S & I : Separation

hanging on to mom 

is good for me and them!

PREVIOUS: Lack of Individuation

REVIEW:Symbiosis & ACoAs’

REMINDER: ACRONYM Page for abbrev.

QUOTE: “The successful process of Separation is the source of our personal autonomy, our independence, our ability to assert ourselves and our capacity to make choices.”    From The Ties that Bind, the Ties that Strangle

Some quotes from WHY LOVE MATTERS: how affection shapes a baby’s brain”,  by Sue Gerhardt, best-selling book on child development :
• “… foundations are built during pregnancy & in the first two years of life… This is when the social brain is shaped, the emotional style and emotional resources established”
• “… a poorly handled baby develops a more reactive stress response & different biochemical patterns from a well handled baby…”
• “Babies of agitated mothers may stay over-aroused & have a sense that feelings explode out of you, & that there is nothing to be done about it. Well managed babies come to expect a responsive world”

Margaret Mahler: Psychological separation is the development of limits, the differentiation terrible 2sbetween infant & mother. It’s only possible if the infant is absolute secure in its attachment to the caregiver during its first year of life, AND then develops enough of a capacity for autonomy, self-reflection & self-reliance, normally by age 2. For this to happen the mother needs to be able to accurately, consistently respond to the child’s internal (emotional / mental) & physical needs, at the right time & in just the right amount – using intuition & common sense.

• This allows children to form a stable emotional core, as they recognize & accurately interpret their mental & physical experiences (touch, talk, play….), which are then organized & grouped into loose patterns. The first act of separation occurs during the ‘terrible 2s’ when children come upon the concept of “no.” They are exercising a natural instinct, but while they may be annoyingly persistent, they don’t yet have the power or autonomy to enforce it.chase 2 yr old

As children grow they can put more power behind their “NOs”. This makes it hard for parents – who naturally think they know best – to let their children take the risks that a “no” implies. So Separation is difficult for normal / healthy parents that love & want to protect their children.
✶ But this freedom is even harder or impossible for dysfunctional parents to provide, who have their own S & I, FoA & power/control issues!

Well-differentiated (good S & I & therefore nor-symbiotic) families have the flexibility to balance the need for connection / stability –  & the need for each member to also have autonomy.
NO : Separation does not mean giving up the close attachment we have with parents or other people, nor having to be geographically separate.
YES : Separation does mean that we recognize we’re not the same as our loved significant others, that we react & think differently, AND that is OK!

Symbiotic, co-dependent families experience S & I as a betrayal of the family unit, &/or as a threat to its stability. This forces members to choose staying attached & co-dependently loyal – over personal growth, having to sacrifice their unique personality & ability to act in their own best interest. This is always a developmental dilemma which ends badly – either capitulating to the toxic family system or eventually wrenching away with great anger & pain on all sides.

EXP: When teenagers try to break the bonds holding them to their parents there are often teen repressiongreat upsets for both child & parents. When teens are not allowed to successfully complete this process, it can lead to their being disruptive (acting out), rejecting societal & family rules, and potentially – suicide. Also when adolescents are subjected to family stressors (separation, divorce, death of a parent &/or adding a step-parent….) without help to deal with them emotionally, it can cause these young people to carry a sense of grief & loss that blocks the necessary process of S & I. (MORE….)

• There is growing clinical evidence that adult psycho-pathology is related to a lack of healthy Separation (staying symbiotically attached), OR from having experienced too much Separation Anxiety as a small child (caretakers not dependable & unsafe).
Some results:
a. Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) – expressed by a long-standing need to be taken care of & a deep terror of being separated from important people in their life (FoA). This leads the sufferer to act clingy, needy & submissive, which is  unconsciously designed to make others want to take care of them. DPDs are convinced they can’t survive without constant outside help & validation. (MORE…)

b. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has its roots in faulty childhood S & I. While BPD people have many of the same terrors as the DPD – mainly fear of abandonment, the differences are marked.
•  Dependents tend to be passive & stay in relationships for a long time, no matter how bad, while Borderlines are likely to have frequent, intense & volatile ones.
• BPDs do a lot of come-here-go-away, idealizing people & then hating them intensely when the illusion is disappointed. DPDs just stay.
• They can be caring & sympathetic, but their main reason for doing so is to get a return on their investment (get taken care of)E damage
• They have quick shifts in their feeling for others, seeing their friends, lovers, even co-workers as positive supports or as cruel & punishing.

c. Psychopathic Personality Disorder (PPD). NOT to be confused with the Psychotic – which is being out of touch with reality.  Psychopathic behavior is characterized by rational, informed choices & premeditated strategies of behaving that effectively serves the PPD person’s specific goals, no matter the cost to self or others. The ‘problem’ is their lack of emotional connection internally, so there’s no way of for them to have an understanding of or empathy for other people’s feeling.

“Psychopaths are social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.” from Major Theories of Personality Disorder, M F. Lenzenweger & J.F. Clarkin.

HEALTHY SEPARATION ultimately means that we have the right to be our True Self in all circumstances, while still being able to comfortably, consistently connect with others – in fact the latter is dependent on the former.

NEXT : Healthy Individuation – #1


2 thoughts on “S & I : Separation

  1. Thanks for all this hard work. I noticed that the link to DPD says DPD is “likely due to biological and genetic factors, social factors (such as how a person interacts in their early development with their family and friends and other children), and psychological factors (the individual’s personality and temperament, shaped by their environment and learned coping skills to deal with stress). This suggests that no single factor is responsible — rather, it is the complex and likely intertwined nature of all three factors that are important.”
    I believe ACOA issues in general are nature and nurture (both) and not all our parents’ behaviors or lack thereof that is at the root of our issues.
    I am curious as to what you believe about this. Thank you, Susan


    • Hi Susan, Thanks for your question.
      If you read on – thru many other posts – you’ll see I constantly refer to that combination of nature & nurture.
      However, ACoAs obsessively insist ALL our problems are nature – that WE are the only cause of all our defects.
      This is the Self-hate we are steeped in, as a way of protecting ourselves from admitting how our family (& others) abused us.


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