This blog post explores how to individuate. In an earlier blog post I wrote more broadly about the Individuation Process. I wrote about the need to individuate if we ever want to become our own person and live a life of our own choosing. I wrote about how individuating can begin in our teens and twenties, but often is still occurring in our fifties and sixties. I explained that it is never too late to individuate, but the sooner we start, the easier our journey tends to be. I did not say, but it consistently seems to be true, that it’s more effective to go through the process of individuating when our parents are still alive. Individuating after they are deceased is possible, but more challenging.
Learning How to Individuate
If you want to learn how to individuate, it helps to break this down into the three stages of individuation, which are: declaring, separating, and reconnecting. The first stage is when we declare that we are separate from our parents—or whomever it is we are individuating from. Our first declaration—think of this as our declaration of independence—is to ourselves. Later, we share our declaration with the people we are individuating from.
The declaration stage can be thought of as severing the cord—the emotional umbilical cord. Typically, this stage involves repeated conversations. At first our declaration may be met with confusion, skepticism, ignorance, or denial. But here’s the key thing to remember—what matters is not the response you get but how you conduct yourself regardless of the response.
If you work really hard to help the other person overcome their confusion . . . you are just finding another way to stay entwined. If you work really hard to overcome the other person’s skepticism . . . you are trying to prove your point by gaining the other person’s approval. If you work really hard to overcome the other person’s ignorance . . . you are trying to educate the other person so you both share the same worldview, instead of accepting they may be different. If you work really hard to overcome the other person’s denial of your need to individuate . . . you are engaging in a power struggle to determine who has the ultimate authority. All of these represent a continuation of your dependence on the other person.
The Key To Individuating
The key thing to remember when you declare your intent to individuate is to conduct yourself as an adult, regardless of the other person’s response. Their response is not your responsibility. This does not mean that you shouldn’t be considerate, even compassionate as you communicate; it simply means that you model meticulous boundaries about what part of this process is your responsibility and what part is theirs.
The actual content—the words you use—to declare your intent to individuate can be relatively simple. It may sound something like this. “I want to tell you a little bit about some changes I’m making in my life. They’re positive changes, but that doesn’t mean that they’re easy changes for me to make. I’m trying to take more responsibility for myself. I want to be more independent. I’ve been dependent on you for various things, and I need to step away from you, step away from my dependence on you, and step more fully into myself. Like I said, I think of this as very positive, it’s a healthy change for me. It’s not a reflection of you; it’s a statement about me and where I’m at in my life. So, for some period of time I’m going to have less involvement with you. I’m not sure there’s really more to say at this point in time.”
Depending on your relationship with the person, you may choose to express your love and appreciation. But, there is no need to do this unless the expression is genuine.
This is the first step in how to individuate—declaring—and you can learn about the second step by clicking here.
Or, you can download the article: Individuating From Our Parents and Partners, by selecting it from the list below: