This post was updated on Mar 15, 2023
Adolescence is a tumultuous period, one where a teenager moves through the process of developing a stable personality and identity for themselves. This process is known as individuation. As one individuates, they get a clearer sense of self, distinct from their parents and other people.
The term “individuation” was extensively used in the personality development work written by Carl Jung. Jung saw individuation as a self-realization process, one that begins in adolescence and continues throughout adult life. Individuation allows people to integrate the aspects of their true selves with the new experiences and learning they gain in life.
Individuation can be a difficult time in any person’s life. If you are struggling to get back in touch with your true self or make peace with your teenage self, you may keep repeating relationship patterns that no longer serve you or experience emotional intimacy issues.
Learning more about individuation may help. Keep on reading.
At What Age Does Individuation Occur?
Individuation most commonly occurs in early adolescence, when a child begins separating their sense of self from that of their parents. However, individuation can also continue into adulthood, as well as happen between friends and romantic partners.
Adolescents, in particular, are often very well aware of the changes happening during individuation. They feel the changes happening in their home environment, relationships and in their own bodies. Unfortunately, if their home environment is unsafe or chaotic during this period of change, their perceptions about themselves and others will be compromised.
Whenever it happens, individuation is a complex process, as it involves untying the strong emotional knots that bind you to the people and experiences close to you. The more thoroughly you individuate, the more you will become your own person and live according to your own values.
How Does The Concept Of Individuation Relate To Self Love?
Jung saw individuation as the process of self-realization, when one begins to discover their own meaning and integrates their personality into a healthy whole. In essence, individuation helps you make peace with the parts of yourself you’ve neglected or ignored.
However, not everyone goes through adolescence the same and not everyone manages to individuate in a healthy manner. If your home environment wasn’t safe or you didn’t have a healthy relationship with your parents or caregivers, it is likely that you had a much more difficult time during the individuation process.
Many adolescents strengthen the potentially damaging survival patterns they learned in childhood or begin attaching to others in new unhealthy ways to avoid the pain they previously experienced. This can make self-love and self-realization much more challenging, as your unindividuated inner teen may fight hard to be seen and heard or retreat in pain and shame. They may adopt a variety of survival patterns to protect themselves, fight, or hide from the pain and hurt they suffered in their adolescence. Secretive behavior, substance use, acting out sexually, lying, etc.
What Are The Three Stages Of The Individuation Journey?
Individuation can be seen as consisting of three distinct stages: declaration, separation, and reconnection. If you believe that you haven’t individuated in a healthy manner in your adulthood, don’t worry. You can go through these stages at any point in your life and work on achieving independence and learning how to respect and value your own self.
During the first stage of individuation, you declare your independence from your parents, caregivers, or anyone else you are individuating from. However, the first step is declaring this separation to yourself and later to others. You can look at the declaration stage as severing the emotional cord with the individual you are individuating from.
Feelings and experiences of denial, skepticism, and confusion are common in this stage. This comes as a result of recognizing the attachment or early life wounds that have impacted your relationships and sense of self.
It is important to note that declaring your independence from these wounds does not mean disregarding or ignoring them. Instead, it means beginning to acknowledge and accept them, and working to integrate them into a healthy sense of self.
The second stage involves detaching or disconnecting from the person or experiences you are trying to individuate from. This may mean creating clearer and healthier boundaries and taking responsibility for your own well-being. For example, you may identify the ways in which you were entwined with or dependent on the people in your life. You may have depended on others to soothe you, motivate you, or provide you with a sense of worth.
The purpose of the separation state is to help you pivot from confusion to clarity. It enables you to learn how to self-regulate and soothe yourself, strengthen your own values, and take responsibility for your own actions. During this stage you may also discover your unfulfilled needs and realize which ones you are able to satisfy.
The final stage of individuation involves reconnecting with the experience or person you are individuating from while maintaining a strong sense of self. Keep in mind that reconnection may not be possible and you may need to sever some ties for good, if they no longer serve you. This is where the relational circle boundaries with PIVOT can be helpful to discern the best course of action.
While attempting to reconnect, you may have to make new agreements and recognize the other person for who they truly are. With a clearer sense of self, you will be able to connect with others in a stable manner, without the risk of losing yourself in the relationship.
Additionally, the reconnection stage may also involve organizing your personal relationships and setting relational circle boundaries. This will help you determine appropriate levels of intimacy in your relationships and maintain healthy connections while enhancing your sense of self-worth.
Embark On The Individuation Journey At A Relationship Coaching Retreat For Individuals
Individuation can be a lifelong process and you may have to continue to adapt and develop your sense of self as you have new experiences. Luckily, PIVOT is here to help you gain a new perspective and pivot from confusion and dependence to clarity and self-worth. Whether you choose our one-on-one coaching sessions or attend one of our relationship-enhancing retreats and workshops, depend on us to provide you with valuable tools and resources for facilitating positive and meaningful behavioral change. Contact us today and start your journey to becoming a healthy adult.