Autopoiesis and Autonomy

That autonomy is a biological function may sound astonishing and novel in the ears of psychologists, but systems research has clearly brought to daylight that autonomy is built into the very structure of living systems. It’s thus not just an add-on to a modern education that prevents parent-child emotional entanglement, which was one of the flaws of authoritarian education with its unhealthy codependence between caretaker and child.

In order to explain the why and how, I need first elucidate what autopoiesis is. Fritjof Capra, in his book The Web of Life (1976) calls it ‘the pattern of life.’ According to system researchers Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, the key characteristic of a living network is that it continually produces itself.

Autopoiesis, or ‘self-making,’ is a network pattern in which the function of each component is to participate in the production or transformation of other components in the network. In this way the network continually makes itself. It is produced by its components and in turn produces those components.
—Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life (1996), 162

Continue reading

Parent-Child Codependence

What is Parent-Child Codependence?

Parent-Child codependence frequently if not typically occurs within the modern nuclear family. I use the following terms synonymously with codependence: co-fusion, secondary fusion, pseudo-fusion and symbiotoholism.

The major part of the literature deals with codependence in the partner relation, while my own research focuses on parent-child codependence and the resulting lack of autonomy in children, typical for modern society.

The problem manifests in the parent-child relation typically for the first time after the critical mother-infant symbiosis, and thus as a general rule after the first eighteen months of the newborn.

What is generally very little known is the fact that even before the completion of the 18th month of the infant, mother and child are interacting in a subtle communication about limits which reveals to what extent the mother is able and willing to give the infant autonomy, or not. This early dialogue, that is most of the time nonverbal, has been found to deeply condition people for their later relational behavior patterns. Continue reading

The Autonomy Quest

Autonomy is Fundamental for Every Being In-Growth. Without autonomy, there is fusion, symbiosis and dependence. While for certain organisms, such as the human newborn, symbiosis for a certain time is a biological necessity, this symbiosis is time-bound and should gradually give rise to autonomy.

While natural symbiosis is needed for the first eighteen months of the newborn, it should gradually come to an end after that period. Unfortunately, modern culture is more or less completely dysfunctional regarding this primal movement from fusion to autonomy that should take place, dynamically, in the growth process of the human baby.

What happens is that the necessary biological symbiosis with the mother, eighteen months from birth, is neglected for various reasons; many babies suffer from a more or less stringent tactile deprivation that will leave scars for their whole lives. Continue reading