The following publications are available for you to read:  


"Psychotherapy and the Struggle to Individuate"

Having trouble individuating creates a wide variety of problems. When you haven't sufficiently individuated, it is often difficult to know what you want and need. If that is the case, finding satisfaction in life is not easy. You are stuck with questions such as: "What do I want?" "Do I like X?" "Should I be feeling this?"  The case of Marla is an example of someone struggling with individuation.   

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“Setting Free our Creativity”

Fears of criticism, embarrassment, failure, and envy, to name a few, and our worries about what others think of us, can inhibit our creative impulses. This article describes a process of self discovery in which it is necessary to explore what we fear, what we want,  and what stops us from going after it.

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“Separation and Individuation among College Students”

College is a place to discover and become familiar with a greater range of how to think about yourself and how to be in the world.  For some, this process of individuation and self discovery is a struggle.  Being and becoming what and who you are and separating from parental definitions and expectations, can create intense conflict.  Some anxiety and depression can be a part of this process, but when feelings become unmanageable, it is very important to seek help.

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“The Over Importance of the Other in the Process of Individuation” 

As we develop in childhood, significant people, e.g., parents, siblings, peers, exert an influence on our developing sense of self. When the influence of these significant others becomes overly important and powerful in defining who we are and affecting what we do, the development of a separate unique self is jeopardized and problems of self confidence and self esteem may emerge.  For some, conflicts about relationship can become problematic.  There may be a repetition of the early need for the other to determine who we are and what we want. Others may deal with the conflict by avoiding close attachments as a way of protecting a separate sense of self.  

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"Psychotherapy and Parental Dilemmas in the Struggle to Allow One's Child to Individuate" 

The dilemmas and conflicts of parenthood are part of everyday life for parents. It is particularly difficult to decide how to intervene when children are struggling with painful feelings.  Determining how to respond when your child is angry at you or feeling sad can affect the way your child learns to manage their own feelings. It is especially painful for some parents to allow children to struggle with learning to soothe themselves.  Psychotherapy can be helpful as parents struggle to make the best choices as they attempt to manage their own feelings and foster the individuation and separation of their children.

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“Starting School: Maternal Anxiety and its Impact on Individuation” 

Maternal anxiety is typically present whether one’s child is about to go to preschool or college. While usually we focus on the child’s anxiety, parental separation anxiety can have a strong impact on a child’s ability to individuate. The child’s ability to learn, his self confidence and self esteem may be affected.

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“Wanting, Needing and Individuation” 

The process of Individuation allows us to develop our unique selves. This means we will become people who know our feelings, wants and needs. When we don’t know what we want and need emotionally, or are uncomfortable asking to have our human needs for recognition, appreciation, love , empathy, friendship (among others) met, we deprive ourselves  of living a fulfilling life with satisfying relationships. 

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“Adults and Children: The Positive Consequences of Tolerating Hate and Anger” 

When you are open to your child’s hate and anger and don’t respond by making your child feel that he has wounded you or done something terrible, you are communicating that you are strong and can’t be destroyed by these feelings. This provides a role model for your child as well as giving him the feeling that being angry or hateful doesn’t make him a bad person. Talking with your child about what he feels and how to express it,  helps him to develop a separate and individuated sense of self. 

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“Developing Mutual Concern between Mother and Child” 

A mutual relationship between mother and child, where each is aware and interested in the impact they are having on the other, is a positive consequence of a successful separation/individuation process.  When this process is not successful, the young adult is often conflicted about asserting her separate unique self. She may fear wounding her mother and/or losing love and approval.  Learning to develop a dialogue with a parent even when there is anxiety about the consequences, can lead to successful communication and a very satisfying parent-child relationship.

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“Children Opposing Parents:  Talking Back or Positive Assertion of Self?” 

Listening to and being curious about your child’s thoughts and feelings is a way of communicating that your child is respected and important. This is especially significant when your child’s ideas are different or in strong opposition to you own perspective. Children are helped to become self confident and develop self esteem when parents can be as interested in their “no’s” as they are in their “yeses.” 

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“Relationship Problems and Partners’ Individuation Experiences” 

If you have not successfully individuated and separated, you have not developed a unique sense of self that allows you to know and express what you want and need in your relationships. All couples bring their early family ways of interacting into their couples relationships. The ways in which each partner expresses their own and responds to the other’s needs and wishes will have a significant effect on the relationship. 

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"People Pleasing and Looking for Mr. / Ms. Right” 

The search for a partner and the ability to sustain a relationship once you have found one, is strongly affected by the need to people please.  People pleasers frequently have an impaired sense of self. They have become so focused on figuring out what the other wants and needs that they have not sufficiently developed or considered their own wants and needs.  This lack of sense of self interferes with feeling that you also should be a pleased one.  In fact, the more you develop your self and become comfortable with your wants, needs and feelings, the more attractive you become to others. Not only will you please Mr. /Ms. Right, but he/she will equally wish to please you. 

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“The Undeveloped Self and the Difficulty of Relationship” 

When individuation has been difficult and one’s unique self has not developed, it is unlikely that you can be self reflective and know what you want, need and feel. Without a real sense of self, it is often problematic to be in a relationship because it is not easy to express who you are. Your partner may not be able to relate to someone who has no separate self with their own ideas and feelings.  While there may be no conflict, this may not be sufficiently satisfying for one’s partner.

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“The Transmission of Separation Anxiety from Parent to Child” 

We often assume separation anxiety is just the child’s feeling.  But it is often the case, that when parent and child are being separated physically, parents can have intense feelings of separation anxiety.  In these circumstances, it is useful for parents to consider that although their child is upset, angry, scared, or seems to be suffering from other feelings, the child may be able to manage those feelings. Sometimes the parent is considerably more anxious than the child and may, consciously or unconsciously, be communicating these feeling to the child.  

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“The Fear of Hurting the Other and the Inhibition of Self” 

When we become intensely focused on our impact on others and shape our behaviors to be sure they never feel hurt or wounded, we are inhibiting the expression of our true selves. While we may be protecting ourselves from feeling shame, guilt and bad person feelings, we are putting ourselves at risk for anxiety and depression.  It becomes very important to work on becoming more comfortable with our impact by talking about it in our relationships.

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“Fitting In and the Development of the Self” 

Anxiety about fitting into the group can lead to ignoring your own feelings and needs to conform to what you see as the group’s expectations. Paradoxically, if you neglect the development of your self by disregarding your own needs and desires and accede to the wishes of the group by trying to make yourself into who you think they want, you will deprive yourself of becoming a fuller person who the group would wish to reach out to.

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“Individuation Issues with Elderly/Ailing Parents” 

As parents age and are seen as less powerful and able, adult children have to contend with difficult feelings about these changes.  For those who have not separated and individuated, they may hold onto their image of the parents of their childhood by living the life that the parents wanted for them. For other adult children who continue to struggle with separation and individuation, this can be a time of intense internal conflict as they attempt to develop their separate unique selves.

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“Individuation and Following in a Parent’s Footsteps” 

Adult children, who consider working in their parent’s business or being in the same profession, may get into conflicts that interfere with the parent-child relationship. It is especially difficult for the adult child to assert their own ideas when a parent is not open to disagreement and if the child has a history of pleasing the parent.  

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“Staying Your Own Person during the Holidays” 

When adult children return home to their families for the holidays, they often revert back to their childhood family dynamics.  If they have not sufficiently individuated, they are especially at risk for finding themselves behaving like their child selves. Some retreat physically and emotionally; others may overeat, drink too much or get into arguments.  While it is not easy to change this behavior, being aware of the possibility of these dynamics can be helpful in finding new behaviors. 

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"The Price Paid for Being the Perfect Child" 

Children often pay a price to be the adored perfect child. Typically, in order to be seen as perfect, i.e., fully the child your parents wish you to be, it is necessary to inhibit the development of your unique sense of self.  The need to be special in relationships can become so important that you may ignore your own needs and desires. 

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 "Pleasing Others to Escape the Bad Person Feeling" 

Very early in life, children may learn to respond to parents’ overt and subtle cues that they must be “good.” Especially when parents are hurt and take personally their children’s behaviors, the child may develop a strong need to please the parent in order to avoid feeling like a bad person.  As a result, these adult children cannot tolerate the idea that their behavior might hurt another (even when it was not intentional).  In order to avoid any negative impact, people pleasing becomes a pattern that can eventually lead to a loss of self. To overcome the bad person feeling, it is necessary to test the expectation that relationships cannot survive the disappointment, hurt or anger of the other.

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"Effects of Subtle Peer Group Bullying on Development of the Self," Parts 1 & 2

Subtle peer group bullying like calling a boy “fat” or excluding a girl from the group can have long-term consequences and result in lowered self-esteem and difficulty forming and maintaining relationships.  Powerful feelings of shame, embarrassment and humiliation can affect one’s sense of identity and create expectations of rejection. For those with a painful experience of self growing up, being able to redefine their sense of self as adults is crucial to avoid undervaluing themselves in the world and to allow for a different reality.

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"Excessive Impression Management and Interference with Identity"

When we become overly focused on being the person we think others expect us to be, we can lose touch with our own values, ideas, and dreams. More critically, we can interfere with the development of a core self.

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“Couples, Trust and Cyberspace”

In this era of emails, texts, computers, etc., couples with trust issues may act in destructive ways by invading their partner’s privacy to discover “what is really going on.” Frequently it is a misunderstanding that leads to the urgent need to know.  Couples who can communicate and listen to each other and who are willing to work on their trust issues are often able to overcome their distrust and develop relationships that work.

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“Why Parents Try to Fix Their Children’s Problems”

The desire to make things better, easier, or less painful for one’s child can interfere with the child’s ability to develop the capacity to do for themselves. If parents can tolerate their own anxiety and help their child to understand that it is okay to struggle, be uncertain and even fail, they will be helping their child to become a self confident and assertive person with a solid sense of self.

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“When Children Reject, Disrespect and Disappoint”

Children need to push back against their parents as part of the developmental process of differentiation. For some parents, opposition can feel like rejection or disrespect.  Parents need to learn how to feel less hurt and develop responses that are appropriate to each situation.

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“’Just Like Me’: When Parents See Children as Reflections of Themselves”

 A parent’s belief that their child’s positive and negative qualities and behaviors are a reflection of them can have a powerful effect which either enhances or deflates the parent’s ego. This can create an over involvement with their child that interferes with the child’s ability to experience himself as having his own thoughts and feelings.

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“The Caretaker’s Conundrum: Guilt if You Do, Guilt if You Don’t”

Many caregivers have painful conflicts about taking care of their significant others. The guilt that is experienced often makes it difficult to opt for one’s own needs or it can lead to self sacrifice and self neglect. Acknowledging that our actions are choices, though, can lead to acceptance of our behaviors and inspire self-compassion.

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“How Parents Fuel Identity Crises in Their Children”

Even the best-intentioned parents can impede their children's exploration and formation of their own identities. When adulthood arrives, these children become confused and may have obsessive thinking when their own separate ideas and thoughts differ from those of their parents.

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“It’s Scary Being a Grown Up”

Accepting one’s ability to navigate the world with authority, responsibility and self confidence can feel frightening. Learning to get comfortable with conflict and tolerate feelings like envy, anger, sadness and rejection, make it easier to give up being “the kid” and become a grownup who is in charge of one’s life.

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“Blaming Your Parents Hurts You Most”

Blaming your parents for your difficulties in adulthood won't make things any less difficult. Holding onto anger, resentment, and negativity only holds you back from advancing toward the life you desire.

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“Parent and Child: Whose Unbearable Feelings Are They?”

When parents over identify, overprotect and become over involved with their children, they interfere with the child’s ability to develop a sense of themselves, to develop self esteem and to become self reliant.

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“Parental Dilemmas about Babies’ Abilities to Self-Soothe”

If parents can gradually and slowly allow their babies to tolerate uncomfortable feelings, they will set the stage for the child’s ability to know and regulate feelings in their interactions with the world.

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“Off to College: Parental Separation Anxiety”

Because we tend to think of separation anxiety as something that children experience, we may neglect the seriousness of the parent’s separation anxiety. Many parents experience anxiety when children leave for college. Recognizing that they are not being rejected when their children individuate may help ease those emotions.

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“The Effects of Parental Involvement on Self Confidence and Self Esteem”

As a parent, finding a happy medium between under- and over- involvement is key to helping a child develop self esteem and self confidence. Children need the space to succeed and fail if they are to develop a realistic sense of who they are and what they are capable of.

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“Selfishness, Guilt and Separation: When Parents Take Precedence”

The mistaken idea that one is selfish whenever they choose their own needs over the needs of parents, creates bad person feelings and interferes with the development of one’s ability to know and choose what they need to flourish in the world.

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“Separation and Worry:  When it’s Hard to Let Go”

As children grow into young adults, they may be anxious that if they become “grown up” their parents will no longer be a source of reassurance and comfort.  This may create resistance to separation and individuation and possibly result in behaviors designed (usually unconsciously) to keep parents worried.

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“Parents and Children:  If You’re Okay, I’m Okay” 

When children feel responsible for taking care of their parents’ emotional lives, it can become a cycle through generations. A child who learns that her job is to keep her parent from experiencing intolerable feelings, may continue that pattern by making sure her children never feel sad, anxious, angry, etc. To behave otherwise would risk feeling like a bad parent. As a result, children are not prepared to manage their feelings in the world.

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“Individuation and Children of Divorce: When Daddy doesn’t Care”

When a parent leaves the family after a divorce and becomes less engaged and interested in his child, a lifetime longing for connection, recognition and admiration often emerges. Ideas about a perfect child that would be lovable to daddy can develop resulting in a life based on a fantasy of what they believe daddy wants rather than on what they want and need.

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“Why Feeling Anger and Hate is All Good”

Many children are taught that it's bad to feel anger and hate. But feeling something and acting on it are very different. To teach that these feelings are bad can result in limiting a child’s ability to have all their feelings. This can create limitations in managing feelings and relationships in adult life.

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“Coming to Terms with Parents’ Feelings of Being Dishonored”

When family values and culture prescribe that children may not deviate from their parents’ view of the parent–child relationship, it is difficult for the child to relate to the parent with their own sense of agency. If honoring the parent always takes precedence, children can feel hopelessly torn between two worlds.

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“Mom, I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Want to Be Like You”

When unconscious, negative feelings toward a parent go unrecognized into adulthood, the desire to be a person totally unlike the parent may become a strong force in determining how a person lives their life. If the wish to be unlike the parent is not conscious, the adult child is not fully in control of their choices. Frequently relationships with one's own children suffer.

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“Social Inadequacy:  Why We Feel It and How to Address It”

Feelings of social awkwardness accompanied by seeing oneself as hopelessly inadequate interfere with developing a satisfying life. Overly high expectations from narcissistic parents who see the child as a reflection of themselves in a scrutinizing world, fuel the child’s feelings of being judged by an ever present critical audience

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“When Caring for an Ailing Parent Raises Internal Conflict”

When the time comes for the child to become the caretaker, conflicted feelings—from resentment to guilt to anger—may arise.  The nature of the parent-child attachment and the degree of separations and individuation has a significant influence on how the conflict is experienced and resolved.



“The Wise Parent’s Message: Do it, Even If You’re Scared”

Some parents unwittingly project their fears and anxieties onto their children. As a result, many such children eschew risk—and possibility—in favor of safety. These children can become people who are too afraid to explore their own desires and the opportunities the world offers.

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“Parental Influence: Telling Adult Children What to Do.”

It’s best to talk and listen when parents believe that they know what’s best for their children. When children disagree, parents may not realize that they are communicating messages about the child’s abilities and competencies that suggest the child does not have what it takes to follow his/her dreams.

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“Why Hiding Who We Are Hurts Us”

Shame, hurt, and other feelings may conspire to keep our "true selves" in hiding, where it seems safer but relationships—with others and with ourselves—suffer. We risk being people who lack self knowledge and the ability to develop intimate relationships.

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“Why I Can’t Be Me: How Parents Can Stifle Individuation”

Parents who rely on their children to maintain their emotional equilibrium can project shame, anger, fear and other hurtful feelings onto their children. To prevent their own and their parents’ bad feelings, these children soon learn to stifle their wishes and needs and sense of self to become the person the parent requires them to be.

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“How Unwanted and Intolerable Feelings Fuel Indecision”

When worry about your impact on others and their feelings leads to avoidance of decision making, the ability to think independently is undermined. Bad self feelings that result stop the process of developing self knowledge and fuel the inability to make choices.

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“When Parents Project Their Appearance Issues onto Children”

Parents who had traumatizing experiences growing up when peers and family focused negatively on their appearance can put their children at risk. By projecting their anxieties they can transmit their unhealthy expectations and pass the trauma to their own children.

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“Self Sabotage: When Unexpressed Anger Undermines Success”

When Children grow up with parents’ rigid definitions of success coupled with requirements of compliance, there is little emotional room for developing and expressing one’s separate wishes and desires. If conflict is not allowed and direct pathways to express a separate self are not tolerated, the child may seek indirect means to express anger. This can lead to unconscious self sabotage so the parent can be denied the satisfaction of their child’s success.

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“Why Do I Feel Like Something is Missing in Me?”

For children to develop a sense of identity and self esteem, parents need to value, appreciate and reflect the qualities of their child’s character and behavior to their child.  Developmentally, this mirroring provides an experience of recognition of the child’s unique self.  Without this, there is often the question of ‘Who am I?’ and a sense of emptiness.

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“When Parents Struggle with Feelings about Adult Children”

Parents can be confused and uncomfortable as they try to engage with their adult children about issues of taking responsibility for their adult lives. Making demands can feel unsupportive. But by not setting limits, parents can do a disservice to their children by sending the unintended message that the child doesn’t have what it takes to be a grown up.

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“When Compliance in Childhood Haunts You in Adulthood”

A child’s eagerness to please her parents may serve the child well. But when parents respond with negative feelings toward the child’s assertion of her own needs and wishes, the need to comply can create conflict that has implications for one’s sense of self in adulthood.

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“Losing My Self in Your Feelings:  Empathy and Identification”

Fear of being empathic can interfere with relationships when it involves worry over loss of self or the experience of becoming overwhelmed by identifying with the other’s feelings.

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“I Don’t Like, Admire or Value Myself”

Early family dynamics often contribute to the inability to like, admire or value oneself. Typically, critical and devaluing communications and emotional abandonment interfere with the development of self esteem.  Without positive feelings mirrored to the child, the child is without the tools to forge a separate positive identity and takes on the family’s negative definition of who they are.

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“How Unrealistic Praise Contributes to a False Sense of Self”

When we grow up being told by our parents how “perfect” we are, it can be difficult to develop a realistic view of our strengths and weaknesses and be award off what we think and feel. Typically, the “perfect” child is compliant with the family’s definition and my unconsciously lose touch with wishes, needs and feelings that contradict the ideal of perfection. The authentic self is thus replaced by a false sense of self.

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“Like Mother, Like Daughter: Whose Anxiety is it Anyway?”

Parental anxiety can consciously or unconsciously contribute to anxious feelings in children.  As the child matures, she and her mother can create a cycle where the anxiety of each makes the other anxious. The lack of boundaries and the difficulty with clarity about who the feelings belong to keeps this intergenerational cycle going.

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Does the Role Scripted for you in Childhood Need Rewriting?”

Growing up, our families’ expectations may cast us in roles that feel rigid. These roles can linger into adulthood, stifling the development of a sense of self. With this kind of rigidity, one’s identity and ways of relating are limited.

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“Mothers and Adult Daughters: the Pushes and Pulls of Contact”

The bond between a mother and daughter endures, but when one wants more contact than the other in adulthood, there are implications for individuation and attachment.  Coming to terms with being different can facilitate separation and ultimately create a stronger, more loving attachment.

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“Does Hurting Someone Make You a Bad Person?”

Hurting and being hurt occur in all relationships. Worries about hurting and being hurt can create conflict about expressing one’s thoughts, feelings, wishes and needs. Working through these conflicts and becoming more comfortable with one’s behavior can create possibilities for greater freedom of expression and self development.

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“What Happens When Children Don’t Individuate in Adolescence?”

When separation doesn’t take place on cue and children’s development of autonomy is delayed into adulthood, parents can be bewildered when their relationships with adult children become fraught with conflict and struggle. Creating space in the relationship for the adult child to pull and push away, allows for the possibility of eventual positive attachment.

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“How Early Childhood Terror Stifles Self-Development”

Parents can create an environment for children that results in lives lived with intense fears of the world,   self blame and total vigilance. Frequently, developing the ability to recognize the traumatizing role of significant others can lead to self esteem and greater freedom to live life without such intense feelings of terror.

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“Making Excuses for Parents to Avoid ‘Bad Person’ Feelings”

Having negative reactions about a parent’s behavior, may make a child feel like a ‘bad person.’ To get rid of the discomfort that comes with this feeling, the child learns to see and conceptualize the parent’s behavior as understandable and acceptable. The denial of the authentic experience of the self leads not only to self blame, but interferes with the ability to have contact with one’s internal life.

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