Individuation and why I talk about it so much.

The following is a video about the concept of triangles.  Triangles, the video explains, are formed when there is tension between two parties in a relationship, whether that be husband and wife, parent and child, or coworkers.  The two people in the triangle try to ease the tension by focusing on a third party.  In more toxic examples, a husband and wife have tension, and one or both of them have affairs, imbibe alcohol or drugs, etc.  In more common examples, one of them could spend too much time on the Internet.  You hopefully get the idea.

What is individuation?  Individuation is the way out.  When you find yourself obsessing about what your partner is doing, you become lost in someone else’s head, and you in a sense become undifferentiated from your partner and his/her issues.  I usually can see this happening when I ask a client how she is doing, and she responds, “the family is OK, my husband is spending too much time at work, and my boss is not fair to her employees.”  You notice, she didn’t say anything about herself.  At all.

An individuated person is one who owns his/her part of the triangle and makes choices from that perspective.  For example, an individuated person would say the things above, but also acknowledge how she herself feels, as well as what she likes and does not like about how she herself is handling the situation.  An individuated person is someone who has a decent sense of who they are and are not always buffeted by the winds of fortune which affect other people in her life.  This person is able to differentiate herself from others and be able to know where she stands.

One of the goals in family and couples therapy is to help members of the couple or family work on this very goal.  Therefore, I refer to it a bit in my work with families, couples, and sometimes individuals.

For further information, read about the man associated with many of these concepts, Murray Bowen.

About Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW, CAS-PC

Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Pastoral Counselor who maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Drexel Hill, PA.
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