Idealization And Identification

Updated: Nov 25, 2020


We rarely see things as they actually are. Instead, we have a story of what happens that we create and believe. Have you noticed a tendency in yourself of having strong opinions? More than just that, have you noticed that your opinions occur as if they are the TRUTH for you? Another way of saying this is that you Idealize something and make it not only important but also true.


This I call idealization because it usually involves the creation of an ideal. We all attribute truth and greatness in this way. We idealize something when we put it on a pedestal to be a standard that we hold. Often we do this without any test of validity for the opinion! It is as if one thinks, that the test of truth is in the fact that we have come to a conclusion about it. Look closely at religion, politics, business, and culture in our society and the evidence of this is to be found everywhere. We make idealizations and create beliefs about ourselves and others, not because we have proved them true, but rather because we identify with them in such a way that it occurs as if we are speaking of ourselves from self-knowledge. So, when we idealize, also we identify with our ideals. Personal identities, and often our very personalities are formed from the accumulation of these idealizations and our identification with them.

Identification means making an identity. This creates a relationship in the mind that exists virtually, and may not actually exist in reality. It’s as if the meaning of the situation is actually what we attribute to it. However, it is fiction or perhaps a narrative that we believe. The personality that is caused in this way is a false personality! This illusion of self and identity is essentially a relationship of thoughts, images, and the labels for them, created in language, the substitute for real presence in our state of being. In this way, the meaning-making can rob us of our life be replacing our experience with stories about our experience. Without actual presence at the moment we are experiencing life, we are a simulation of life that has no real individuality. It is a process that happens automatically, and that we might consider being chronic and automatic. In other words and automaton, or a human biological machine.

What is really shocking is to realize that others also participate with us in maintaining these illusions, and are equally automated in their identity and beliefs. Some of these illusions we live with others are collective idealizations. Others are social and family roles and attributions made about something or someone in our personal lives. When illusions are shared in this way, there is a consensus about what is true. Such a consensus reality is considered true, even if no one really examines it or verifies it. To do so is to invite conflict because the condition of shared illusion depends on the complete collusion of others. Thus these kinds of beliefs tend to persist and determine how we experience life and are validated by those around us.

When we idealize in this way, by making something true, we often also establish what we think is untrue. Thus negation exists in opposition to idealization. Logic, with its decision tree of logical conditions and comparisons, also defines what is negated or falsified. So we know that the conditions that provide for the truth to exist, also tell us what is false according to the same logical thought process. So, just as idealization exists, creating the perfect ideal, so too does denigration, which creates the perfect state that is not desired. This is the means by which we tend to split the world into duality. For every best, there is a worst. It’s as if there are no shades of grey between black and white. We simply don’t see reality without our idealized opinions about it.

When one crosses the line from this kind of automatic and mechanical thinking and being to really examine consensus beliefs with others, it often invites all manner of conflict and opposition from others. All human societies have idealized standards that are deeply embedded in their culture. It has been this way for thousands of years. For human beings, idealization and denigration are like the two ends of a single stick. For this reason, we speak of good and evil. Likewise for this reason we rarely tell the truth, simply because we don’t know what actually is true

What would it be like to live in the world as it actually is instead of as we fantasize it to be with our idealizations? What if we could instead approach the world with acceptance rather than judgment? Our own self-conceptions could be so different if we did not think through these forms of dualistic binary thought.

To do so we need to examine our beliefs and opinions. By observing ourselves, we can see how we actually operate. We might see that we really do idealize, identify, and denigrate all the time. We can suffer from the realization that we are helplessly programmed to do so by our past conditioning, and that we live in a world where this is the way people think and act. That we are living in the world as human biological machines ruled by automatic and mechanical thinking.

As we catch ourselves in these patterns, we can begin to have the possibility of a new thinking process. First, we can see that machine-like. Then we may begin to experience the wish for something other than this. We begin to use the automatic meaning-making-mind to imagine and idealize instead a new way of being that is not conditioned by logical thought. The new behavior of real objective thinking can become possible. By thinking in new categories and forms, with inquiry and acceptance instead of judgment and a need for certainty, we can perhaps, for the first time experience the world as it actually is.


Photo by Jake Noren on Unsplash


© Copyright 2006 Robert Fertman, All Rights Reserved

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