The Connection Between Identity and Emotional Space

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For individuals, interacting with others is a challenging circumstance. This is due to the fact that interactions can sometimes be stressful while other times they can be as natural as breathing. Most of the time, the type of person one is engaging with—that is, their personality, identity, class, position in society, and previous interactions—determines the situation. However, emotional distance greatly affects how individuals interact with one another.

Complete Absence of Emotional Space

The emotional space can be divided into five categories, from its absence to a fully safe space where someone can be vulnerable. The first level is the complete absence of emotional space. Interactions that experience this kind of situation are characterized by individuals feeling uncomfortable, very aware of themselves or just the flow of negative energy (Edensor 22). The real problem cannot be identified by a person, but can feel the existence of the problem. In any interaction, one person may feel at ease while the other struggles in maintaining the relationship.

Superficial Level

An individual who experiences this level of emotional space during an interaction may leave the other person being critical, dominating the conversation or exhibiting a superior attitude (Edensor 28). This forces the other person to only provide the basic details and withhold any personal information. This kind of interactions exist in the society in that people could get along and work together, but the individual who experiences a lack of emotional space will provide very little information about their personal life to the other. For instance, in the workplace, people usually get along and work together. However, other individuals drain the emotional space from the working relations and in most occasions, find themselves considering their workmates as friends, while in the real sense their workmates find them to be draining.

Uneven Emotional Space

The second level of emotional space is the superficial level. In this level, an individual does not feel animosity towards a person; the other individual is more of an acquaintance rather than a friend (Edensor 32). The interactions at this level are characterized by interesting stories, which have less emotions. The individuals can show some bits of them, but still, they withhold the deeper issues. They, therefore, share stories that may involve the things they love, for instance children and books.

Emotional Space to Be Themselves

This level is mostly applicable in the work environment where co-workers share only a bit of information about their lives. A colleague can share information about an unreasonable customer and withhold information about a manager who was also irrational. Further, the level is common with individuals who have just met; this is because people will strive to engage in small talks to keep the interaction going unless one takes an immediate dislike for the other. The interaction is therefore governed by the fact that an individual likes the other, but they are yet to know them well to share issues that are more personal.

Emotional Space that Allows Vulnerability

The third level is the uneven emotional space where the space exists, but it is not even on both sides (Edensor 34). In most occasions, the balance between the individuals may shift, but an observer will realize that one person is offering more to the relationship. This kind of interaction is common where one person places the other on a pedestal. This is where an individual considers the other as perfect and admire all the qualities. When the other makes a decision or a mistake that will expose their imperfections, the relationship is changed in case one is not mature enough to deal with the fall from the pedestal. Further, in a situation where two persons who are very close and are experiencing a similar problem, which strengthens their interaction, the possibility of one getting a solution before the other could force the relation into an uneven emotional space. This is because the other person may be envious and thus withdraw from the association.

Identification of Emotional Space and Identity in the Movie Birdman

The fourth level involves the emotional space to be themselves. This space involves an interaction where the individuals are very close to one another (Edensor 36). The more people interact, the closer they get, and at one point a person will feel close enough to be themselves around the other person. In this kind of interactions, the individuals share much, but they hold back some of the information. The type of association is common among families where one can talk to members of the family about most of their lives, but a few subjects and emotions are often left out. In this interaction, there is almost complete emotional space, but then the individual still holds back. The interactions can be silly and open, but the vulnerability is limited.


The final level is the emotional space that allows individuals to show vulnerability. In this type of interaction, there is complete emotional intimacy (Edensor 45). This space and interaction can only be maintained by a few individuals. They are the people who will be there for someone through thick and thin and the individuals can share anything. The interaction is give and take, and when some situations force the balance to shift, the relationship remains uniform. Further, the association is characterized by complete trust between the individuals and they can tell each other anything without worrying that the other will spread the information. Also, they can offer good advice and motivation when it is required.

An individual’s ability to identify himself or herself assists in ensuring that they have the ability to identify the level of emotional space in a particular interaction. The identity plays a big role in interactions and allows one to see the emotional space that the other individual allows. The ability for a person to identify himself or herself allows them to interact with others effectively.

The relationship between emotional space and identity in the movie Birdman is depicted by the struggle for identity by Riggan (Birdman n.p). The inner battle with himself has created in the voice of Birdman who regularly criticizes him for the path he has taken (Bordwell n.p). Birdman’s constant array of insults sends Riggan in a range that causes him to destroy everything in his locker room (Birdman). This level of emotional space between Birdman and Riggan is the absence of emotional space where Birdman dominates the conversation, criticizes Riggan in addition to having a superior attitude. The inability of Riggan in identifying himself gives Birdman the ability to create a lack of emotional space.

Further, the relationship is depicted by the theme of insecurities of an individual defining a person as much their strength. Mike Shiner is affected by his fear of being impotent and thus stops him from being confident in life the way he is on stage (Birdman n.p). Further, Riggan has a fear of being outshone on stage in addition to his life. He fears that since people know him as Birdman, they will never take him seriously as an artist. This affects his performance and his abilities as an actor. Sam, on the other hand, is a beautiful girl with so much potential (Birdman n.p). However, the actions of her dad affect her and push her to self-destructive behavior. This shows how their lack of self-awareness affects their interactions with those who are close to them.

When Riggan finally identifies himself, he puts this realization and the only thing he had which was his depression and lack of self-worth into one last performance. He manages to use all he has to control his legacy the only way he could. He manages to secure his identity and legacy as Birdman. He earns a standing ovation from the audience, and he ends up in the hospital alive. He inspires Sam through the identification of his identity where Sam smiles brightly after looking skyward. He was willing to show to the world that he was much more than just a character and thus he shoots himself. His identity makes him manage to achieve his goals and still live to see it (Birdman n.p). This inspires Sam and affects Tabitha who is the only one who does not give him a standing ovation.

Conclusively, identity significantly affects the emotional space that will be maintained in a relationship. The ability of individuals to understand themselves defines how they relate to others and consequently affects the emotional space. The association is evident in the movie Birdman as Riggan’s interaction with others is affected.

Works cited

Birdman. (2014). Birdman: the unexpected virtue of Ignorance. Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Bordwell, David. “Birdman Following Riggan’s Orders” observations on Fim Art, 23 (2015).

Edensor, Tim. Emotion, Space and Society. (2014).

June 19, 2023

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