Although it can be difficult on people’s mental health with the clocks going back and an hour’s less daylight in the evenings, I have to admit that the last week in October is one of my favourite times of the year. Not only is Autumn here in the UK incredibly beautiful, but I absolutely love Halloween. Ever since I was a child I have been drawn to the spooky side of life and I guess I never grew out of it!
When I first became a therapist I thought that I might have to let go of some of my more ‘unusual’ side as it is often accepted that being ‘neutral’ is the preferred presentation for a counsellor. However I have come to find that, among my other ‘quirks’, my love for monsters was really a benefit. This has inspired me to think about identity and how important it is for us all.
When we think of identity we may think of labels that we can give ourselves based on, for example, our religion, our gender, our sexuality or even a subculture we feel we belong to. Throughout my years I have carried many of these labels, ‘goth’, ‘student’ etc., and I imagine many people reading this will have too.
However, identity does not fall under just one category and goes a lot deeper into the core of who we are as a person. It is often seen as having two layers; the collected elements from our experiences and our central sense of ‘you-ness’.
Sometimes we can base too much of our identity on other people, what we feel will bring us love or validation, or a role that we have been placed in such as ‘carer’ or ‘pleaser’. We can lose sense of who we truly are and feel an emptiness inside. We can put so much effort into ‘fitting in’ that we ultimately cut bits of our true self out.
Loss, or a lack of, identity is one of the main reasons that people enter into therapy and it can cause more distress than we might realise. To truly find a place to belong in the world then we need to know ourselves and embrace all the parts that make us unique, including the parts or experiences that may feel difficult.
The thing that I love the most about Halloween is the celebration of the ‘misfit’. ‘Misfit’ is another label many of us carry but in life there really is no such thing as ‘normal’. We are all individual, we are all complicated and we are all wonderful that way.