How Did I Get This Way? Integration

This is the fourth of a five part series on development and how it shapes our adult relationship. The first article gives an overview of the entire series and if you have not read the first one you might want to go back and star there.

Just as boundaries define us as separate us from others, integration brings us together. Integration is about bringing together the good and bad in ourselves, others, and the world in general. Good and bad both exist simultaneously, and the presence of one does not cancel the other. Moreover, an individual’s ability to hold a positive image of someone they love inside them, even if they are angry or upset with them, is vital for sustained relationships. Often times, we become “split” where we are unable to hold together our image of good and bad in ourselves or other at the same time, when this occurs we can struggle to adapt to reality and ultimately it strains our relationships.

Can Deal With Own Imperfections. This ability allows us to deal with both and good and bad in ourselves and more importantly, deal with the tension of seeing ourselves as both good and bad. Being able to strive for our “ideal” self, but also acknowledging our weaknesses and limitations is what allows us to put ourselves in positions that to utilize our strengths and feel successful. If we emphasize one over the other we can struggle to adapt to our environment, especially when unexpected setbacks occur.

If this ability is not mastered when young it can create unnecessary struggle in our relationships. If we become “split” and see the “other” as all good (idealization) or all bad (devaluation), we tend to relate to them accordingly. Additionally, we can take the bad parts of ourselves and attribute them to someone else. This is the basis for projection and what we call transference. Owning our good and bad parts is essential to healthy relationships.

Can Deal With Others’ Imperfections. This ability allows us to see other as both good and bad. We can integrate those aspects we love in others, and also give them grace and forgiveness when the make mistakes or show parts of themselves we do not like. As a matter of fact, a large component in forgiveness is being able to integrate the good and bad in others and remembering we are not any different than they are.

When this ability is not dealt with early in life, then adults can struggle to integrate these two aspects of others. We can devalue others and focus on those “negative” aspects we don’t like. We can choose to relate to their “bad” parts and never give them credit for their “good” parts. In its extreme form, a person that does not integrate the good and bad in others, tends to have emotionally volatile relationships by relating to the person’ s good side one day, then the bad side the next day. This can also cause confusion for the partner, because they do not understand what to do to stay on their good side.

Can Tolerate Conflicting Emotions.  People who can integrate the good and bad in themselves and others, understand that having conflicting emotions are a normal part of relationships. Being able to tolerate those conflicting emotions, using them to understand ones experience in relationships, is what helps us stay attuned to the other. Being able to process our conflicting emotions rather than “act” them out helps us sustain healthy relationships.

If however, someone struggle to contain their conflicting emotions the will spend a great deal of energy either trying to repress them, or acting them out and blaming others. Healthy relationships are built on the reality that both partners are good and bad, and when each partner can see that in themselves and others, when they can work through conflicting emotions, then relationships can be repaired when broken, and sustain over the long haul.

If you are struggling with a relationship where you or someone you know is unable to integrate the good and bad in themselves or someone else, then you should call a Licensed Mental Health Therapist to help. At Stonebridge Family Therapy, we specialize in relationship issues and would be happy to speak to you about your life and your loves. Take the first step to a healthy relationship and call us at 918-398-7678.

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