Psychological counselling to enrich your life
qualified psychologists ● family therapists ● trauma therapists ● hypnotherapists
By Manuela Barichello
"Understanding your teenager’s “sudden” search for identity and independence without butting heads… you can survive this and even enjoy the process!"
How does identity form…and how do we know who we are?
The period between leaving childhood and entering adolescence is an interesting time fraught with many hurdles, successes and challenges. It is also a time when a person’s identity is forming and there is a recognisable mental, emotional, social, and physical growth. In this mix is the desire to express individuality. According to Jungian psychology, this is individuation, and relates to the individual’s personality formation taking greater form and differentiating from others. Specifically, it is related to the ‘separating’ or individuating from one’s parents, and during adolescence it takes on a particular importance. Ideally, it is a time when the family should allow their adolescent room to grow and explore aspects of identity, personality, and self – but within reason. This may become quite confronting for the unsuspecting parents as they encounter this newly found seemingly defiant “independence” in their once compliant child, who now is clearly determined to show they have a mind of their own. As evidence suggests, it is considered in the best interests of the adolescent to assist them towards individuation so that they can achieve optimal and physical and mental health. Given the opportunity to advance towards individuation will generally ensure a happier, mature, responsible, and well-adjusted individual.
What happens when parents accidently override the individuating adolescent?
Parenting can be a tricky business at the best of times and it can really try the patience of the most well-meaning parent, leaving them exasperated and questioning their parenting abilities. This is especially so when confronted with an aloof or unresponsive teenager who gives either minimal responses such “hmmm, yep or nah” or angry “no leave me alone!” before retreating to their room or slamming the door. In this situation it is best not to make demands that they communicate with you then and there, but rather allow them space to cool off and to try again later when they have calmed down.
Problems occur when parents are insensitive towards their children’s feelings and do not respect or accept their choices, or identities. This can have the effect of negatively impacting on the individuation process. Furthermore, if children learn suppression through not being allowed to experience difficult emotions like sadness, worry, or anger, they may find it difficult to learn to know or trust their own feelings, or fail to adequately develop a sense of trust in their own judgement.
What happens in young adulthood?
Individuation away from parents continues throughout adolescence as they transition into young adulthood. They may choose their own education pathway, peer groups, hobbies, careers, and travel destinations and may make some, or even many life choices that may seem at odds with the choices their parents may want for them. Those who have successfully individuated will likely be able to make these choices with little anxiety. However, the process of individuation may be challenging to some, especially the anxious child who has had difficulty individuating and becoming more adult like. For them, making choices that depart from family ideals and values may prove especially difficult. The inability to individuate, or the suppression or denial of the true self, can both cause distress and negatively impact the development of a defined sense of identity.
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