Existential Dissonance and Core Identity

October 07, 2011
Posted by Administrator

In my previous post, I offered an example of what I understand to be a case where more than worldview or cognitive dissonance is at play in a person’s doubts.

At the heart of each person is the very deepest region of our selves. I call this region, for lack of a better term, our core identity. A person’s core identity involves the deepest sense the person has of who she is or who she longs to be. What constitutes our core identity is rarely in the forefront of our minds. Often it takes patient self- reflection and work to identify the contours of one’s core identity. Existential dissonance occurs when who we think we are or want to be, at the deepest level, comes into conflict with other values or beliefs. Sometimes we may be confronted with facts about who we actually are that conflict with our sense of who we thought we were, or of who we want to be.

One’s core identity often serves as the fulcrum for changes in one’s other values. Deep value change and change of world-view usually occurs along the contours of core identity. I will change how I order my loves if the change of order conforms to this contour. When I find that I have reversed the order of my loves, I can usually trace the change to some aspect of my core identity. The function of one’s core identity as a fulcrum is only very rarely conscious. Ordinarily, we find certain loves or beliefs simply gaining or losing their grip on us. If we trace this reordering carefully, we will find some deeper love or some sense of who we are that is at work.

Christian philosophers and apologists would do well to think hard about core identity. Unless we can hold forth a vision of following Jesus that captures the heart of a person, and not just the mind, we may find that our persuasion is more shallow than we want it to be.