The Structure of Self

Dr. Badrinarayanan Srinivasan
9 min readJul 18, 2020
Rene’ Magritte- “Not to be Reproduced“. GIF Source:

The Modern age has been dominated by the idea of the Individual, and that of ‘Freedom of the Individual’ to pursue happiness, growth, and fulfillment. The entire edifice of Global Capitalism rests on this tantalizing premise. The word Individual has connotations of a single indivisible unit of a group, or society, that cannot be divided further. Are we indivisible, autonomous, and free beings with unique characteristics?

This is what we have been made to believe since our childhood when our parents pointed their fingers towards us and made a repeated sound, which we eventually learnt as our name. We gradually learnt to separate ourselves from our immediate environment and other beings around us. As time went by, as part of the process of ‘individuation’, we were told how different we were from others and how important it was to develop a distinct ‘personality’, ‘opinion’, and ‘expression’ so we would stand out from the crowd.

As humans, we seem to be torn apart by two contradictory directives — the need to ‘belong’ to a group and simultaneously wanting to be ‘distinct’ from a group. Our identities seem to be shaped by tenuously balancing the factors of ‘similarity’ and ‘difference’ as one needed to be both similar to a group and simultaneously different from a group to be perceived as an individual. B was always been troubled by such contradictions. He would sweep such conundrums under the carpet of his consciousness and go about his mundane life until they popped up unexpectedly, begging resolution.

The trouble started rather innocuously, as troubles usually do. B was talking to his friend R over the phone when suddenly R exclaimed, “Hey B, you sound so much like M!” M was a professor and B had been interacting with him closely of late. The irony was that the same Prof. M had remarked to B similarly a few weeks earlier, “You know, you sound so much like Prof. K!”, adding rather reassuringly, “Oh, it’s alright to be influenced.” Prof. K was another common acquaintance in B’s circuit.

B’s wife would often tell B that he laughed a bit like another close mutual friend S. She also confessed that over the years, she had started using some of his favorite phrases and even her tone seemed to have changed subtly to match his. This was believable as B knew how couples resembled each other after years of living…

Dr. Badrinarayanan Srinivasan

Architect, Academic, Educator, Mentor