instincts", the elementary needs, and on the other hand from social norms and expectations. Identity develops in a constant dialogue with others, as the American sociologist George Herbert Mead put it. Eva Jaeggi:

"Of course, a lot is produced by the environment, as one is called as a small child by parents and other important people: a good, a bad child, a lively child, a quiet child, these are all names and terms, with that a person identifies at some point, of course, that goes through the whole development with colleagues, with siblings, up to the love relationship, and that can be very destructive ascriptions and very constructive ones. "

In the past, identity theories assumed that there would be a development from the simple to the complex. That is why the development of identity in young people was particularly examined scientifically, because it was assumed that the development process will come to an end at some point - one then spoke of a "stable personality".

Today the emphasis is on lifelong variability. The social psychologist Heiner Keupp speaks of the "patchwork identity" of today's people, which is always linked to the respective social conditions, including a secure economic basis.

In her book, the psychologist Eva Jaeggi presents various - as she calls it - "typically modern identities", for example the single identity, something that has only existed for a few decades:

"There have always been single people with completely different connotations. Something strange or eccentric or simply impossible to marry because of their social habitus, so those were completely different ascriptions, and we are still in a phase where this existence is called Single is rated very differently. "

Surveys show that singles are in a kind of transition between old and new, namely ...

"... that some of the singles are still very much oriented towards old terms, that is, to blame themselves for being so strange, nowadays people say 'unable to relate', and there are singles who say that with great pride: 'I don't need anyone', although of course you have to say that you're not always single for life, but living alone for a long time is something where you want to find your very own special. "

Even in old age there is often a contradiction between self-esteem and external attribution. People aged 65 and over are often confronted with earlier stereotypes - negative ones such as: old equals weak or useless, but also positive ones such as: old means wise and venerable. The psychoanalyst hears many questions in her therapy discussions:

"How you have to dress at this age, you can still get a tattoo, go to the doctor a lot or go jogging and skiing, so these are very, very different images, and a lot of people, especially in the middle class, who do are also really often healthy and strong, have the feeling that that doesn't suit me at all, the word age, and on the other hand you have to admit, of course I'm not young anymore either. "

Identity problems of these "young old people" arise, for example, at the end of employment: What else can I do useful, or in retrospect: Was I the person I could have been? Often it is also necessary to reorganize life differently, for example because of one's own illness or loss of a partner.

"But it's not just about the young old, also the older, the really old people are called upon to do so, and these are again social evaluations, for example how a famous book means 'to age successfully'. Aging successfully means, of course, actually not to age. Or what one then necessarily has to admit to old age, to see in a perspective that shows that one has become wise, that one can deal with it. "

Overall, people today are freer to define their identity. But for many, the elimination of the supporting structures also means excessive demands. You keep trying yourself in new roles and lose yourself completely in the process. Richard David Precht speaks in his book "Who am I, and if so, how many?" even of negative identity:

"We no longer have a permanent affiliation to something. Of course there are still people who have that, but the majority of society is developing in such a way that we no longer identify with a certain role for a lifetime. We actually identify ourselves above all, identify things by not wanting to be like everyone else.

I am different - digital identity

"People want to go online and know what their friends are up to. So I'm going to build a website that offers that. I'm talking about putting all college experiences online." - From the film about Facebook inventor Marc Zuckerberg.

Nowadays, many users present their identity, their profile, on the web. And that is usually not virtual in the sense of artificial. Dr. Stefan Humer, head of the internet sociology department at the Berlin University of the Arts, says that the digital is part of our everyday reality ...

"... and that's why, in my opinion, there is only one identity that we have as human beings, which is of course very diverse, which consists of different partial identities, one is brother or father or employee or employer, or whatever, that are of course different roles, and it is the same with digitization, which is basically a different area, but which ultimately always leads back to us as humans. "

Some hide in anonymity, but many active people on the net want to be recognized, describe their likes and dislikes, present selfies and status reports from their lives.

"One of the greatest chances, if not the greatest, is actually that you get closer to yourself. So I can simply live out a lot of things of myself better through the design possibilities that digitalization offers me. If, for example, I can't do something spatially can act out, simply because that is not possible in my environment, i.e. meeting certain people for certain games or events, then I can at least differentiate it online and see what it is like to be a certain fan of something or something like that .

For Miriam Meckel, director of the Institute for Media and Communication Management at the University of Graz, the chances of finding me on the internet are rather slim. With the "Internet identity" there is a compulsion to self-optimization: not "Who am I? But who or how do I have to be? So that others like me is the question. This leads to people on the Internet using their profile." always adapt to the respective requirements. However, Stefan Humer says:

"Of course, there is still a lot of leeway overall, and whether it is such an automatism that you align yourself more with the specifications or expectations of others in the digital space, I'm not so sure now because I always also discover cases where there are people who bring in a lot of their own ideas and initiative and are able to implement them. "

Of course, the internet sociologist also sees the risks: This includes the fact that everyone is forcibly identified through countless individual data: Each time you use the Internet, you leave traces of data, while shopping, whether online or in the store with a credit card, profiles are created. Identity theft is really dangerous online.

There is no absolute protection, but there are some technical and legal measures. But it is more important to first become aware of the new:

"That is simply the question of the competence that we have in the context of our socialization, so I have to learn a lot independently for the digital, you actually have to play it through a bit for yourself in advance, as you do in other life situations power, while driving I also know if an accident happens now what I have to do, what I have to reckon with, what consequences it will have, but that is not done in digital space, and I believe that something like this should be done with it Always start strengthening your digital approach. "

If I reveal something about myself in analogue reality, it stays in the desired circle, even if there is a little "gossip". The profile stays on the Internet forever - and it is also visible to people who should not know anything about this part of me, for example employers.

"Well, I still actually see the possibility that a lot of danger can be averted, of course that won't always last, there will certainly be this rabbit-and-hedgehog game. And that's why it is of course helpful to deal with it now to deal with. "

When asked "Who am I?" it's not just about the individual, but also about group identity - and very often about cultural origin.

Where are you really from Cultural identity

"We were born here, Germany, we are a part of it. And you always want to tell us that we don't belong. All of your shitty debates, it disturbs these young people."

Kamyar and Dzeko with their rap and video "Generation Sarrazin", which appeared online in 2014 for the first time. Their parents come from Iran or Montenegro, they have two nationalities, grew up bilingually, were raised Muslims, were good at school - just two perfectly normal young people from Fulda.

"S-Arrazin, it's not going well today. Look at all my friends, they are German like you."

The cultural identity: determined by the country of origin, by language or religion, also by a feeling of belonging and external attributions. But characteristics are becoming increasingly blurred, especially in view of global migration. The sociologist Dr. Naika Foroutan is Deputy Director of the "Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research" at the Humboldt University in Berlin. She has done two current studies that examine the effects of migration on the process of identity formation in Germany. In the focus of the first study: Muslim migrants of the second and third generation.

"When asked what would you describe yourself as, there were repeated statements like: 'I call myself a Berliner locally', and when we asked: 'Why don't you call yourself German?' again and again: 'If I say that, nobody will believe me anyway.' "

People with a migration background have a hard time finding a new identity: alienated from their culture of origin, foreign in Germany, under pressure to assimilate. Self-perception and perception of others fall apart. Many just look different, have strange-sounding names and are addressed accordingly - where are you from?

The study under the name "Heymat" - spelled with "Y" - showed that there are very different, overlapping self-attributions, "hybrid" identities. First the "homeland": people who clearly feel that they belong.

"You then said: 'I am German and I don't want to be asked about where I come from', others have emphasized in this unequivocal way: 'I am Turkish and will remain Turkish, regardless of whether I was born here or not' , so that was this longing for clarity. "

The migration researcher calls the second category "multi-secretiveness": a person describes himself very differently: sometimes as a German, sometimes as an Arab, then as a Muslim, as a Bavaria fan or a vegetarian.

"Then we had some who said: 'I had a problem with my identity for a long time, am I now German or am I now Turkish, am I now German or am I now Arab, but now I want to break free of that, I have a new identity, and it's called: I am a Muslim. ”And then we also had those who completely refused to accept any form of national or religious or ethnic or cultural categorization who simply said:“ I am me. I am a citizen of the world. And I am simply human. "

The latter are a rather small group. The majority show a longing for clear belonging. Obviously, this has to do with the fact that in Germany the combination of Muslim and migrant children has a negative connotation - with the consequence of increasing disintegration, especially among young people. Often this also leads to a conscious "counter-identity". In doing so, they fall back on a Muslim tradition that did not initially exist, says Naika Foroutan.

"A patchwork of what you know, what is ascribed and what you reinvent yourself, and we were able to find with our interviewees that very many only found themselves at the moment through external attributions Muslim. That they were addressed as Muslim in school and then began to educate themselves or to turn to religion in some form. "

In this way, however, they can also get to the wrong people, to radical groups, because there they find recognition and the unequivocal identity they long for.

The second study by the Berlin migration researchers also showed that this description of belonging "we Germans" and "the foreigners" is still very widespread, and that Muslims in particular are seen as a negative antithesis to their own identity. So what and who is German?

"First of all we noticed that 90 percent said: 'Anyone who speaks the German language is German', and 80 percent said: 'Anyone who has German citizenship is German.' Then we were able to observe at the same time that around 40 percent said: 'Anyone who has German ancestors is German. Now that's something you can't achieve. If you don't have that, no matter how good you speak the language or have your passport, you are still not included in this national category of 40 percent of the population. "

For many, identity remains a fighting term against the background of cultural conflicts: This is shown by the debates about dominant or majority culture and about the "parallel society". Probably the most obvious example is the discussion about Christian Wulff's 2010 statement:

"Christianity belongs undoubtedly to Germany. Judaism undoubtedly belongs to Germany. But Islam now also belongs to Germany.

The counter-speech of the then CSU interior minister Friedrich:

"The fact that Islam belongs to Germany is a fact that history has nowhere to prove."

The "patriots against the Islamization of the West" are a consistent expression of this attitude. Like all nationalist movements, Pegida works with the idea that identity is something unchangeable. This ideology does not ask: "Who am I?", But rather "Are you like us?"

Researchers, on the other hand, call Germany "post-migrant". Immigration with positive consequences as well as problems is commonplace: Almost 17 million people with a migration background live in the Federal Republic of Germany, around nine million of whom are German citizens. For the sociologist Dr. Naika Foroutan are post-migrant societies "negotiating societies":

"There will be conflicts over distribution, the tone will intensify. And in these societies there are those who strive very, very strongly for clarity, for whom the ambivalence is simply difficult to endure, and there are others who can deal with it more playfully, and In between there are those who might want clarity, but say very pragmatically: 'Society has changed, and people who don't have a German-sounding name or who look phenotypically different from what Germans used to imagine are German today Has'. Accepting ambiguity is a challenge that is not always pleasant. "

Identity - a balancing act

Identity is nothing clear, but a balancing act, writes the psychoanalyst Eva Jaeggi in her book: "Who am I? Ask the others".

"You take you wherever you go." - from Ernst Bloch's "Tuebingen Introduction to Philosophy".

But what is this "I"? Is there an immutable core of identity?

"Every person has a feeling that they have something very special within themselves, the completely different form of the person who stands out from others, on the other hand one has to say, of course we are very dependent on the ascriptions of other people; even if you If you ask yourself very carefully, for example in therapy, where this is of course the topic, you will have to say, 'I am that, I am that, not entirely arbitrary, I already have something that I see as my very own , but I am aware that this can change too '. "