Separation & Individuation (Part 1)

family tree 

how can I be truly safe?

PREVIOUS: Symbiosis & ACoAs

REVIEW : Autonomy & Attachment

BOOK re. S & I:‘‘ The UNFOLDING SELF”  by Mara Sidoli

As children we are all dependent on the ‘kindness of  strangers’ (parents / caretakers). This makes us vulnerable to their personal, social & religious training, so children are either nurtured & loved OR abused & neglected.  Even those of us who had an outwardly ok family may have experienced abandonment in ways that others can’t see from the outside.  As adults, IF we were victimized at home, we have the illusion that staying dependent will get us taken care of, to make up for the past. However, the tradeoff is to give up adult rights – to have our own opinions, make our own choices, follow our own destiny.

French aristocrat, writer, poet & pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “I know but freedom of mindone freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.”  We can say that the root of independence lies in our ability to think freely, since to a large extent, our thoughts determine our actions & experiences.
• Some expressions of independence are: being competent, having our own unique voice, acting autonomously in the world – while still being able to consider the differing ideas and feelings of others. It allows us to stay connected with others without being symbiotic.

THE GOAL of all therapy & other types of Recovery is Separation & Individuation (S & I), the struggle to become an adult*. This can only be done by clearly identifying & expressing the person we were born to be, as part of our genetic & social heritage, yet not a carbon copy of anyone else. Children from healthy families are allowed this process while growing up, so they don’t have to go thru the stress of this particular type of ‘letting go’.

*Many ACoAs balk at the suggestion that we have to grow up (become an adult), because —
— the WIC doesn’t want to give up being in charge.  This ego state has allowed us to survive thus far – but with great limitations. Having to rely on ourselves way too early gave the WIC the only sense of power it has ever known & won’t relinquish it easily
— we equate being an adult with being like our parents – either mean, weak or crazy.  We need to remember that our dysfunctional parents were acting out of their Bad Parent & WIC, but never from a Loving Parent / Healthy Adult state. So we can’t look to them for a model of adulthood!

The False Self (FS) is made up of two or more sub-selves that develop from S & Ichildhood damage. These well-meaning but wounded, comfort-seeking persona (the mask we present to the world) have usurped leadership from our naturally talented True Self (TS). As they were formed they disabled or stunted our TS, so that what we think, perceive,
feel & how we act is not coming from our wise brain/body, but rather blocks us from making instinctively wise, holistic decisions.

• These sub-selves (FS) have tried valiantly to manage, under difficult conditions, & we can appreciate their efforts that allowed us to survive.  However, they no longer serve our    adult needs, so we can’t afford to let them continue ruling our life.   (Graphic modified from “Break the Cycle”)

The S & I dilemma – wanting our needs to be met (by someone else) AND wanting to have personal freedom (autonomy). If we only think in terns of either being dependent or being independent  – we put ourselves in a bind:
• staying emotionally dependent can lead to the fear that if we speak up for ourselves or express our True Self we risk hurting the other person or making them mad – so, losing the connection with them (A.) -OR-
• we may believe that being independent means always being serious, being alone, not having fun, taking on responsibilities that we don’t feel ready for, being burdened or trapped …..
✶ However, genuine maturity (inter-dependence) includes a balance of these two needs. How much of each category will vary from person to person, & for each of us – can vary from day-to-day!

Separation – for ACoAs in the present: It’s about unhooking ourselves from the addictive tug-og-warsymbiotic attachment to our dysfunctional family. This separation is not primarily physical, although sometimes that too is necessary, but rather needs to happen inside of us.
Individuation – the transition from our family’s ways of viewing the world & defining us as a person, to become fully ourselves – the True Self we were born as, but didn’t originally get to know or not allowed to develop.

S & I (growing up) really means gradually shifting away :
FROM– the FS which is controlled by our parents’ sub-selves (Introject)
TO– our True Self. This gradually happens as the WIC realizes that our ever-present Healthy Core has truly gained a great deal of knowledge & wisdom over the years. Our developing ‘UNIT’ is quite capable of being an effective internal leader & caretaker of the Child in a wide variety of situations, once we access all that accumulated experience. Keep saying: “I know what I know”! Book-ending helps to make this shift.

NEXT: S & I (#2)


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