Take Power Away from Unsafe Family Members

May 22, 2020

Becoming an adult is a process of taking on more and more power and responsibility as we become old enough to handle them. Adults identify with the adult role enough to be able to do grown-up things without conflict, including developing a career, engaging in sexuality, establishing mutual friendships, treating other adults as peers, and having opinions. Adults establish a sense of competence over their lives.

This process of starting as little people and becoming equal with big people begins with bonding, having boundaries and separateness, and resolving good and bad, but ultimately has to do with coming out from under the one-down relationship that a child has to parents and other adults and coming into equal standing as an adult on his or her own. This is the final step of development so that one can exercise their gifts and responsibilities. It is a big leap into adulthood, but we are supposed to become equal with other adults.

Adults make decisions, have opinions, establish values not subject to approval or disapproval from parents or parental figures, and incur legal consequences for their actions. Along with adulthood comes enormous freedom and responsibility, but the main theme is this: adults don't need "permission" from some other person to think, feel, or act. And adults are accountable for the consequences of the things they think, feel and do.

My friend Sara is a good example of someone who has not become an adult. She does not have the internal "permission" from herself, as the manager of her life, to do and think as she she's fit; she invariably needs approval and permission from some parental figure in her life. She will be burdened by enormous and unending anxiety until she is able to come out from under the pharisaical domination of others.

Becoming an adult is a process of gaining authority over our lives. You can probably think of people who have "taken charge" of their lives, who function as adults. They know what they believe, think through things for themselves, make decisions, do not depend on the approval of others for survival, and have an area or areas of real expertise. One gets a sense from being around these people that they are authoritative. They have become adults.

You probably also know people who seem wishy-washy, who look for other people to tell them what to think and believe, blindly following whatever the last "authority figure" has said. They are easily swayed by the thoughts and opinions of others. Others can make them change direction with a word. Others have too strong an influence over their identity, leaving them with strong feelings of guilt and anxiety. They have not become adults.

Let's continue the conversation about this here. I want to help you.