Recognition is so organic to the human experience of feeling in existence that its ubiquitous presence goes unseen. It is naturally present from the moment of birth, for the first object of desire is to be recognized by the mother, a fact which becomes all too clear when one bears witness to the first moment of eye-to-eye contact between a mother and her baby at birth (see Ayers, 2003: 37). Recognition confirms our very humanity, ourselves to ourselves. It is of pivotal importance throughout all events and phases of maturation and development. Benjamin uses the idea of sunlight as a metaphor for recognition, the essential element in photosynthesis that provides the necessary energy for the plant’s constant transformation of substance. She offers a long list of “near-synonyms” for the word recognition: affirm, reverie, validate, acknowledge, know, accept, understand, empathize, take in, tolerate, appreciate, see, identify with, find familiar, belong, love (1988: 15). Not one of these words completely captures the word’s depth of meaning.
Essentially, recognition brings to life that which is real. It makes one feel authentic and true, and facilitates the acceptance of responsibility, self-mastery and ownership in a real way. Recognition is necessary to agency, coherence, affectivity and continuity of being, all important variants that contribute to a core sense of self and sense of being with another. Contained in the principle of recognition is the development of a whole and integrated self.