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What Happens When Someone Does Not Individuate?

written by Oliver JR Cooper March 30, 2021
What Happens When Someone Does Not Individuate

RD&T’s contributing writer, Oliver JR Cooper, shares what can happen in one’s life when they are enmeshed with those around them and have not individuated themselves from others. 

Undoubtedly, if someone has the ability to avoid being caught up in any negativity around them, their life will be far better than it would be otherwise. They will feel centered and be the ‘calm in the storm’, so to speak.

This allows them to stay focused on what matters and to do the things that will bring them happiness and fulfillment. Still, this doesn’t mean that they will never be affected by what is going on externally; they are human, after all.

It also doesn’t mean that they lack empathy or the ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes. Although they are able to have empathy, they typically won’t let what is going on for another to take them out.

If a friend or a loved one was not in a good way, it will probably be a lot harder for them to stay centred. However, they might realise that feeling bad is not going to serve the other person and that it will be better for them to be at their best.


If this person were endlessly affected by what goes on around them, they would be like a leaf in the window: They would continually be tossed around and it wouldn’t be possible for them to assert who they are.

Thankfully, this is not the case in this example, which is why they will be able to not only listen to themselves but to also express themselves. Thus, they act as an individual.

As a result of this, they may have a career or a vocation that brings them a lot of meaning and fulfillment. If they were to look back on their life, they may see that their ability to stay in their own world has greatly benefited them.

There will probably be moments where they do get caught up in another person’s reality, or even what is going in their society, but this likely does not take place very often. And when this does happen, they soon come to their senses and get back on their path.

Relationships and Individuation

When it comes to their relationships, they may see that they generally show up around the people in their life. The people in their life are then going to know who that person truly is, as opposed to who they become when they are around them.

This doesn’t mean that they won’t adapt to the different people that they are with and will be like a statue. No, what it means is that they will be able to maintain who they are and this will allow them to express their true-self.

If they are in a relationship, then they are not going to have merged with this person and for their emotional state to more or less always reflect the other person’s emotional state. So, if their partner is angry or sad, for instance, they won’t suddenly become angry or sad.

Or, if their partner is not around, they won’t feel alone and disconnected. They are going to have a strong core – a strong sense of themselves – and not only look like a whole human being; they will also feel like one.

Another Experience: Lacking Individuation

If, on the other hand, someone can’t relate to this, their life is likely to be radically different. What can be normal is for them to be caught up in what is going on around them and to lose themselves in the process.

One is then going to be an individual who acts as though they are merely an extension of others. In general, they might not know what feelings belong to them and what feelings belong to others.

Weighed Down

Through being so affected by what is going on around them and the world as a whole, it will be a challenge for them to express themselves. Most, if not all, of the people in their life, might rarely see their true-self.

With this in mind, if someone in their life is angry, they could end up feeling angry; if someone feels bad, they could also feel bad; if someone pulls away from them, they could feel alone and empty; if someone is acting dangerously, they will unsafe and insecure; and if someone doesn’t respond to them, they could feel invisible and powerless. It will be clear that they don’t have a strong core; their self of self will be in an undeveloped state.


Their boundaries are not going to be good, hence why they are continually caught up in and absorb what is going on around them. One way to describe them would be to say that they lack ‘energetic boundaries’, with this being the reason why it is as if they are ‘naked’.

The boundaries that the average person takes for granted won’t be in place and this is why they will lack the protection that they need. Not having these boundaries in place can also mean that they will be more likely to be affected by germs, sounds, and smells that are in their environment.

What’s going on?

If one is in this state, it is likely to show that they didn’t receive the nurturance that they needed as a child to start the individuation process (this can be seen as a lifelong process) and to develop energetic boundaries. One is then going to look like an adult, but emotionally, they will still be in an undeveloped state and be connected to their mother (in a symbiotic state).

By still being connected to their first caregiver, deep down, they won’t know that they are separate from others. As they still see themselves as an extension of their mother, they will see themselves as an extension of everyone and everything else.

Developmentally Stunted

Their sense of self will have stayed in an undeveloped state, and they will see life in the same way that a small child does. A child has no centre and, due to this, it needs its mother to be able to feel whole and complete. The mother then defines how the child feels, whether or not it feels connected, and if it feels powerful, amongst other things. One will have stayed at this level of development and time alone won’t allow them to grow out of this state.


The person who plays a big role in allowing someone to emotionally separate from their mother is their father, so this may mean that one’s father was emotionally unavailable or physically absent during this time in their life. This is said to be something that starts to take place around three years of age.

If one can relate to this, and they are ready to change their life, they may need to reach out for external support. This is something that can take place with the assistance of a therapist or healer.

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