Individual and Social

We are born alone and we will die alone. On a genetic level we are individuals ultimately designed to survive and live separately from other individuals. We are also genetically designed to live and survive by being socially connected with others. From birth we start learning about the boundaries of how to get our individual needs met through our social relationships. We also start learning about the boundaries of our ability of being able to help others get their needs met. It is our challenge and responsibility to find a balance between how we are able to help ourselves, and how we can help others achieve their needs to survive.
Learning about our boundaries and how we respond to our social relationships is a life long process. This is done through interacting in our social relationships which exposes our boundaries. By being exposed to our boundaries we begin to understand that we have a chance to develop areas of ourselves that will help us be successful in life. We also start understanding that we have a limited ability to extend ourselves beyond our boundaries. To learn about our boundaries we need to challenge ourselves both mentally and physically. We will then understand that we have the ability to manage how we respond to our boundaries. This is in addition to understanding how our social relationships support or inhibit our ability to defend our boundaries.
Interacting with our parents and other family members is our first exposure to learning about our boundaries. We also start learning how to help our parents and other family members to be successful in their lives. Once this process of learning begins, we can apply what we have learned to other social relationships outside our family. These relationships include our friends and the people that we interact with in local schools, city, county, state, and country where we live. By being exposed to these different social relationships, we have the chance to continually learn about our boundaries, and defend those boundaries that will help us to survive. This is done at the same time we are learning about how we can help others survive.
Because we are both individuals and social beings we do have the ability to emphasize who we are as individuals, or what our social relations desire us to be. When we emphasize our social relations we are trying to abide by rules set by another that goes beyond our boundaries. When this happens we are forcing ourselves beyond our own boundaries to try to help them achieve their survival. In either case, if we are trying to stay in this relationship we are forcing ourselves beyond our ability to survive as an individual.
Since we do have the ability to push ourselves beyond our boundaries and cannot change who we are genetically, it is our responsibility to understand how much we are pushing ourselves in order to help others achieve their survival. The more we push ourselves beyond our boundaries the more we are sacrificing our own individual survival. When this happens we are vulnerable to experiencing mental stress.
As individuals we have the ability to choose who we have relationships with that will help ourselves be successful in life. The more that we know and take responsibility for our boundaries, the more we can identify other individuals that are similar. No one is exactly like us, everyone is unique. We will never be able to get 100% of our individual needs met through our social relationships. It is up to us to learn and continue to learn who we are as individuals so that we can survive in our social relationships. In being responsible, we will understand what is most important to us to defend. It is equally important for us to compromise and negotiate on issues that are less of a priority for us to take a stand on. We are defending what is important to us and at the same time acknowledging others that we want to be in relations with, without trying to change their individuality. We have the ability to prioritize what we have learned about our boundaries and we have the ability to negotiate and compromise with others that have similar boundaries. It is impossible to change another individual. All we can do is learn about how different other individuals are from us. When two individuals enter into a relationship it is their responsibility to:


  • Take responsibility for what they have learned as to who they are as individuals, and how they influence others.
  • Acknowledge that individuals are separate from ourselves.

A relationship is an agreement between two individuals that want to be connected on an intimate level. The level of intimacy is up to the two individuals. This is the reason that it is important for both individuals to know and take responsibility for what they have learned about themselves.
When individuals are to far apart in being able to compromise and negotiate in their relationship, both individuals need to take responsibility for understanding their own boundaries. The two individuals need to understand that their relationship with each other needs to end, or be limited to the extent that both individuals are getting their needs met. This also means acknowledging that there are some qualities that each of them value in each other.
 We only live for a finite period of time. It is important for us to realize that there are individuals that we can compromise and negotiate with, and with others to a limited extent. Then there are those with which we will not be able to have a relationship. It is important to not to judge them because they have a right to be who they are. It is important for us continue to learn and take responsibility for who we are as individuals. The more we learn about ourselves the more we will know what areas we are willing to negotiate and compromise in when we are in a relationship.


© 2012 Therapeutic Process

David LaBonte, M.A.
Marriage Family Therapist
4540 Campus Drive
Suite 122
Newport Beach , CA 92660
Phone: (949) 400-2032