Jackie Thomas Swanson

Lesson 3: Co-Culture Map

Do the following activity to look at the elements of your life that make up your self-identity.

Co-Culture Map Activity

Let’s do a small exercise to help define what makes you who you are. It is called the Co-Culture Map. All you need is paper and pencil.

In the center of a piece of paper write the most important role you identify yourself with. Some might say “Parent” or “Artist” or “American Indian” or “Soccer Player”. There is no correct role; it is what is most important to you. It could be your job if that is what you feel is your primary identity.

Next you will write the next most important role you identify with. It can be whatever you feel is next in importance to the first word you wrote. You could write “Sister” or “College Graduate” or “Elder”. Find a way to show the relationship between the two words. Some people draw a circle around the words and have those circles overlap and connect. Some people draw a line that connects them.

Move on to the third most important role and the fourth. And so on and so on until you have created a page of words that have connection to one another. Write as many as you feel you need to until you are comfortable that you have identified the various roles you play in your life.

Do not just write a list of words. This exercise challenges you to show how these various identities are connected to each other.

You could also add to the meaning of this exercise if you made some entries larger and others smaller in size to show their relative importance to you.

When you have completed your map look at it reflect on all the roles you have listed and how complex you are as an individual. Often times we think we are just us, no one special. We don’t often step back and see all the things we do and all the roles we play.

Ask yourself why you listed the first role first and all the other roles you listed in the particular order you chose. Was the ordering of you choices easy or difficult?

If you are comfortable with the idea, share your map with a family member or friend. Explain to them you are sharing a diagram that is an attempt to show all the important elements and roles in your life.

Ask them if they already knew some of these things and the map was what they might have expected. Ask them if anything surprises them.

Ask them if they would mind creating a map like this so you could see how they define themselves. Explain the steps you took to create your map. If they agree, allow them time and privacy to work on their map.

As you look at their map, do you see similarities to yours? Are there any surprises, things you did not know about them?

As they look at your map and you theirs, we might ask questions to help each other understand the roles listed. Share whatever information you both feel will help clarify your maps. Often times we tell stories to explain the roles on the map. In fact without stories it is difficult for us to understand the complexity of another person, or even ourselves.

This map gives us a picture of who we are at that time. Do you think that if had done the same activity ten years ago that it would be the same? Or if we do another one in twenty years, will it match this one? We are constantly in transformation and how we define ourselves should mirror those changes.