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An Overview of Separation Theory

Robert Firestone, Ph.D

An Overview of Separation Principle

Separation Concept integrates psychoanalytic and existential methods of thought by displaying how early interpersonal ache, and separation nervousness and later dying nervousness result in the event of highly effective psychological defenses. These defenses try to deal with and reduce painful experiences and feelings suffered in a single’s developmental years however later predispose limitations and maladaptation in grownup life.  The identify Separation Principle was derived from the understanding that human life could be conceptualized as a collection of successive separation experiences ending in dying, the last word separation.

Psychoanalytic principle emphasizes the significance of unconscious motivation, explains how interpersonal trauma results in the formation of defenses, identifies battle and competitors inside the household system, in addition to incestuous tendencies, describes ranges of sexual improvement, and explains how resistance and transference enter into the remedy course of. However, psychoanalysis fails to deal successfully with dying nervousness (the necessary position that demise performs in life) and its impression on the longer term improvement of the person. Existential psychology focuses on the importance of demise consciousness and dying on the character, in addition to different problems with being, akin to autonomy, individuation, transcendent objectives and so on, however tends to neglect the “down and soiled” psychoanalytic ideas of protection mechanisms, competitors and psychosexual improvement.

For my part, neither strategy is adequate in understanding humanity. Each conceptual fashions –psychodynamic and existential — are central to an understanding of human character improvement. Though it developed independently, Separation Principle makes an attempt to synthesize the 2 methods. A elementary precept underlying the idea displays my private view of individuals as harmless quite than inherently dangerous or corrupt. In contrast to Freud postulation in his intuition concept, I don’t see human beings as innately aggressive or self-destructive; quite, they grow to be outwardly hostile, violent, or dangerous to self or others solely in response to rejection, worry, emotional ache, and existential angst. No youngster is born dangerous or sinful; the psychological defenses that youngsters type early in life are applicable to precise conditions that threaten the rising self.

The Human Situation

Every particular person is born with the potential to exhibit quite a lot of propensities which might be primarily human. The essential qualities of our human heritage that distinguish our species from the opposite animals are the distinctive capacity to like and really feel compassion for oneself and others, the capability for summary reasoning and creativity, the potential to set objectives and develop methods to perform them, an consciousness of existential considerations, the will to seek for which means and social affiliation, and the potential to expertise the sacredness and thriller of life.

Every time any of those qualities are broken, we lose part of ourselves that’s most alive and human. But these primary human traits are fractured or restricted to various levels in the middle of rising up in household constellations which might be typically lower than excellent. The resultant emotional ache and frustration results in an inward, self-protective angle and a primary mistrust of others.Voice Remedy procedures, the medical methodology of Separation Concept, expose and problem damaging attitudes, beliefs, and self-limiting defenses and helps the individuality of the person. I place a robust emphasis on differentiation from the early conditioning within the household of origin. The last word objective of psychotherapy is to assist individuals overcome their private limitations and keep a wholesome stability between feeling and rationality, that displays their primary humanness.

Individuals, in contrast to different species, are cursed with an consciousness of their very own mortality. I consider that the tragedy is that their true self consciousness regarding this existential problem contributes to an final irony: Human beings are each sensible and aberrant, delicate and savage, exquisitely caring and painfully detached, remarkably artistic and extremely damaging to self and others. The capability to think about and conceptualize has damaging in addition to constructive penalties as a result of it predisposes nervousness states that culminate in a defensive type of denial.

Feeling and compassion are a big a part of our human heritage; however once we are reduce off from our emotions we’re desensitized to ourselves and others and usually tend to grow to be self damaging or act out aggression. The unlucky consequence is that the identical defenses that enabled us to outlive the emotional ache of childhood and existential despair usually are not solely maladaptive and restrict our private potential for dwelling a full life, however additionally they inevitably result in unfavorable behaviors towards others, thereby perpetuating a cycle of destructiveness.

Paradoxically, ideologies and non secular beliefs which might be a supply of religious consolation and supply some aid from a way of aloneness and interpersonal misery, additionally polarize individuals towards each other. Threatened by people or teams with totally different customs and perception techniques, we mistakenly really feel that we should overpower or destroy them.

Life Can Be Conceptualized as a Collection of Progressive Weaning Experiences

Human existence, or life as we all know it, could be conceived of as a succession of separation experiences that make us more and more conscious of the very fact of our aloneness and eventual demise. The sensation of separateness causes a sure diploma of hysteria. How we deal with our worry and the next defenses we make the most of decide the course of our emotional lives.

Ultimately, youngsters understand that their mother and father will die, although at first the kid one way or the other feels exempt from this destiny. Of their desperation to flee the terrifying loss that they see as inevitable, youngsters cling extra tenaciously to their mother and father and the household system. On the similar time, their strategies of self-soothing and self–parenting themselves are strengthened and develop into extra deeply entrenched.

Later, youngsters understand that they can’t maintain their very own lives. At this level, the world that they initially believed to be everlasting is nearly turned the wrong way up.  The way through which they try and defend themselves from the scary consciousness that each one individuals, and even they to, should die, has a profound impact on their lives.

When confronted with an consciousness of demise, youngsters should both really feel the inherent nervousness and painful feelings or try and disconnect to a sure extent from investing emotionally in life. That is the core battle for every particular person: whether or not to remain feeling and develop compassion for one’s self and others or to resort to an inward, self-protective way of life the place relationships with individuals play a much less vital position. The higher the ache and frustration a toddler confronted earlier than his or her full realization of dying, the extra probably it’s that the kid will select the defensive various.

Individuals can select to both defend themselves by slicing off painful emotional experiences or they will select to stay weak to ache and transfer towards fulfilling their human potential.  Separation Principle factors out the distinction between dwelling with fantasy and phantasm and dwelling a extra feelingful, goal-directed life. The extent to which individuals stay out fantasies of connection, they largely relate to themselves as objects and deal with themselves the best way their mum or dad or main caretaker handled them. At every second in time, one is both capitulating to damaging features of 1’s inner programming or shifting towards individuation.

Primary Ideas in Separation Principle

The Fantasy Bond – The Main Protection

The kid compensates for emotional trauma, separation experiences and existential angst by forming a fantasy bond or imaginary connection together with his/her mother or father or main caretaker. This fantasy course of relieves stress and may grow to be progressively extra addictive. The diploma to which youngsters proceed to depend on this illusory connection is proportional to the quantity of ache, frustration and nervousness they skilled in rising up. On a unconscious degree, the fantasy bond additionally offers a modicum of aid from fears of demise and helps keep an phantasm of immortality. There are 4 essential dynamics associated to sustaining the fantasy bond: (1) idealization of 1’s mother and father, (2) internalization of oldsters’ unfavorable attitudes, (three) projection of oldsters’ traits on to others, and (four) figuring out with and manifesting mother and father’ unfavourable character traits.

The fantasy bond essentially includes a specific amount of distortion of actuality; subsequently, the extra one depends on this type of fantasy gratification, the extra one is restricted in dealing with the actual world.  If this defensive fantasy world turns into excessive, an individual’s means to perform successfully turns into critically compromised.

The Voice

The voice is a well-integrated sample of destructive ideas that helps the fantasy bond and is on the core of a person’s maladaptive conduct. It isn’t an precise hallucination, however slightly, an identifiable system of important and damaging ideas. It’s an overlay on the character that isn’t pure or harmonious, however discovered or imposed from with out. It represents the internalization of essential, rejecting, hostile and traumatic attitudes that the kid skilled.

The voice could be regarded as a secondary protection that helps the fantasy bond. Voices vary in depth from minor self-criticisms to main self-attacks and foster self-soothing behavior patterns, isolation, and a self-destructive way of life. Voice assaults are directed towards others in addition to towards oneself. Each forms of voices — people who belittle the self and people who assault different individuals — predispose alienation.  

Voice Remedy, a cognitive, behavioral methodology, brings these internalized thought processes to the floor, with accompanying have an effect on, enabling shoppers to confront alien elements of the character. I developed these methods for the aim of serving to individuals entry and determine the contents of this largely unconscious thought course of. When shoppers study to precise their self-critical ideas within the second individual format, highly effective feelings are aroused and beforehand suppressed ideas, emotions, and reminiscences come to mild. The quantity of self-hatred and anger towards self that emerges throughout these periods point out the depth and pervasiveness of this self-destructive course of.

After figuring out the content material of their damaging ideas, shoppers study to differentiate these antagonistic attitudes from a extra practical view of themselves. They develop into extra goal and, extra importantly, start to know and develop perception into the supply of their self-attacks.


Confronted with primal ache in our private improvement, compounded by existential angst, individuals develop and depend on psychological defenses that provide a modicum of consolation but in addition predispose various levels of maladaptation. To a sure extent, we every depend upon fantasy processes and stay with a covertly damaging perspective that has a profoundly damaging impact on our character and general adjustment in life. Sadly, we’re largely unaware of being divided or set towards ourselves. We’re solely partially acutely aware that we possess a hostile, self-denying, and self-attacking facet of our personalities and proceed to be restricted and managed by its influences.

In Voice Remedy, when people expose their unfavorable ideas or voices, launch the accompanying have an effect on, and achieve perception into their sources, they steadily modify their conduct, enhance their adjustment and transfer towards satisfying their objectives. The method includes breaking away from restrictive defenses and maladaptive responses and shifting towards independence and autonomy.

Separation Principle presents no escape from existential ache or the inevitable vicissitudes of life; nevertheless, it describes how individuals can select a lifetime of braveness and integrity during which feeling, and self-awareness are genuinely valued. We might respect the existential dilemma with out resorting to false resolutions, deadening painkillers and different protection mechanisms.  We will lead an trustworthy, feelingful existence that may do justice to our actual selves and to these individuals near us. The notice of our finite existence could make life and dwelling all of the extra valuable and provides an actual potential to realize private freedom and a lifetime of which means and compassion.

Concerning the Writer

Robert Firestone, Ph.D
Robert Firestone, Ph.D Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D. is a medical psychologist, writer, theorist and artist. He’s the Consulting Theorist for The Glendon Affiliation. He’s writer of quite a few books together with Voice Remedy, The Fantasy Bond, Compassionate Baby-Rearing, Worry of Intimacy, Conquer Your Essential Inside Voice, Past Dying Nervousness The Ethics of Interpersonal Relationships, Self Beneath Siege, and just lately his assortment of tales Overcoming the Damaging Inside Voice.  His research on unfavorable thought processes and their related have an effect on have led to the event of Voice Remedy, a complicated therapeutic methodology to uncover and deal with features of self-destructive and self-limiting behaviors. Firestone has utilized his ideas to empirical analysis and to creating the Firestone Evaluation of Self-destructive Ideas (FAST), a scale that assesses suicide potential. This work led to the publication of Suicide and the Internal Voice: Danger Evaluation, Remedy and Case Administration. He has revealed greater than 30 skilled articles and chapters for edited volumes, and produced 35 video documentaries. His artwork could be seen on You’ll be able to study extra about Dr. Firestone by visiting

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