Emotional Wellbeing


Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

Fractured identities

identity photo

Fractured identities


To some degree, we all have fractured identities. The various roles that we are expected to fulfil enable us to pigeon hole parts of ourselves into overlapping identities.The French Philosopher Michael Foucault rejected the view of a person having an inner and ‘fixed’ identity. He identified the self as a continuing discourse in a shifting communication of oneself to others.

Identity provides us with a sense of belonging. Our families, our cultural backgrounds, where we live and the type of work we do all contribute to our sense of identity. When there is tension or incongruency between overlapping identities, this creates inner tension and stress and the possibility of anxiety/depression and/or mental illness arises.

The Fractured Identity Syndrome (FIS) is a new theory that is garnering some attention within the academic community in recent times. At its core, it is the merging of Charles Cooley’s Looking Glass Self and Erving Goffman’s Virtual and Actual Social Identity theories

The FIS suggests a social event, or series of events, during one’s childhood or adolescence results in a fracturing of the personality. The term “fracture” is defined as a small breakage of the personality which is often not visible to the outside world. Fragmentation often happens in adolescent years.

Social scientists have for a long time theorized that deviants in society are a production of some kind of traumatization in life. Traumatic events affect different people in different ways. Some people may experience a traumatic event and have it be of little consequence in their life, they would simply move on. For a small few, these traumatic events are a precursor to a life of crime and delinquency and mental health issues. 

When psychologists talk about identity, they are referring to all of the beliefs, ideals, and values that help shape and guide a person’s behaviour. The formation of identity is something that begins in childhood and becomes particularly important during adolescence, but it is a process that continues throughout life. Our personal identity gives each of us an integrated and cohesive sense of self that endures and continues to grow as we age.

Identity is the primary issue in most racial and ethnic conflicts. It is also a key issue in many gender and family conflicts, when men and women disagree on the proper role or “place” of the other, or children disagree with their parents about who is in control of their lives and how they present themselves to the outside world.

Identity conflicts can be especially difficult to resolve. The opponent is often viewed as evil–even nonhuman–and their views and feelings not worthy of attention. In addition, sitting down with the opponent can be seen as a threat to one’s own identity, so even beginning efforts at reconciliation can be extremely difficult. People hold on tightly to their identities as they represent meaning in our lives and a sense or order and belonging, yet being flexible in our identities is what is required in a world where specific, isolated identities are ever diminishing.

Mandy X