Gaining Independence

In case you missed it, my last post was asking the question: What is Healthy? Today we are covering Independence. 

Coaching clients of all ages, I notice a theme of desired independence among most people. I routinely see clients who are trying to feel free and independent while also living within the guidelines of our cultural system.

Starting at an early age, children gain independence from their parents when they learn how to walk. Suddenly, they no longer need to be carried from place to place, but can use their own legs to explore another room in the house. Then, when kids begin school, their brains start soaking in tons of new ideas and information, forming thoughts that might be different from what their parents say. When people get their drivers’ licenses, they suddenly have newfound freedom to travel far and manage their own time and navigate the city roads.

These rites of passages remind us that independence is valuable and not to be taken for granted. If you’ve ever lost independence in any capacity, you understand how special it is. Beyond independence or freedom, however, is the idea that we are all trying to individuate or distinguish ourselves from others.

Individuation is the process by which an individual becomes distinct. Individuation distinguishes you from everybody else. The word individual is a good clue to the meaning of individuation, which is how a being becomes an independent, separate entity. -from Carl Jung

The process of individuation is often rife with struggle or the feeling of trying to get yourself out of a straitjacket. You might feel tied and tethered to an old belief system, but you desire freedom.The confines of family, culture, societal customs, religion, or neighborhood can have a strong grip on us. We often make a choice to succumb to the mores, or spread our wings and leave the nest. The individuation process is often a lifetime in the making; we go through all the steps I mentioned only to be challenged again in how we choose to live or what decisions best suit us.

In my coaching practice, my college-aged clients are individuating from their parents. They might be outgrowing some of the rules their parents placed in the home, and they have to navigate through a new way of living. It’s common for college-aged students to wonder what to do after college (or even what to major in). Their parents might have a view that is different from what the kid wants.

Differentiation, or individuation, can be a big challenge in a person’s growth. My clients and I talk about these questions as they’re starting to individuate:

  • Do you notice yourself being a different person at work, with family, or with certain sets of friends?
  • Do you feel like you have to hide?
  • Do you have to do the same old thing in order to please others or feel accepted?
  • How do you know who you are?
  • Can you show your true essence to the world?
  • Do you have to hide yourself and your thoughts and feelings?

These questions might circle around our brains now, but as we individuate and gain a clearer sense for who we are, we have a clearer understanding of our true selves. And just as we learn how to walk, we become the adult versions of ourselves.

If you have questions, please visit my website at Coaching By Nina Rubin.

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Twitter: @ninarubin1

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Photography and graphics by Z Penguin Designs.

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