Characteristics of the separation process in adolescents and young adults
On June 28, a scientific seminar "Characteristics of the process of separation in adolescents and young adults" was held with the participation of Research Assistant of the Laboratory, PhD Egorova Polina
Over the past few years, teenagers and young men have experienced many events and faced drastic changes in their usual lives: distance learning during a pandemic, the threat to the lives of loved ones, moving to another country, the departure of close friends and relatives, family separation, etc. The topic and content of the seminar are based on the observation and results of psychotherapeutic work with adolescents (14-18 years old) and young adults (18-23 years old) and contain a number of assumptions and how age-related tasks are solved in changing conditions. The focus of the seminar was on the discussion of the separation process.
Our understanding of the psychological characteristics of adolescence and youthful ages is based on the concepts of age periodization by L.S. Vygotsky (Vygotsky, 2002, 2021), D.B. Elkonin (Elkonin, 1971), as well as on the work of E. Erickson (Erickson, 2000, 2006). The main tasks of adolescence: building an identity, gradually separating from parents and gaining personal autonomy, further socialization in a peer group, expanding the time perspective and planning one's life path, forming a worldview, mastering physicality, sexuality, gender identity (Vygotsky, 2021; Elkonin, 1971, Erickson, 2000). The main tasks of adolescence often overflow and are concretized in adolescence, adding to them the construction of close love relationships, the choice and development of a profession, and personal self-determination (Erickson, 2006; Kon, 2011).
A fairly large number of works are devoted to the topic of separation, mainly in the field of applied theories. Important work on the systematization of ideas about separation was done in the book by N. E. Kharlamenkova, E.V. Kumykova and A.K. Rubchenko "Psychological separation: approaches, problems, mechanisms" (Kharlamenkova, Kumykova, Rubchenko, 2015). The authors identified several main approaches to understanding and describing separation processes. 1) Psychoanalytic concepts (classical psychoanalysis, object relations theory, ego psychology), within which the focus is on early separation processes (birth, weaning, early separation from the mother) and their impact on the subsequent development of the child. The movement from symbiotic processes to separation and autonomy occurs through the internalization of the relationship with the object and is supported by the empathetic and supportive attitude of the mother and other caring adults. 2) Attachment theories (J. Bowlby, M. Ainsworth), which postulate the importance of the quality of attachment between a child and an adult: the more security, trust, reliability a caring adult provides, the more the child is able to independently explore the world. 3) In the theories of learning (A. Bandura, N. Miller and D. Dollard), the main attention is paid to the study of not only the possibility of imitating the model, but also aggression as an important factor in separation, as well as human self-regulation. 4) In K. Levin's field theory, a person and his environment constitute a single living space. The development of personality and its autonomy are associated with the processes of differentiation ("regions" within the personality and environment) and integration (organization) of the personality. The separation process is associated with a decrease in the direct dependence of the individual on the processes occurring in the environment, as well as the direct influence of intrapersonal regions on each other. Largely based on the ideas of Gestalt psychology, F. Perls introduced the concept of organismic self-regulation, a natural, inherent process of establishing contact with oneself and the world, which allows one to experience the integrity of the individual in contact with the environment in a “here and now” situation. F. Perls understood maturity as the ability to move from external support, regulation and control to self-support, as well as a clear experience of one's connection with the Other and, at the same time, separation from the Other (the concept of boundaries). 6) The subjective-existential approach and the theory of psychological sovereignty describe and explore subjectivity, the desire of a person to be the author of his life, as well as the mechanisms for the formation of sovereignty and autonomy of a person striving for self-realization. In the works of S. K. Nartova-Bochaver, the concept of sovereignty is introduced, which manifests itself in the authenticity of one’s own being, “in the feeling of one’s skill in the spatio-temporal value circumstances of one’s life”, experiencing the integrity of the individual, the authorship of one’s life, the clarity and flexibility of personal boundaries.
The authors describe in detail 2 types of separation: external (autonomy in relationships, acceptance of responsibility, manifestation of independence, initiative) and internal (separation of "I" from internal objects and separation of the image of "I" in the present from the image of "I" in the past and future). As well as mechanisms that contribute to successful external (differentiation of the roles and functions of subjects in a significant psychological field, separation of the subject from their own ineffective behavioral strategies) and internal (reflection, mechanisms of internal independence and acceptance) separation.
Describing the process of separation in adolescents and young adults, we rely on the concept of personality development in the school of K. Levin, the concept of awareness, organismic self-regulation and self-support developed by F. Perls, R. Hefferline and P. Goodman, the concept of separation described by N.E. . Kharlamenkova, E.V. Kumykova and A.K. Rubchenko and the periodization of mental development in the Russian school (Vygostsky, Elkonin, Bozhovich, Lichina) and the theory of E. Erickson.
An important concept for describing separation processes is also the concept of self-regulation, which includes an orientation in the motives and goals of the individual, and the likelihood of their achievement, taking responsibility and initiative for their implementation, flexibility and creativity on the way to achieving them, assessing actions to achieve goals, the ability to acceptance of criticism and, finally, the ability to comprehend the result obtained, correlate it with the original goals and values (Leontiev, 2007, 2016).
As mechanisms for successful separation of adolescents and young adults, we could identify:
- Differentiation of roles and functions (what the adolescent is responsible for, what the significant adults are responsible for, opportunities, resources and limitations of the adolescent and significant adults)
- Differentiation of one's own desires, dreams, goals and values (including from the desires of significant adults and from one's own irrelevant desires, values, aspirations)
- Differentiation of the environment (opportunities and limitations of living space)
- Differentiation and expansion of time perspective
- Development of close non-situational friendships and love relationships
- Development and support of constructive dreaming as an important form of manifestation of intentionality and authorship of one’s own life
- Setting a goal, taking responsibility for its holding and achievement, developing the skills of perseverance and finding "workarounds" (transition from field to volitional behavior in the concept of K. Levin)
- Development of self-support skills in case of failure, acceptance of one's imperfection. Our assumptions based on observations during psychotherapeutic work need further testing and may be topics for future research.