Over the last few writings, I have been talking about the developmental tasks we all accomplish as we grow from infants into adults. (You may read them here) These four components of development – Attachment, Boundaries, Integration, Mutuality – essentially support us throughout life just like the trunk of a tree holds up the branches, produces fruit and keeps it from tipping over when storms come. If we are underdeveloped in any of these four areas, it will show up. We will have limited resilience, relational challenges, and not flourish as we desire. Let’s explore these developmental tasks and their significance in our lives.
To illustrate, I will explain each in the context of my own story.
The Attachment component is developed through healthy bonding with one’s mother as an infant. Being safe, seen, soothed and secure was limited by my own mother’s depression and being an adult child of an alcoholic who had not worked through any of her trauma. Due to her own lack of capacity, the connection needed between us for healthy development was strained through significant neglect and observing abuse in the home. These attachment wounds limited my capacity to connect in adult relationships and brought deficiencies into my own parenting.
The Boundaries aspect was also impacted by the chaos of abuse and neglect. As I grew older, I had to navigate the process of establishing my own identity, separate from the dysfunction around me. It has been a challenging and long journey of learning to define who I am and who I am not and make choices that were my own. I lived in a world where I was not ok if those around me were not ok. I had weak boundaries.
The Integration component of the trunk was particularly significant for me. Growing up in an environment swirling with depression, chaos, narcissism and abuse, it was easy to lose touch with what was real and true. The distorted narratives and negative self-perceptions floating around me became ingrained in my mind, shaping my reality and influencing how I saw myself and the world. The hard things of life consistently toppled me over. I brought this deficit into all my relationships, especially into my marriage and parenting.
Lastly, not living from a place of Mutuality played a crucial role in my journey. Having been neglected and overlooked as a child led to doubts about my own abilities and worth so I approached the world and people in a one-down or small position. My purpose was defined by others rather than by listening to my own heart. I didn’t trust my gut. Others mattered and I did not. I wouldn’t have said these actual words, but that is how I lived and made decisions. It is how I made sense of my self and my place in the world.
When I reflect on my own life, I can see how each aspect of these developmental tasks played a role in my limited capacities as an adult. I was affected by the lack of appropriate development in each of these 4 areas, to varying degrees. My life was deficient of the good things that Attachment, Boundaries, Integration and Mutuality would allow me to be and do.
However, through the expertise of coaches, participating in coaching groups where I could process my story, and the support of individuals who loved me well, I began to develop these 4 components that were extremely deficient. I began to discover my own strengths and capabilities. I learned that I could heal, be resilient, resourceful, and capable of creating a life for myself.
Through my own healing journey and the transformational work I’ve engaged in, I’ve come to understand how these components have played a significant role in reshaping my internalized stories and nurturing my personal, relational and professional growth. These will help you in your growth process, too.
Your story and challenges may have been similar or very different from my own. You may have even grown up in a wonderful supportive home where you developed in healthy ways. No matter what kind of a home we grew up in, healthy or not, we all leave our childhoods behind incomplete. And simply navigating this life’s journey has a way of taxing these parts of our lives as well.
These 4 areas, Attachment, Boundaries, Integration and Mutuality can be developed and nourished and strengthened throughout the distance of our lives. No matter how we grew up or the challenges we are facing that are taxing us, this is the way we navigate our growth journey.
I encourage you to reflect on your own story. How have any deficiencies in the areas of Attachment, Boundaries, Integration, or Mutuality impacted you? Could it be that one of these 4 components needs some attention in your life?
Remember, personal growth is a continuous process, and we are all on different paths. By understanding and nurturing these four areas, we can cultivate a solid foundation that allows us to flourish and weather the storms of life.