As we have already pointed out much unhappiness in life is the result of overidentification with the body, emotions and the mind. The same applies to overidentification with your work, or your role in life. A process of disidentification is necessary, as a method of obtaining tranquillity in life.
It is a strange thing that if people are asked what they are, they will usually reply “I am an engineer” or “I am a doctor” or “I am a secretary” or perhaps “I am a housewife.” They will answer according to what they identify with in life, what their role, work or preoccupation is in life. Some may answer that they are a combination of things – perhaps a mother, a wife and a secretary during the daytime. Yet these things are not what they really are, but only a statement of what they do.
Let us take an example to show how this identification can lead to unhappiness and mental disturbances. Consider an actor. He totally identifies himself with his role as an actor: a fine physique, features, an engaging personality and a manly and melodious voice. He takes great care to keep himself in good condition, in keeping with his role. He may even practise exercises as a means of staying in good shape. Yet, inevitably, nature takes its course and as the years pass he will notice clearly that his youthfulness is disappearing. He painfully realizes that he is losing his distinctive actor’s features. His physical condition declines, his face loses its freshness, his voice will lose its depth. He will probably look at himself in the mirror every day, perhaps for hours on end, becoming despondent and may even take futile steps to check or counteract the decline by taking a facelift etc. He will become depressed, for his conception of himself is fast disappearing in front of his very eves. He may even think of suicide or have an emotional breakdown. His overidentification with his youthful, handsome physical appearance is rebounding causing him deep unhappiness and despair.
This is an extreme example. In fact, this is the reason that we chose it as an illustration. But the reader must agree that there is a lot of truth in what has been said, if one considers the number of actors and actresses that have in fact committed suicide. Yet this over-identification applies in almost every person’s life. Consider a mother. She identifies with her role; she sees herself only as a mother, nothing else. Yet eventually her children will probably leave home as young birds will leave the nest. If she has totally identified with her role of mother, then she will suffer much unhappiness. It is the same with all roles that one assumes in life; if one overidentifies with them, then they will definitely cause anguish and emotional upset when the role finishes or changes.