It’s day 5 of our winter retreat and today we explored the stages of human development from approximately age twenty until the time when we become elders. One of the most significant things that happens during these stages is that we individuate from our parents—this is a time of letting go, learning to stand on our own, defining our own values, and beginning to see our parents as people who are more than just our parents.
If we successfully individuate, we open ourselves to a new level of maturity—emotional maturity.
But, because none of us fully individuate from our parents before we enter into our first romantic relationship, we will use that relationship to complete our process of individuating. To successfully do this we must choose partners who are committed to individuate, and well along the way to doing so.
If they are not, as in the following examples, we greatly complicate ourselves by entering into these relationships:
A young boy is raised in an abusive environment. As a result he ends up having questions about his self-worth and his self esteem suffers. He assumes his parents are critical of him. One of the ways he learns to defend himself is to bully others and when he does so he feels badly about himself. He never resolves this within himself. Later in life he marries. His wife thinks he is a good man, but any time she makes suggestions to him about how he might conduct himself, he is certain that she is being critical of him and negatively judging him. These episodes result in fights and disharmony where he acts like a bully. Whenever he treats his wife poorly he validates his negative perception of himself.
A young girl is emotionally abandoned by her biological father. She never resolves this with her father, or within herself. As an adult she enters into relationships with men who can never satisfy her need for emotional connection. She is psychologically aware of her pattern and she believes the solution is finding a man who is willing to help her heal herself. Such a man would make himself highly available to connect, to process, to witness her insecurity, and to provide reassurance. No man can live up to her expectations or needs. She continues to disappoint herself and validate her feelings of abandonment.
In such situations—when people have not sufficiently individuated—it’s almost impossible to create healthy romantic partnerships. No amount of processing or communication skills is likely to solve these problems.
Think about it. Would a mature, healthy woman want to be with a man who holds such a negative opinion of himself? Would a mature, healthy woman take on the task of trying to convince him that he’s okay? Not likely.
Similarly, would a mature, healthy man choose to be with a woman that requires him to continuously reassure her of his love? Would a mature, healthy man want to feel that no matter how well he loves, it isn’t quite enough? Not likely.
My point is that when we don’t do our personal work—individuate—we aren’t likely to attract healthy partners. This radically decreases our chances for completing our individuation process.
In the Live Conscious orientation, we place great emphasis on each individual’s responsibility to individuate to the point where they can recognize what is theirs and theirs alone to resolve and what are appropriate requests to make of their partners.
The Live Conscious Stages of Development model is a way to look at our development in our personal narratives and find the holes or gaps in our development toward maturity. When we introduce these stages in our labs, many participants begin to recognize the work they need to do—not ask their partners to do—so that they can have the kind of healthy romantic partnerships they are seeking.
As the participants continue writing their personal narratives, they will develop a deeper understanding of their own issues and areas in which they need to mature.