Vertical identity and horizontal identity.

I saw a Ted talk titled “Love, No Matter What” given by Andrew Solomon. Here is the link if you want to see this talk before reading the rest of this post: I found what he said from about 5:00-8:00 of the video very interesting.

He explained the two types of identity that we humans forge in our lifetime: vertical identity and horizontal identity. Vertical identity is one that is transferred from generation to generation. Horizontal identity is discovered from our experience with peers. The horizontal identity is what makes us different from our parents (and our siblings). This difference, which is always against self, parental, and social expectations, forces a process of acceptance of the outcome of the horizontal identity by oneself, the parents, and society.

After I saw the video, this seemed to be the innovation that he was bringing to the audience. The examples were somewhat unnecessary, at least to me. The focus of this talk seemed to be on parental acceptance of the horizontal identity, which to me downplayed the awesomeness of what he stated in these three minutes. I wish that Solomon, or someone else, would go deeper into self acceptance and society acceptance of horizontal identity. Maybe someone already has, but it has been discussed as part of a different intellectual path.

This part of the video was, to me, an encounter with the words that correctly expressed my experience with the formation of my identity. The self-knowledge identity discovery and acceptance process that God has guided me through in the past 10 years has been focused more on my horizontal identity than on my vertical identity.

I had always struggle with my horizontal identity because it seemed to have resulted in something so different than my parents and my brothers and sisters. My horizontal identity is also somewhat different than my academic peers and my peers at church. The reaction provoked by me taking this path was resistance in the form of lack of acceptance. It made me think that I was a disappointment to my parents. When I voiced it to my father, he denied it. I perceived in his reaction that he was covering his and my mother’s ass, but never called him put on his bluff.

Now, after listening to this explanation, I understand that everyone that I surrounded myself with went through the process of accepting the result of my progress of the formation of my horizontal identity as I was externalizing who I am and what I had become.


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