About Identification

What is identification?

Identification arises from one of our powerful mental tools. In Vedic philosophy, this tool is called Ahankara. We use it a lot with our active mind. This is inevitable and also necessary. But what is identification? What does it do to us, and what does it yield?
There are two types of identification we will need to explore! The modern ‘making personal data known’ is obviously not included. Etymologically, identification comes from the Latin word Identificare and initially means ‘to make the same’ or ‘to bring two things under one concept’ (idem = equal or identical, and facere = to make).
Secondly, it also has a spiritual meaning, ‘identification‘ but in the sense of ‘being completely devoted’.

Identification as an inner limitation

The first form of our identification is the mental/mental activity that links our I to something we think or assume to be, but in reality, we are not. We link our I am to something else. And then we think that’s what we are. By saying ‘I am this or that‘. By that assumption, we suddenly become much more limited. Our I suddenly becomes as limited as what we attach ourselves to, as what we identify with.


We usually don’t notice this. We find it part of our ordinary language to express how we are in this way. Fine, but that doesn’t mean we should believe in it. Sometimes we realize this when someone else tries to convince us of something; when someone says: ‘come on, you are this or that’. Then we don’t just accept it and might even protest against it. We feel that the other person wants to limit us with that comment.
We identify with everything; with many ideas about ourselves, with others and with things or situations: with our body and gender, its characteristics and how it ‘feels’, with the function we hold, with our origin or status, with our peculiarities, with our suffering, with our political preference, with our opinions, with our nationality, with heroes and idols, with our spirituality, with possessions, and so on. There are even people who really feel pain from a scratch in the paint of their car!
We are talking about mechanical – unconscious – identification. Our unconscious personality produces it, and our ego likes to maintain it, for it consists of this. Identifications like these can cause all sorts of feelings, including a feeling of happiness, but it is always temporary. Prolonged identifications can lead to various mental distress. Our identifications usually concern our body, our mental state, and our function (our actions).


A very simple example: ‘I am exhausted’. At that moment our body feels tired, or even our mind, but that doesn’t mean I have to limit my entire stature to ‘exhausted’. If we feel tired, we are still more than that. We may have continued something for too long or asked too much of ourselves. In our ordinary language, it’s very normal to say, but it’s different not to be alert to it because it’s a false assumption. The only fact at that moment is that our body and mind need rest. The thought ‘I am exhausted’ makes us twice as tired because this identification without self-reflection tires us. But then something can suddenly happen, something that ‘broadens’ our experience and makes the identification disappear. For example, someone asks, ‘do you want to go to a party/show or whatever?’ Something fun and attractive. And the fatigue is gone! We feel energy again! But perhaps another identification has taken its place, this time a ‘fun’ one. In short: we were not exhausted.
Strong identifications in the social world can drain your energy. We do this ourselves and cannot shift it to others who we call the cause, because others are always only the trigger. Recognizing our own identification and taking responsibility for it, so that we see it for what it’s worth in inner peace and leave it immediately, preserves our energy. We can easily give up and dedicate all these identifications, freeing ourselves from them internally.

Essential identification

The second form of our identification is our ability to fully connect with something. It is identification from our Essence, our deepest Being as an individual. It’s what makes us have pure commitment in situations. Ahankara is our attachment instrument, without which we could not experience connection with anything or anyone. This shows how necessary this ability to identify is: without attachment, there could be no connection between mother and child (or vice versa) or between lovers, and that would be disastrous. So, we are talking about natural attachment. Natural attachment makes us experience love, but also grief when a loved one is lost to us.

At first glance, it seems as if we are identifying with something outside us. In essential identification with something ‘outside us’, we connect to something through complete devotion. This comes purely from the heart, from unconditional love. We become so absorbed in it that the boundary between I and the other disappears. In essence, we then become one with that other. Our being then unconditionally becomes one with the being of the other in unity. Then it turns out that this other does not really feel like something else, but like something of myself and in fact does not essentially differ from myself. There is a complete fusion with that other which realizes the experience of unity with that other. We experience one Self. And that can be with everything, people and animals, processes, actions, objectives, etc. This often goes unnoticed and is experienced as love, but deepens enormously from the state of self-remembrance, the awake and self-reflective state in the Now.

We are talking about the real function of Ahankara: essential identification, from our Essence, which thus experiences its own stature and nature, but without deriving its existence from our Essence.


This mental state of essential identification deepens from complete presence of mind: in full awareness and feeling attention of ourselves ‘with the other’, and from a withholding-free surrender to ourselves ‘within that other’. This is what we might call ‘the ultimate flow’. Within this, the Best in ourselves is acting and creating, and it also perceives it. We might call this a divine state of mind, for the Essence of the Absolute is active and visible in it. And because it is also perceived by us in self-remembrance, it makes us intensely happy!


For example, identification with something essential. For example, we can become one with listening to or playing a piece of music; or become one with a very essential action or activity for us. Become one with your child or partner. Or become one with a Majesty from devotion. All these identifications don’t limit us but expand us and bring us closer to ourselves. It may be that we experience that what we identify with, is essentially (part of) ourselves! For instance, you can be so devoted to- and identified with music that in your experience, you become the music! Or, just as true, the music becomes you. The (apparent) duality between ‘me as a musician’ and ‘the music’ is then resolved, it is no longer there, and in the inner experience, it would never have to be there again.

For everyone

Is this for everyone? Absolutely! Not only musicians but also other artists, athletes, (silence) walkers, speakers, scientists, writers, actors, sun-worshippers, meditators, coaches, and therefore every other person in whatever they love doing, can experience this; precisely when the union with what we are fully devoted to occurs. Being conscious, with full attention in self-remembrance, that feeling perception of ourselves in the situation or action in which we find ourselves, is a prerequisite.
In short: we then experience ourselves in myriad forms. 🙂

God and Mammon

The spiritual concept of identification is sadly not very well-known as a mental disruptor of freedom, peace, connection, and energy. Identifications block the inner light. Collective identifications (by groups of people) block an enlightened society. If we look for one major similarity in wise spiritual teachings, we find this: Perceive your identifications and see what they do to you. Many true sages (and modern coaches) talk about this.
One of the distressing versions of cherished identifications in unconsciousness is that with one’s own suffering. This results in an ‘I’ that is to some extent dependent on the attention of the outside world to feel better. Many self-help methods available today are primarily aimed at ‘detaching’ from identifications that arise from thought patterns and emotional assumptions about ‘reality’. These self-reinforcing emotional-mental patterns might have originated from experienced trauma.

When we identify with our own suffering, we cannot escape captivity in it, and the search for solutions to our pain through wanting to change external circumstances will never end. It results in endless suffering. But not only that, it can cause more misery, as the cause of the suffering and pain is then projected onto others.
Those who have identified with their own suffering often feel deeply miserable. A lot of strong feelings arise, and there may be a lot of despair and crying. But this feeling does not solve anything. The suffering does not decrease, because we do not use our Feeling Center for its intended purpose: as relieving and purifying. True feeling, in a healing sense, can only arise when there is a process of saying goodbye to the identification with one’s pain and suffering that is comparable to a grieving process. First, by recognizing this identification with the Reasoning Center. We must understand that such identification has imprisoned us. Then we realize that we will have to say goodbye to this identification for good. This can be done by ‘giving it up and dedicating it’. This might lead to a very different profound feeling, which cleanses (purifies) and processes suffering.
While feeling in an identified state usually strengthens the attachment (and thus the suffering), the deep feeling that arises during ‘saying goodbye’ to that attachment has a strong suffering-solving effect. This feeling, which we experience during the internal process of giving up and dedicating arises from complete surrender and the deep desire to be freed from identification with one’s own suffering.
It doesn’t make much sense to approach this inner process superficially or ambivalently. It’s all or nothing. A genuine desire must have arisen, from our Magnetic Center, to come out of the prison of such identification. We cannot serve both God and Mammon in ourselves simultaneously.

© Michiel Koperdraat