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Knowing – Autonomous or Connected?

“After all, computers crash, people die, relationships fall apart. The best we can do is breath and reboot.” – Sarah Jessica Parker

My good friend and god son has been infatuated with SJP for as long as I can remember.  Today I received this photo from him entitled “Just a Normal Monday Night for me.”  He is about to turn 29.  He is one of the strong and enduring relationships of my life.  I know more because of him.

It has been suggested that the highest stage of adult development is autonomy.  It has also been suggested that the highest stage is relationship development.  Which is correct?  Are these ideas and theories both correct?  Can you be autonomous and still have meaningful relationships?  Can you have meaningful relationships and still be autonomous?

In any strong and enduring relationship, I believe the key is to have both.  If you don’t know yourself well, if you don’t feel confident in yourself as an individual, if you don’t have ideas and activities that separate you from others, it is difficult to be a productive contributor to a relationship. So how can you keep the balance strong over time?

I read recently that women, on average, change their friend groups about every 7 years, and wanted to discover more about this phenomenon.

This led to the discovery that the cells in your body recycle about every 7 years.  If I learned that in biology, I did not remember it.  On his blog, Tony Crisp states: “Are you the same person now that you were fifteen years ago? In fact, are you the same person you were just seven years ago? Most of us have heard the old saying that every cell in the body is changed over a period of seven years; but recent investigation has uncovered facts of far more significance to us as human beings. This concerns the emotional, physical and mental changes that seem to occur in approximate seven-year intervals.”

He goes through life, seven years at a time, and quickly outlines characteristics of development.  He lays things out in terms of physical, emotional and mental changes – not in terms of a theory of development, generalized to all and particular to none. All of these are part of our inner self, yet all have connections to the world outside of ourselves.

I have many, many friendships that have lasted more than 7 years – Brian and his family are one of those.  I’ve known him all his life.  I have a marriage that has lasted over 28 years.  I have never severed a tie with a family member. For me, knowing must be mutually constructed  – that, I agree, is what gives it meaning.

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One Response to “Knowing – Autonomous or Connected?”

  1. I agree with your conclusion: strong relationships need both autonomy and connection. I learned (somewhere in the past) that there are three stages of development can be discerned: dependence (childhood), independence (adolescence and perhaps a bit beyond), and interdependence. Not everyone necessarily goes through all three. And since life events make us go back to a previous stage, such as dependence in a crisis, our movement is not always in one direction only. Especially the interdependant stage is enhanced by the Web 2.0 environment.


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