What I have never quite understood, because I have never experienced it personally, is the degree of insecurity in which a person does not feel confident in their own identity until a second party has explicitly recognized it.

How many people (not just naïve teenagers, but adults too) have you met who introduce themselves immediately asserting “I am a wiccan,” “I am a healer,” “I am a shaman,” or “I am a satanist?” – or are bedecked with t-shirts, slogans, logos, signs and symbols explicitly announcing their chosen identity prop.

I have never really understood this urge to inflict yourself and your self-imposed label on others, or the need for almost constant recognition and re-affirmation of your self-appointed label, and I believe it is at the root of many problems, including the most troublesome “side-effect” aspects of the need to congregate under the auspices of any religion or any other ideology. It is the most superficial and needy motivation, and usually the earmark of psychic vampires.

Maybe the answer lies within the theory of the eight stages of devolopment put forward by psychologist Erik Erikson. The two stages in particular being outlined below:

Stage 5: Adolescence -- Age 12 to 18

Crisis: Identity vs. Role Confusion
Description: This is the time when we ask the question "Who am I?" To successfully answer this question, Erikson suggests, the adolescent must integrate the healthy resolution of all earlier conflicts. Did we develop the basic sense of trust? Do we have a strong sense of independence, competence, and feel in control of our lives? Adolescents who have successfully dealt with earlier conflicts are ready for the "Identity Crisis", which is considered by Erikson as the single most significant conflict a person must face.

Positive outcome: If the adolescent solves this conflict successfully, he will come out of this stage with a strong identity, and ready to plan for the future.

Negative outcome: If not, the adolescent will sink into confusion, unable to make decisions and choices, especially about vocation, sexual orientation, and his role in life in general.

Stage 6: Young Adulthood -- Age 19 to 40

Crisis: Intimacy vs. Isolation
Description: In this stage, the most important events are love relationships. No matter how successful you are with your work, said Erikson, you are not developmentally complete until you are capable of intimacy. An individual who has not developed a sense of identity usually will fear a committed relationship and may retreat into isolation.

Positive outcome: Adult individuals can form close relationships and share with others if they have achieved a sense of identity.

Negative outcome: If not, they will fear commitment, feel isolated and unable to depend on anybody in the world.