Autonomy and Intimacy
To fulfill our greatest potential requires us to differentiate so that we can experience autonomy from others and intimacy with others. One key step to accomplish this is that we must individuate.
The individuation process most commonly occurs when an adult child individuates from their parents, but it also occurs between romantic partners—and sometimes between friends. Each situation has its own complexity because we need to untie the emotional knots that bind us to these significant people in our lives.
The more thoroughly we individuate, the more we become our own person. This means we no longer live on autopilot; we no longer live our lives as prescribed by other people. We determine our values and live according to them. We may choose to adopt some of the values or principles of someone we respect, but the key is that we choose these values or principles for ourselves.
More responsibility, more freedom
As we individuate we take greater responsibility for our choices, our behaviors, our beliefs and the emotional footprints we create and leave behind. Paradoxically, the more responsibility we take, the more freedom we have—the freedom to be ourselves. As we take more responsibility for ourselves, we untie our familial knots. It is those knots that keep us bound up as victims of our past.
We can untie the emotional knots by taking ourselves through the individuation process. And it is a process. It takes time. There are specific steps we can take to individuate, some occur as early as our teen years, most occur in our twenties and thirties, and some still need to be taken in our forties, fifties, sixties and beyond. It is seldom, if ever, too late to individuate—although the sooner we start the easier our journey tends to be.
There are two sides of the individuating equation; there is the role of the adult child who is trying to grow into a mature adult and there is the role of the parent who must learn to witness the evolution of their adult child into an independent person.
The Three Stages of The Individuation Process
There are three stages in the process of individuating: declaring, separating, and reconnecting. In addition to reading about those stages by clicking each link, you can download the article: Individuating From Our Parents and Partners, by selecting it from the list below: