Nesting identities

Myself as Matryoshka

In colloquial discussion, comparisons for identity depict the many facets, roles, and masks of how an individual engages other persons. From the image of peeling an onion to expose layers that could be painful, to taking off and on hats representative of a role in dialogue, I appreciated my experiential with matryoshki to be a curious blend of several self-expressive similes. There was an embedded concept unfamiliar to my hearings of identity talk with matryoshki. The innermost doll represented my most vulnerable and fragile identity, with the others concealing and protecting that tiniest carved and painted figurine.

The three identities I selected for this essay are the Victim, Guide, and Mate. In my original diagram (Tejai, 2017), Victim was smallest, with Mate next to her, and I had to skip Helper to reach Guide. If I were to modify the diagram in this moment, Mate would exchange places with Victim, and Guide would switch with Helper. Since these are identities represented by matryoshki, I articulate them here as individuals.

Victim has three strengths that keep her nestled and living: Perseverance, hope, and gratitude. These signature strengths lend her the virtues of endurance unfolding into tenacity. Trust is her most important value, since her primary relationships were fraught with harm in many directions. She also is learning trust within herself, and struggles with the internalized concept of proving her right to exist. This struggle that permeates her manifests in her least developed strength of zest. Since she views her life as a constant battle, she has to put in effort to appreciate living for the sake of life. Victim would be a powerful advocate for clients in distress and situations where their power and abilities to assert themselves are questioned and/or compromised. For those who suffer with imposed limits, Victim is an empathic therapist that establishes a profound connection through shared experience. That said, Victim’s countertransference could be detrimental. Victim may feel driven to protect her clients, stepping past the controlled therapeutic alliance in an effort to walk at her clients’ sides and relinquishing her boundaries. With such intense empathic capacities, Victim could begin to identify with/as her clients and forget to maintain separation of persons despite her sincerity.

Guide’s strengths are creativity, leadership, and appreciation of beauty and excellence. Her foremost value is acceptance of difference. For clients who are exploring past their established sense of self, Guide is wonderful as a liaison and gentle teacher when she introduces and affirms what is held as truth for her clients. Guide’s least developed strength is spirituality. Since Guide is incredibly fluid when encountering persons, clients may have difficulty understanding who she is, what she believes in for herself, and what is her own perception of her life. She confuses others since she can convincingly blend or counter with or against them, it is hard for clients to establish a sense of groundedness and constancy. Clients may prefer that she have stability as herself.

Mate likely has the most internal difficulties that could impact her clients without meaning to do so. With her strengths of honesty, love, and fairness, Mate appears to be fixed and stable in her relationships, particularly her long-term romantic partnership. Yet Mate’s least developed strength is forgiveness. Mate had plenty of traumatic experiences when connecting to other persons at intimacy levels deeper than friendships. Despite she and her partner establishing their relationship as companionate in essence, she has moments where her past experiences are so incongruent with her relationship that she needs comfort and time to process how her life does not have to be a pattern. That stated, her value is faith. When her love or her bond may have no sensical reason in a given snapshot, faith supports Mate if all else failed. She is quite a closeted romantic while her partner is far more expressive. Mate may enhance the therapeutic relationship with clients who are exploring intimacy, from passing strangers to an intense emotional bond. Mate is all for human connection with her capacity for love in many modalities. However, Mate’s process of letting her past not dictate her present and future may compromise the therapeutic process if clients become dependent on her, or if a client possessed strongly held viewpoints of what should constitute healthy relationships that may feel disempowering for Mate. Mate has difficulty safeguarding her own connections from others’ violations of her boundaries, withdrawing into herself if she perceives that her foundations she worked to build are being threatened. She prefers to not offend, holding fast to secrecy.

Based on these three identities and life experiences, I am generally comfortable working with client populations marked by transitioning processes. With my fluidity, age is of little concern as I am able to relate to persons across the developmental lifespan. I noted my work with children on the autism spectrum, and have made therapeutic connections with individuals that possess developmental disabilities. My extensive experience and journey with psychiatry and mental health bend me towards clients in those populations as well, since I have been a client and patient myself and carry those perspectives as I progress in my graduate program. My sense of fairness lends me sympathy to incarcerated populations with my insistence on human connection.

There are certainly client populations I would struggle with. It is evident in classroom and life settings that I will be triggered if my boundaries and sense of self-respect are forced into questionable situations. Couples and family therapy clientele potentially pose a challenge if I am to retain myself while working with a dyad or contained/closed groups that are firm in their established dynamics. Likely, the most difficult population to work with is victims of abuse. With my understanding of abuse culture, my alternative views, personal work with identified abusers/perpetrators, and my human compassion for all sides in pain and trauma beyond the identified victim, I have been called into ethical debates by my peers. My discontent with the status quo (ante) could position me as visible and vulnerable to clients who may insist that all care and compassion be directed their way alone. This puts me in direct opposition with activists who promote continuous punitive restrictions upon incarcerated populations. Clients who are in need of sole self-validation frustrate and threaten my self-concept that bears a keen sense of duty for all persons involved in an issue.

In my Professional Ethics and the Pastoral Counsellor course, I had difficulty articulating clientele aligned with my perspectives and those who would prove challenging at that time. While I grew and changed while taking more classes, encountering similar interpersonal troubles, I gained a better understanding of my vulnerability, boundaries, and limitations. I hope to continue learning and maturing, retaining my capabilities to take the classroom and outside life as intersectional, interdependent, and mutually supplemental. I strongly feel I have grown in and out of myself over the course of my first postgraduate year in study, and will maintain a sense of hope of a future on a horizon I may not quite perceive in this moment.

May 17th, 2017.
Tejai, K. (2017, May 8). Hidden in plain sight [Diagram].

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