The Loss of Self Identity

From birth we are constantly, chronically losing our identities.  As we grow and develop those loses are generally seen as positive and things to look forward to:  Losing our dependency of childhood; being able to drive; setting out on our own.  I liken these types of losses to waves that are constant and ubiquitous. 

With loss that involves tragedy or illness, the sense of who we are is wrested from us – more like a sudden tsunami than relentless waves . . .  


Heart Sisters is a blog I’ve followed for several years.  Carolyn Thomas, the blogger, suffered a “widow-maker heart attack” and has devoted her time and energy to educating women, clinicians and the public about woman’s heart issues.

In an excellent post Two big factors that can impact a patient’s loss of ‘self’ Carolyn references Dr. Kathy Charmaz

“When California sociologist Dr. Kathy Charmaz studied the subject of suffering among those living with chronic illness, she identified an element of suffering that is often overlooked by health care providers.(1)  As she explained her findings:”

“A fundamental form of that suffering is the loss of self in chronically ill persons who observe their former self-images crumbling away without the simultaneous development of equally valued new ones.

“The experiences and meanings upon which these ill persons had built former positive self-images are no longer available to them.”

“Dr. Charmaz also found that this profound sense of having lost the “self” you used to be before being diagnosed is generally the result of both external and internal influences on how we view ourselves. “

Click below and read the entire post:

Two big factors that can impact a patient’s loss of ‘self’

Carolyn’s post spoke to me personally on several levels:  

  • As a psychotherapist I spent 30 years trying to help others adjust to “loss of self”.  
  • Ten years into my private practice I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia – my own tsunami.
  • When I retired my “loss of self” was not a tsunami but the wave was at least a 20 footer.



14 comments on “The Loss of Self Identity

  1. Thanks so much Judy-Judith and Peggy for sharing my post about the fascinating work of Dr. Charmaz on the ‘loss of self’. I now believe that this is a highly under-appreciated outcome in most chronic illnesses. Keep up the great work!


    • Carolyn,
      You have one of the most informative, well researched and well written blogs on women’s heart health in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. I hope people follow the links. You are one of our favorite blogs to “steal’ from!
      Check out HEART SISTERS everyone.


    • Bety,
      THANK YOU for posting on your FB page!!! We are pouring our life’s work into the posts hoping that the information we’ve used in our professions reaches people. so thank you! thank you! thank you!


    • James,
      Your identity was there from the beginning of time. You simply cleared your vision and most importantly walked the path. Thank you for the honor of watching it happen.
      sending love,


    • Linda,
      Sorry to hear you are having health issues (I did know about your husband and retirement). All those things change who we are. I used to think once you were an adult, you were “done” with such issues, but life keeps insisting that we continue to adapt.

      Liked by 1 person

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