People arrive in counseling with a history of self judgments, evaluations, thoughts, images, feelings, rules, memories, physiological sensations, roles, and impulses. These self-judgments have great potential to influence how we perceive our identity.

“Self as content” and “Self as context” are psychological terms used to define how we relate to our own sense of identity. With this concept, it is helpful to think of the mind like a train that runs on two tracks. The first track has thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. The second track allows an observing ability that promotes self awareness; it allows us to be watchful and discerning about what the mind experiences.

On the “Self as Content” end of the spectrum, identity is perceived as a collection of thoughts and feelings. It’s like a mind that is only running on one track. Psychologically, when a person takes on this perspective, they have an over attachment to thoughts and feelings. It’s like being wrapped up or consumed by our thoughts and feelings and letting them incorrectly define us. In this condition, we are psychologically inflexible.

On the “Self-as-Context” end of the spectrum, we become psychologically flexible, as the mind is now running on two tracks. In this condition, our sense of self goes beyond the experience of thoughts and feelings. Some refer to the second “watchful” track as the “mind’s eye.” In Christian language, this place is referred to as the center of the soul, or the heart. From a soul perspective, we are not defined by thoughts, emotions, memories or other bodily senses. Our identity rests in Jesus Christ.

“I am” Statements

Complete the following list of “I am” statements. Write down whatever thoughts come to mind after repeating the statement “I am.” Be careful not to censor or suppress any thoughts. You may be surprised what arises to your awareness.

Sentence Completion Exercise

  1. I am ___________
  2. I am ___________
  3. I am ___________
  4. I am ___________
  5. I am ___________

How did you do? Were you able to allow thoughts to freely come to your mind? What did you notice? Is there anything that stands out to you about the answers recorded?

The Soul Perspective

The soul perspective is looking at life from the watchful part of our mind. Emotional health is promoted and maintained by our ability to stay flexible with the content of the mind. We are flexible when we grow in our ability to be watchful, acknowledging thoughts and feelings, without letting them define us. From a soul perspective, thoughts and feelings are something that happen in us, as they come and go in our minds. Thoughts and feelings are something we observe. They are not truly who we are at our core or spiritual “heart” (see diagram below). As we take a watchful perspective, we grow in our ability to look past thoughts and feelings, and search the heart for a deeper, and more true perspective.

Consider the exercise above. The part of your mind that filled in the “I am” statements is the “thinking” track of your mind. This track of the mind is triggered by present situations, and experienced through bodily sensations. The thinking part of the mind produces content; it does not define our identity or worth. If we only rely on this part of the mind, we become unhealthy, and rigid in both emotions and our life habits. Living life on this track makes it difficult to emotionally learn or change.

The part of your mind that recognized the thoughts and were able to record them is the “soul perspective” (the second track in your mind). From your soul perspective, you are able to watch thoughts and feelings from a psychological distance. This is the track in your mind where your true sense of identity can grow and develop.

So what will we find when we focus on the heart? At the heart level, we have the opportunity to gain a deeper perspective of how the Lord defines our self identity.
Consider the biblical passage found in Ephesians 1:3 – 14 and complete the “I am” statements again. This time, allow God’s words to trigger a sense of who you are at the heart. If you get distracted by the thinking track in your mind, just notice the distracting thoughts and allow yourself to return to the biblical passage. Be careful to be watchful of the Bible passage and observe how it speaks to the way the Lord sees you.

Download full Worksheet here

Sentence Completion Exercise

  1. I am ___________
  2. I am ___________
  3. I am ___________
  4. I am ___________
  5. I am ___________

How did you do? Were you able to focus your observations on the biblical passage? What difference did you notice from the first list? Is there anything that stands out to you about the answers recorded above?

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him…”

(Ephesians 1:7 – 9)

Do You Struggle With Your Sense of Identity?

I am redeemed, I am forgiven, I am a child of God, I am free from sin, I am loved. These are the words that speak from the heart of those who can accept Jesus Christ. When we have the ability to be watchful in our mind, we can get in touch with the identity that the Lord gives us in Him. Acceptance is the first step, then comes the discipline of learning to listen to the heart, and grow in our sense of identity in Christ. This happens from the “soul” perspective. From this perspective, regardless of the situation, we can grow in our sense of peace and well being.

Did you struggle with your sense of identity? You can grow in your sense of redemption and freedom. If you struggle, know that you are not alone. Help is available. Call us today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email