Dual Identities: Fact or Fiction?


We live in a world where dual identities (and multiple identities) are quite common. There are over 50 million bilingual people in the United States alone and research shows that they tend form two different identities based on language. A large number of children are raised by divorced parents which can set the stage for having one identity with mom and another with dad. And of course, social media and internet sites have created vehicles to easily develop multiple personas. Though having more than one identity might be useful at times, it is easy to lose one’s basic sense of self and emotional integrity. It’s easy to forget oneself – or parts of oneself.

The self-reflection practice is a way to increase awareness to these various parts of ourselves and to gently call them back into the whole person we are meant to be. In my work with individuals, the mirror is used to help people confront what they may be trying to avoid by creating dual identities. They often find pockets of inauthenticity, or places where they have become over-identified with these created identities – that just don’t ring true. The mirror cure provides the time and space to discover who they really are.

As an adoptee, I have always had a sense of dual identity: Barbara the identity my loving adopted parents gave me — and another unknown, somewhat mysterious part of myself. The self-reflection technique has helped me to integrate her own sense of dual identity when I met my biological parents, as well as the contrast between my identity as an academic professor with my identity as a student of mind-body-spirit healing.

In first discovering this process for myself, the solution to the problem of feeling split between my adoptee/biological self and my academic/healer self came in the form of changing my name from Barbara to Tara. I went through a period of time when every time someone called me Barbara – it just didn’t feel like it was my name. Sometimes people had to call me several times before it clicked that I was the Barbara that they were calling. When I introduced myself as Barbara, my body seemed to revolt as if every cell was saying, “Hey! That’s not your name!” I began to take the time to listen in silence gazing in the mirror. Who I am? Then my inner critic would erupt, “Are you CRAZY? A women of your age and education should know this by now!” Then one day I was at a party with loud music and introduced myself as Barbara. My new friend replied back “Tara – nice to meet you.” The heavens opened up, the planets aligned, and every cell in my body was tingling with truth! TARA! THAT’S MY NAME! I sat in front of the mirror like a little kid – saying “Tara” “Hi Tara” and felt the word resonate through my body. I eventually chose the last name Well because the name Tara seemed to come from a well within me. (Being called Dr. Well is a bit unfortunate – as I don’t want to be promising more than I can deliver – Dr. See Yourself Clearly would probably be better!)

For a while I kept the name Tara a secret. My inner critic told me everyone would laugh at me and tell me I was crazy. Eventually the split in my identity and being called Barbara – or worse yet “Barrrb” simply became unbearable. I was committed to my personal and spiritual development much more than to getting others to approve of me. So, I watched myself in the mirror transform from Barbara to Tara. Through looking at myself, I developed a deep sense of knowing who I am– so that others’ opinions on my name change did not lead me to doubt my decision – or to feel shame or embarrassment about it.

Since then, I have used the self-reflection process to help others integrate and change their identities in meaningful ways.