David B. Bohl is a relinquishee and adoptee, a professional independent addiction and recovery consultant, and a former consumer of substance use disorder and mental health services. He’s also the author of Parallel Universes: The Story of Rebirth, a memoir that chronicles the intersection of adoption and addiction in his life.
What do structure and order, consistency, and control have in common? They build your ARMOR OF RESILIENCY. In this final instalment I will reveal what helped me the MOST to recover from my addiction as well as my trauma. A solid identity and healthy coping skills are like having a key to the world and its people.
I know many people talk about “identity crisis” as one of the issues contributing to their problems with addiction or other negative coping skills. This identity crisis sometimes has to do with not having spiritual life, but most often, it’s rooted in the psychology of how we understand our place in the world and how we relate to it. Over the past six posts, I’ve talked about some of the things that work for me – someone who’s been struggling with his spirituality and especially in the context of recovery from addiction as well as my trauma as relinquishee. I don’t know if you’ve found any of my suggestions appealing and/or if they’ve motivated you to find your own paths and philosophies, yet I hope that I at least stimulated curiosity that will make you feel less alone.
In my final installment I want to talk about Identity Development – the complex process by which people cultivate a sense and understanding of themselves within the context of cultural demands and social norms. Identity development is vital to a person’s knowledge of self and participating in their social systems.
Gerald Adams and Sheila Marshall, two modern American psychologists and experts on developmental social psychology, established that identity formation provides four functions:
- A structure and order to self-knowledge.
- A sense of consistency and coherence to beliefs, goals, and self-knowledge.
- A sense of continuity for one’s history and future; goals and direction.
- A sense of personal control of their choices and outcomes.
Being plugged into those aspects of identity is key to building resilience in this increasingly stressful world. In my experience, it leads directly to being able to cultivate relationality – the ability to relate to others that I personally use as my own “spiritual” way.
A famous psychologist, Erik Erikson, has developed a theory of psychosocial development that emphasizes our development’s social nature. His theory proposes that our psychosocial development takes place throughout our lifespan. Erikson suggests that how we interact with others affects our sense of self, or what he called the “ego identity.” He also believed that we are motivated by a need to achieve competence in certain areas of our lives. Our ambitions and how we interact with others are what helps to shape our identities. In turn, we can develop values that help us establish boundaries. Having a solid identity and healthy coping skills is like having a key to the world and its people. We no longer stumble about blindly, feeling victims to the news or our own personal circumstances or our traumatic past.
There isn’t enough room here to expand on those theories, but I’m trying to find the most distilled points to get you started on your own journey. As before, I would encourage you to do some more reading on your own and if possible, bringing some of those ideas to your therapy or support group where you feel safe talking about your struggles.
If you like to journal, writing about some of those ideas and how you’re working on your development is another great way to get started on examining what makes you healthy and strong. It will take time and a few trial and errors, but the road to recovery – mental, physical and spiritual – is yours to take, and I wish you all the luck and success in that. I really do.
If you’d like to follow me and read further discussion on topics of addiction, relinquishment, trauma, and recovery, please visit me at DavidBBohl.com.
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