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Shippy's avatar

Do you consider yourself "your" possessions?

Asked by Shippy (9852 points ) September 14th, 2012

Are you the things you have accumulated, the home, the car, your furniture? Perhaps you see yourself as your job? What if someone took all those away? The role you play at work, or the street you live in. Would you have a deep sense of self remaining? Or would you feel empty and lost?

Oddly I would. I have been thinking about this question the whole morning. As I am about to “give away” an entire lifetime of accumulation. It is the strange and little things that bug me the most. The familiarity of it. I do feel though I still have a deep sense of self. I would also feel quite free. I am starting to see the relationships I have built in this lifetime as who I am, because those are the “things” that are going to hold me, to me.

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23 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

No,not at all. I lived without any possessions at all for a time in a commune. If my house burned down with everything I own, I would not feel empty or lost, as long as my family and pets were saved.

bookish1's avatar

I would miss certain books, albums, and notebooks I’ve written in, but none of those are indispensable.
I certainly would miss my job/studies. I don’t know what I’d be doing without them, literally and figuratively. I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school, and I need my job for health insurance, so that’s kind of a sine qua non.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t miss “big” things. I realize that the condition of having a car is impermanent and I know I would be fine without one. I also don’t count on ever being able to buy a house.

Pandora's avatar

Not so easy to answer. I don’t see my possessions as being the whole of who I am but they are certainly a part of who I am. I like to buy things that I feel show a part of me.
Right now I am looking for a home. I had my check list of things I wanted and yet even when I found it sometimes it didn’t feel like me. Right now I think I found a new home that fits me and I it. It doesn’t have all the things on my list but when I walked through the door I felt its warmth and light. It felt like my home. The new modern homes are pretty, but they simply don’t fit who I am.
We are still in negotiations but from what I understand the owners really liked us and thought we would be a good fit for the home as well.
There are just things that sometimes fit who we are. Even places. I had to move time and time again. There were times I felt lost but it was only when I didn’t feel at home. But not lost like I lost my identity. I know who I am but I also know where I fit and where I don’t fit. I have a roof over my head and my family but I live in a home that leaves me feeling cold and displaced. There is nothing here that speaks to my heart. and that I feel I can build memories. That is what I am looking for. It’s time to set roots and settle in.

Seek's avatar

I actually don’t have a great number of possessions, save for my books. I have many, many books, and not nearly enough books. Those are really the only things I have that I would miss if I no longer had them. I’m not attached to the place I live (I’d move to Sweden tomorrow if I had the cash…) or my car, and I’ve just started this job…

Give me my son and my books, and I’m a happy person. ^_^

wonderingwhy's avatar

Well, possessions help define each of us to an extent. After all, looking at someones possessions or lack thereof can often give us some insight into their interests, values, even personality.

However they are not some intrinsic part of me. Even things that we see as irreplaceable are still, in the end, simply things – it’s the emotions, memories, and value we carry with us and ascribe them that define them, not the other way round. At least for me.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You can take away anything except my photos I’ve accumulated over my lifetime. I’d be a little bummed over losing my books. But I’d get over that. My pics mean a lot to me. The rest is just stuff.

thorninmud's avatar

One’s sense of self emerges from one’s network of relationships, and there is no self independent of those relationships—relationships to the people in our lives, of course, but also relationships to places and things. Each of us is a tiny segment in a web; supported by and supporting all of the other segments, meaningless without them.

Those relationships flow, though, and the identity that emerges from them has to go with that flow. Things, people, houses and jobs come and go. Each new configuration of the web will reshape the sense of self.

Trillian's avatar

No. We are spirits in the material world. (G. Sumner)

janbb's avatar

I almost lost my sense of self when my marriage ended and was lucky to be able to find it again and rebuild myself in stronger and deeper ways. Through it, my home has partly kept me grounded and partly stirred up ghostly images of the past when my family lived here. So there is a dichotomy – part of myself is in my things but the bulk of myself is in the rich relationships I have with my sons, my friends old and new, and my growing sense of my inner core.

marinelife's avatar

Not even a little bit.

Once when we moved to Florida, our moving truck was a week late. So we camped out in an empty house. In a place where we didn’t know anyone.

I was just fine. Still myself.

wundayatta's avatar

Without my possessions, I’d lose about 60% of my memory. Maybe more. So I would change. I would no longer have the ability to retrieve a record of a large portion of my past. Since I am a librarian and I rely on data for my work and my life, this would be a huge change. I can’t even imagine how I would feel. It would probably be a great loss.

On the other hand, I would still be me. It might actually be very exciting because I could pretend to be anyone I wanted to. I would probably be single. If things went right, it might be an exciting time in my life. If things went badly, it could be a very dangerous time in my life.

During the first thirty years of life, I moved an average of twice a year. When I got to where I am now, I said I never wanted to move again. Community is very important to me. It gives me stability that I have a strong need for.

I would not say I am my possessions, but I am my connections. Things are placeholders for connections to memories. Giving up all my possessions would, in large part, be like giving myself a lobotomy. I would be myself, but I would also be very different. This is not a bad thing or a good thing. It’s probably an interesting thing. But it would be a significant change and I can imagine that if I wasn’t expecting it, and even if I was, I might be quite surprised at how much difference it made. I would want to prepare to be a different person. Of course, I’ve been through that now, so I don’t think it would be as problematic as it would be if I had never changed my personality before.

snapdragon24's avatar

Not so much…but I would say that my bed is very important to me.

I love my bed. I love anything that brings me comfort.

Its where I sleep, its where I think, its where I dream, where I read my books, where I’ve held someone I care about, where I do laptop work, where I smoked a nice jay during my exams and successfully succeeded lol (alright I’m stopping there lol) But besides that, I am not much of a materialist. I grew up in a very privileged family, and I’d say Im a fairly modest person with all the things we own…doesn’t change the fact that I’m spoiled…but I could be a lot worse.

Coloma's avatar

No, not at all. I love my little house and love to decorate and surround myself with eclectic and interesting art and ambiance, but, I have lost it all before and may lose it all again. My identity is not contingent on my stuff, my work, a relationship or anything else.
I am very secure in who I am and do not need status props to bolster up my sense of self.

geeky_mama's avatar

My identity isn’t wrapped up in my job, car or home..but there are little trinkets..small things (a particular turquoise bracelet, my one special bead necklace, my circa 1989 Jane’s Addiction t-shirt, for example) that I could, wordlessly, hand to someone to see/touch and those little treasures would tell them a lot about me.

Certainly, what’s most precious to me are not things that I own (for example, I don’t own my children or hubby)...but those little trinkets that have lived with me across time, countries and past lives have such strong memories and special affection tied to them that they do feel like a part of me..

Tiesha154587's avatar

No I do not. Because i am a person, not something that has been around for a long time.

flutherother's avatar

The things we know and love are a comfort to us but they aren’t who we are. I once lived in a house filled with memorable and much loved things, furniture, books, ornaments, children’s toys. All this has gone and I no longer miss it but I am glad I managed to salvage a few things. For me, it was essential to keep something of the past as a kind of token but the most important thing, as you say, is to preserve relationships.

Losing familiar routines and objects filled with meaning and memories is painful and leaves you feeling empty and lost for a while, but you will still be you and you will begin again.

BBawlight's avatar

Whenever I get rid of something that I like, it feels like it’s been my friend for such a long time. I talk to my possessions and sometimes carry on conversations with them. It sounds weird, but it feels like I’m leaving behind a friend. It’s like they would be sad if I just throw them away. I don’t get it, but it’s like they have emotions.

Bellatrix's avatar

I would be fine eventually but I would need a transition period. Plus, it would depend on whether I gave the things away or they were taken away. I would cope less well if I had no control. I have had times when I had little though and I was just fine. Had no clothes. Driven really crappy cars. Not been able to pay my bills.

I truly believe people are more important than things. My work is important to me – but it isn’t me. The most important thing and role in my life is the role I have with my immediate family. I could not live without them but I am not defined by my possessions.

Sunny2's avatar

I’m not my possessions; nor are they me. Stripped of everything, I’d still be me. We’re all temporary. I sometimes wish I could be a believer in an afterlife, but I I’m not. I miss people who have left one way or another, but that’s part of life. It ends. Makes me feel sad to think about it. Give your good stuff away and enjoy the gift of giving.

DarknessWithin's avatar

I had a journal once that was based on the journal Doug kept in that old Nick cartoon(basically it would have an entry by him and then give you space to write your own story). I wrote a lot of stories in it of precious memories. It disappeared one day and I never saw it again. My mom constantly tossed my things behind my back in my childhood. I lost a lot of things that meant a lot to me mostly because of her.
Another thing was a necklace my guy friend gave me for my birthday in the eighth grade of the Pokemon Kadabara with a crystal coming out of it’s bottom. I had seen him wearing it and liked it, so he just gave it to me on my birthday. It disappeared when we moved into this current apt(which we are destined to move from next year).

Possessions are not who I am though, most of the memories in that journal are still up in my noggin after all these years. Nothing defines you but you; your heart, and your choices. No person is defined by what they own. One can have all the possessions and money in the world and still have nothing if not love.

Symbeline's avatar

I’d be pretty sad and depressed if I lost my movies, books, games and my super kick ass TV. But having my own self taken away somehow, well I can only imagine how much ass this would suck. I mean I probably only enjoy things because I have a mind. Whoever wants to try and take that away better be able to, cuz they’ll regret it if they can’t and I have to go all Viking on their ass. I am indeed, my own damn possession, and no one/nothing else’s.

nebule's avatar

Absolutely…they are a physical representation of the person that I am and have been throughout my life, particularly my diaries and books… but the rest of it doesn’t really matter. I’m not materialistic really, but stuff does have a strange power of comforting one’s insecurities. My couch is old and tattered but it is one of the safest places I feel moderately ok. Man is in the world and only in the world does he know himself….

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