D is for Distance or Disidentification


This one’s a bit abstract so hang in there with me because it is one of the most important tools for increasing your freedom from your personality’s knee-jerk reactions and limited perspectives.


Here’s how it works.

When we are identified with our personality structure, we see the world in a prescribed way.  We have powerful desires (which I’ll call yearnings so I have something to write about on the ‘Y’ day) like love or security or joy.  Sometimes those desires feel either threatened or completely unattainable.  The false premise that our personality is built on is that, to obtain or experience what we most desire, we must somehow manufacture that experience ourselves.  If we want love, we better earn it.  If we want freedom, we better chase it.  If we want security, we better secure it ourselves.

The truth is that as long as we stay identified with those false assumptions, we will be forever earning, chasing and securing.

The alternative is to dis-identify or get some conscious distance from the drive to manufacture our desires.  I’ll explain how in a second, but let me just finish this thought first.  When we do get that distance, we put a little mental wedge between how we are reacting and our own observation of how we are reacting, we can sometimes see the faulty thinking or the loop we’re stuck in, or the chronic states of fear, anger or shame that we might not have even noticed we were living in.

Example: A Nine might see conflict brewing, which threatens his strongest yearning for peace and balance. The truth is, peace and balance, in their truest sense, are not actually threatened by temporary conflict. Life is a constant process of re-balancing, not a static state of peacefulness. Peace and balance can be found within conflict as well as before and after.

In order to avoid conflict, a Nine has to ignore his own needs and wants because they could conflict with someone else’s needs and wants.  He does so at great cost to himself.  Unwittingly, he’s now created a real unresolvable conflict, as his self-denial breeds resentment, making it essentially impossible to achieve true harmony with other people. All he’ll get is a false and temporary sort of acquiescence.

Therefore, if this Nine decides he’s willing to learn how to tolerate temporary discomfort to experience a true sense of internal peace and balance, the first thing he needs to do is distance himself, or disidentify, from his personality’s knee-jerk reaction of ignoring himself.

Simple but not easy.

Simple in that it is only a process of noticing.

Example: This Nine and his partner are trying to decide whether to move to a new neighborhood. His habit is to try to read what his partner seems to want and ignore any internal signals of what he wants. If he can stop and observe himself doing that, he can say to himself something like, “My habit is to go along with what my partner wants, and I notice that I’m not checking in with my own mind, body or heart about what I want.”

Just acknowledging that is a huge step for someone who has been habitually reacting to his situation the same way for decades. Simply noticing what is going on allows him to begin to disidentify with the part of himself that he has always assumed was himself.  He might find out that there’s more to him than he has allowed himself to see.


The ego/personality is loud, convincing and full of empty promises.  We can live our whole lives without ever seeing it for what it is. When we step to the side, even just an inch or two, we can begin to see that our ego (more on letter ‘E’ day) draws some peculiar conclusions about ourselves, our lives and the people around us.

Distancing from those habitual perspectives gives us a lot of power to start to choose how we want to react rather than staying stuck in old patterns and habits.

Do you understand the idea of distancing or disidentifying? What happens when you try? Even if your habitual way of seeing the situation comes back within milliseconds of the moment you disidentify, you can keep practicing and those moments will get longer and more spacious.

If you want help with this, feel free to comment and I’ll see if I can explain it more based on your specific circumstances. It’s a universal struggle so your experience will likely help anyone else who reads about it.

11 thoughts on “D is for Distance or Disidentification

  1. Wonderful post Nancy. I use this same concept/word of dis-identifying with our unconscious patterns.
    I like to say even when it feels insignificant, one moment of noticing and breaking the chain of the pattern is like “dog years” in bringing in and creating spaciousness to be able to do it again.
    I love how you are working with this! More Please!!!


  2. Quite the thoughtful topic, and presented well. As a software designer and hobby scientist, I’ve made a regular method of distancing from my assumptions to solve problems. A tricky thing at times, since old habits and personal views can become powerful.

    Great post.


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  4. Great post, thank you for taking the time to write that out with the examples. The first step for me usually comes after the fact. I notice, “Oh yeah, I did that habitual thing again.” Eventually I start to actually catch myself in the act. “Oh look, I’m totally hooked into my same old reaction.” I’m hoping the next step is being able to disidentify *before* I react to a particular situation. Would that be the natural progression?


    • You’re right on. Next step is to see the tiny little red flags when they pop up before you start down the rabbit hole. If you want to speed that up, next time you catch yourself, rewind a bit and ask what you noticed in your body (because that’s where we register everything first) before you started to react. “muscles tensed up when I heard someone say ______” Notice that and let it be and see what happens. Thanks for your comment! Always encouraging to me when I hear other people’s experiences.


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