To exist is to coexist.
- Gabriel Marcel
As Cooley and others have pointed out, we may first recognize our own nascent identity as what someone else--parent, teacher, or friend--sees taking shape within us. One of the primary responsibilities of parents is the incubation of identity in the next generation. No wonder we love our parents and teachers: it is they who have coaxed our starter self onto the world stage and indicated a niche where it might thrive.
As collaborators in the formation of others' identities, we repay the debt we owe those who, by reflecting an incipient identity back to us, served as midwife to our own.
Perhaps because they sense the creeping disintegration of their story, the elderly often feel the need to rehearse it. Listening to them recount their anecdotes is an act of compassion. Those who lend us their ears are involved not only in the creation of the identity that serves as our face to the world, but also in its maintenance. Personas, like magnetic poles, are not created, nor do they endure, in isolation.
The discovery of the profound interdependence of selves obviously has a bearing on our relationships. In the following articles, I'll explore the implications of the co-creation of each others' selves.