Separation, in this large land of America is often thought of as involving physical distance.  This land was settled by people leaving their homes in European, Asian, South American, and African homelands, some by choice, some without choice.

Settlers heading into the so-called "empty" hunting grounds of the Indians put almost impossible miles between them and the possibly twenty-mile per day traveling of the horse to human contact.  Separation often meant never seeing one's family or homeland again, ever.  It was a time of incredible loneliness for many.

However this sad concept of separation has become translated, to be a bit simple, into a culturally acceptable idea of moving us far from one's family as possible in order to supposedly be oneself.  Now there are some families that have to be gotten far away from.  There are some incestuous, abusive, or cold thoroughly denigrating families that require being physically separate from in order to survive.

However, there is another meaning to separation that is too often neglected in our action oriented culture, that of being able to maintain one's identity.  Maintaining identity can mean learning to be oneself and remain oneself even nose to nose with negative people or events.  The separation of this "maturity" is one where we have undergone the inner changes that let us be us even if family and/or friends cannot understand or fully accept our way of being us.

By being able to maintain our identity we mean being able to keep our opinions, views and needs in spite of some one disagreeing or having different needs.  If maintaining comfort is the sensible thing for us to do then we may be most sensible when we do not give up our identity in order to maintain comfort.  Being temporarily uncomfortable in order to be ourself and eventually learning to be ourself with comfort is an important goal of maturation.  Do you always have to say "yes" and deny your need?  Do you always have to say "no" when some one states what they need or think is right.  Do you always have to fit some other person's idea instead of your own?  Some anxious moments moments can be better and more productive than some so-called "good feeling".  "Good feeling" sometimes is a mistaken signal that we are in a bad situation that we pathologically need but cannot properly evaluate.  A "good feeling" sometimes is a "high" that we generate to blind ourselves to what we are really doing.

Knowing the difference between feeling bad and being bad to ourself is an essential feature of being separate in a rational way.  Someone else may not like the way that we are being, but we may know that it is "good" productive change that is occurring within us, and that can be enough comfort.  Doing what we need to do may make us anxious for a little while but it may be what we should be doing for ourself.

Some of the Existential Philosophers understood the guilt, or pain, that we experience when we cannot let ourself be ourself.  When we are loaded with Existential Guilt we may over-eat, under-eat, act out obsessive-compulsive rituals that symbolically release some of our tensions but actually increases them,--or we become phobic, panic-stricken and use "symptomatic" outlets while not being able to realize what we are really doing to ourself, or worse we may realize some of it but not enough to exercise more comfortable control.  Symptoms are distortions of our needs, feelings, and fears.

We do not mean that one has to be a rebel to be oneself.  Actually it is often most useful to oneself to have our inner integrity reinforced by learning how to face controversy without caving in or going emotionally beserk and hurting ourself as well as others, and making ourself more miserable.

If we cannot control our actions, thoughts, and feelings, we may no know enough of the necessary connections within out mind that could allow for an eventually more comfortable life.

No life is perfect but if we generate symptoms it can mean that we have hidden unconscious feelings that control us instead of us controlling them.  The Past is only truly the Past when it not longer governs our Present and Future in ways that we would not accept.

For more information see the Web-Site of Drs. Lehrer

However, no reading is a substitute for the deeper changing that we may need.  Only regular therapy sessions have any chance of changing the outcomes of psychological problems.  Interpersonal Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is one of the ways in which to work on our inner functioning so as to increase our separation from identity destroying feelings and actions.

Drs. Lehrer
Associates in Psychotherapy, P.A.
Scotch Plains, N.J.  07076