“It seems that we are all, to some extent, still struggling to achieve an individual identity, and to love others without loss of ourselves. By individual identity I mean the ability to perceive the world directly with our own senses, to understand our experience with our mind, to feel that we inhabit our own body, to be able to surrender to the spontaneity of our own creativity and sexual passion, and to know that to a great extent, we can create the life circumstances of our own choice. In the therapeutic setting, we have come to recognize that the path toward this separate identity is fraught with taboos and obstacles of many kinds. It is a state of advanced psychological health and maturity. I can safely say that by age three, almost all of us have experienced some wound that will impede our progress toward this goal even as adults.
From birth, we are trying to become fully ourselves in the context of our love for our parents. If childhood development were solely a matter of separation, there would not be nearly the degree of conflict and pain, and binding of pain in our body, as there is in this delicate balancing act between our deepening self-awareness, and our intensifying love for our parents. It is almost always for love that we give up (bind) those parts of our self that do not meet our parents’ acceptance. And it is almost always for the sake of autonomy that we close ourselves off from our parents’ love, by closing our own heart, when that love does not include the recognition and sanction of our separate identity.
For the adult, individuation is a progression from a state of being merged with other people to a state of increasing independence and capacity to love. The merged state is a dependence upon the responses of others in order to feel good, safe, strong, and complete. There is an inability to use one’s own senses and understanding, or to perceive and think for oneself. There is a sense of never being truly alone with oneself, and not being able to experience one’s own sensations, feelings and thoughts clearly. … in situations of uncertainty, infants will look toward the mother to read her face for its affective content, essentially to see what they should feel, to get a second appraisal to help resolve their uncertainty. This looking toward others to see what one should feel or think remains in the adult who has not yet discovered his or her separate identity.
Some people defend against this incomplete, dependent feeling by withdrawing from contact with other people. They are afraid of being overwhelmed, or feeling consumed by others, because they have so little felt sense of their own existence. Others become ‘addicted’ to love, searching desperately for anyone who will merge with them and help them feel alive.”
Judith Blackstone. “The Enlightenment Process. A Guide to Embodied Spiritual Awakening.” Paragon House, 2008.
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