Maran Whiting Hanley: Echolocation of the Soul: A New Perspective on Identity

The process of discovering identity is a bit like the motion of echolocation. Let me explain. In echolocation the place of objects is established through reflected sound. Sound leaves its origin and passes through space until redirected by another object and returned to its origin. Bats expertly use this process to orient their essentially sightless flight. It enables them to move, navigate and hunt for small prey. Their ears are their eyes. The movement of sound and its reflection orients their entire being. In a similar fashion, human echolocation looks like this: action and response. A wave of experience travels out from the source (me) reflects off relevant and coordinated experience and returns to the source (me). The experiences, thoughts and relationships that are inputted into the slate of identity become the very objects that further define, reinforce and establish it. Again and again. Emphasizing some things while erasing others. Like the blind bat flying through the night sky, we transmit experience to orient and create identity. Picture a human mind littered with objects, memories, feelings and experience of varying size and import. When a new interaction leaves origin (the self) it ripples through space and time. This new experience will interact and bounce from humans, memories and experiences in its path. This process of interaction and reflection helps each of us form identity. As a kid, I was convinced that I was awkward. Time and time again I was proven right. The countless times my friends preferred to be with my sister instead of me. The days I could not find anyone to sit with at lunch. Each time I had a secret crush and that same boy became my sister’s boyfriend. Weekends spent alone in my room under the delusion that I’d rather be reading a book. Loneliness echoed through the landscape of my identity and not surprisingly, that is the message that bounced back again and again. I propose that the nature of your life’s experience and memory, will impact how the interaction and reflection is received. It will determine who you are in space and time. I call this process, echolocation of the soul.

In the flight of a bat the process of echolocation done over and over again gives a sense of depth and distance and for the individual perspective and identity. If there is a reserve of support and encouragement new experiences locate those positive and constructive memories and create greater confidence, awareness and self-determination. In the converse, if experience is largely unsupportive or negative there can be an onslaught of painful messaging, which in turn becomes reinforced over and over in the present. When trying something new, each and every time I draw on past experience to color and consequently influence the outcome of my new but related experience. Everywhere I went, I had years of prior lonely experience to call upon. When I started college, a new experience in a new place, my memories of awkward loneliness reverberated through the corridors of my dorm and classroom. Outcast. Isolated. Does not really fit in. Thus cementing this idea. Making it more true through every subsequent behavior. Instead of speaking up in an uncharted new environment I remained quiet. Although I desperately wanted to redefine for identity, I was cornered by my debilitating self-perceptions.

For me there seemed to be something involuntary in identity creation. Like standing on a moving sidewalk, the ground shifting under foot. Powerless to where life bounces and victim to how it falls. Subject to the whims and wiles of people and opportunity (or the lack thereof). How I related to life felt outside of my control. A mere passenger, on the ups and downs of living. At some point I got tired of loneliness. I got tired of being invisible. I got tired of being a passenger on the shifting sidewalk.

The blind bat is the captain of his sightless flights. Objects arise in and out of his path. Sounds bounce and travel changes but the bat adapts and survives. He uses the information to his advantage. The bat takes the information that is useful and charts his sightless journey. He cannot change his environment, but he does determine outcome. I decided I had to change the story. Adjust the input. Somehow see it differently. I analyzed the data points shaping my experience and perspective. Unbelievably gorgeous and outgoing twin sister. Incomprehensibly shy. Living in the shadows of others. Afraid of taking risks. Afraid of success. Quitter. Pretender. Washed up. Forever living in a safe zone. Avoidant. These were the obstacles along my sightless flight, it is no wonder I was lost. It is no wonder every action and effort took me right back to the same conclusion: failure. Inept. Invisible. Something had to give. I had to look at the data differently. Like the bat, I had to begin to use the information to my advantage.

Items on my internal renovation: 1) Understand the internal dialogue. 2) Shift the internal dialogue. 3) Come up with plan. I asked myself over and over again, am I more than the sum of my experiences? Probably. And definitely potentially. Does my experience in all its awkward glory add up to something meaningful? I had to really soul search and understand how to transform when there was so much incomprehensible and heavy data weighing me down. How do I actually shift the years and years of negative messaging? First of all, it’s taken me a long time. And secondly I am still in process. It was by no means an overnight, wham-bam-thank-you-mam success story. My charming introverted, perfectionist self is both my friend and mean ol’ foe when it comes to shifting personal identity. I am always my loudest critic.

I may always feel subject the forces of echolocation, moving to and from experience and reflecting back again, but like that bat I can determine outcome. I do this in every thought and in every action. Every day I have to inventory the messaging. Edit and rewrite. At times there may be a little retrofitting to get the landscape to better reflect my desired outcome, but I have to do it again and again until it is true. Until all of the messages ratting around in the sound chambers of my mind are reflective of who I truly am. Simply charming, vastly likeable, perfectly self-deprecating and absolutely wonderful! As for now I am happy to be a work in progress.

About Maran Whiting Hanley: As a writer life is my artist muse. I love to watch and apply. I believe a writer’s job is to tell a story. To fit disparate and incongruent pieces into one great whole. I am an enthusiast of health and wellness. I am passionate about self-care, whole foods and movement. I love to travel. I am an artist. A collector. A lover of art. Above all I am human–by trial and error trying to learn how to live and love. 

Self Help on Huffington Post