Where do you come from?
It’s a question that many of us will have either asked, or been asked. What do we actually mean when we ask that of someone? Are we merely searching for a reference point as a means of friendly inquiry, or are we seeking something else?
When we think about identity and ask who we are, we often consider where we came from. What it is about our experience of our formative years spent in certain places that defines us? It could be a deep sense of belonging based on familial and cultural familiarity, or conversely, a desire to be separate and distant from a place, which has little resonance with us. In asking the question are we implying that there is something to be revealed in our sense of origin?
Origin as a point of reference
When we ask about origins we are looking for reference points, but also are we asking to be shown a version of the self based on regionally derived ideas? Whilst saying that we have predefined notions of identity isn’t comfortable to think of, we can often hold these as a way of making sense of origin in someone’s identity. No one wants to think in terms of ‘stereotypes’, but we might hold these as a way of giving a sense that we can relate to one another. What is important is that we can move beyond fixed notions and be curious about who we meet.
Origin and identity
For the individual the sense of origin and place easily become part of our sense of who we are. To say that you come from somewhere can say a lot about you, without having to elaborate. Strong local identities can be defining, whether this is desirable or not. This thought, that origin can be defining, is especially apparent when we relocate. Are we suddenly exposed? Does it raise the thought that we might allow our origin to actually define oneself in a way that isn’t authentically who we are? It could be that our origin is a means of holding onto our sense of self when we might not feel able to define ourselves otherwise.
Over time our relationship with our origins can change as we age and develop our own identity. What role does our historic origin play in our thoughts of where we are from? Is it a place that we romanticise, miss or hold with positive regard? Is it somewhere that we choose to keep a distance from? Do we feel the need to celebrate, defend or denigrate it? The relationship over time speaks of the influence of origin and brings up thoughts of what it is to ‘belong’.
For some the sense of origin is a complex mix of influences. The experience of migration and change impact a sense of being able to clearly answer where one is from. This displacement and sense of loss can be highlighted in the inquiry about one’s origins. Here we are challenged to explore what it is like to not have a simple answer. Can we think about loss and hold a sense of richness based on a diverse sense of origin, or is the loss harder to bear? Has migration made it hard to place oneself and make sense of ones own identity?
Questions around identity and origin are often present in everyday life. Working with a psychotherapist can help in developing a better sense of self and our identity when we question our origins.
Further reading by David Work –