Occasionally I am asked, “Michael, what is the difference between identity, personality, and individuality? When I die, what happens to my identity and personality? Do they die? Do I then continue as an individual? In the bigger picture of identity, personality and individuality, what’s it all about?”
Interesting question! Let’s do the dictionary versions first and get that out of the way. From Chambers mid-20th century: 1. Identity – state of being the same; sameness. 2. Personality – fact or state of being a person or of being personal; individuality; distinctive character. 3. Individuality – separate and distinct existence; oneness; distinctive character. Wow! I confess, identity as ‘sameness’ and ‘oneness’ with individuality really surprised me. Talk about conflicting statements, ‘separate and distinct’ and ‘oneness’ side by side! Now I really am curious. Let’s see if this has changed in a modern dictionary. 1. Identity – the state of having unique identifying characteristics. 2. Personality – the sum total of all the behavioural and mental characteristics by means of which an individual is recognised as being unique. 3. Individuality – separate or distinct from others of its kind; distinctive character. Hmmmm, very interesting.
It seems that identity has completely changed in meaning over the years, whereas the rest is basically the same, except for that odd reference to oneness. The meaning in the Chambers mid-20th century dictionary implies that for as long as we are attached to identity, so we remain in continuing sameness. This is so true! Okay, now for my version! Soon after we are born we are given a name. The idea and purpose of the name is to identify us. However, in the process of growing into an adult, we develop our ego/personality. Ego/personality is not bad, nor should the ego be bashed and subdued by those on a spiritual path. The ego/personality identifies with the identity, meaning that the person identifies with their name, their body, and their growing personality. Over the years our personality develops certain characteristics, some of which become deeply embedded. Long before we die from our physical reality, we have established that self is an identity with a defined personality, all with certain established characteristics. The design of death is to shatter this false belief and representation of the real Self. False, mark you, not bad! Over many incarnations, the personality impresses these characteristics into the developing soul, so you get children who, literally from birth, express characteristics that are already developed.
The fact is we are not the identity, nor are we the personality. A person who develops a bright open personality has a lot in their favour, while a surly closed personality has a considerable handicap. Be aware, however, no matter what the personality, these are the characteristics of identity-self, not the soul-Self. So, we have an identity that people believe is who they are, and a personality that is either conducive or resistant to change. And change is always inevitable! Any expression, any representation, anything that does not represent and express Truth is going to be challenged. This is the purpose of life, the meaning of Self; to express Truth to the highest degree possible. To explain a Truth I need a starting point, so I will create a simple metaphor.
When the developing soul began a human expression, we had a choice, for without choice there is no free will, and free will is essential to human expression. The choice: oneness and individuality, or separation and identity. Obviously we chose the hard way, separation and identity. Identity looks outside self and, through the eyes, sees a physical world of separation. This in turn became our belief, our reality . . . and it still is. This is the basis of consensus reality. For a long time the human experience has been struggling in this illusion, that we are physical Beings with a single short life. Many people are aware that we are spiritual Beings having a physical experience, but few actually live their full spiritual potential. Over many incarnations the soul develops and grows through the alchemy of intelligence and experience; this potent brew creates wisdom. The wise soul learns not to be attached to identity, personality, beliefs, ideas, people, places and material things. The wise soul learns that the identity can never experience the moment of Self-realisation: the realisation of Self takes place the moment self-identity dies, thus revealing Self. Personality remains, but this is usually an open, more flexible personality. However, this personality still has every remaining attachment to release, and in the releasing, so too, the personality becomes ever more open, ever more transparent.
At the same time, individuality is growing. This is no longer an individuality of differences, it is an individuality within oneness. This individuality comes about when you ‘know’ that just as you are one in the All, so also you are the All in the One. When this quantum leap in consciousness takes place, you are the All in the All. The paradox is that when you surrender your identity, along with your precious so-called individuality, you find that in Truth, your journey into individuality is just beginning. To be One in the All and the All in the One is the birth of true individuality. At this point identity is revealed as an impostor, born from separation, while your deeper personality becomes softer, more gentle, more mellow. Personality no longer holds the strong stamp of difference, yet the irony is, by the very nature of this process, you are more unique than you have ever been. The more we are living as the soul-Self, the less we are living as an identity-self.