Primal Need Four: Autonomy

This is another post in the series that has been really hard for me to write. It addresses one of my core survival styles, one I am proud to say I am pretty sure I haven’t passed on to my younger boys, the older one and I work through these demons most days in some way. (It’s a process, right?)

 (If you are new here, this post is part of a series that began here:

Preventing Our Children From Developing Demons (And Healing Our Own). )

People with an Autonomy Survival Style had their basic nurturing needs met in the first few years of life. However, once they reach the stage of exploration their main caregivers (non-consciously and unintentionally) fall into a pattern of behaviour that says more about them than their children. LaPierre and Heller put it like this, ” Attuned parents support increasing age-appropriate independence and exploration. Highly anxious parents undermine their children’s developing need for independence because of their own unresolved fears. They prevent their age-appropriate movement toward autonomy in order to “protect their children.”  They go on to say this can also happen when parents see their children as an extension of themselves – when they become emotionally intrusive, emeshed or over-controlling. In this version, the children superficially go along with their parents’ agenda but hold a great deal of tension within themselves and are secretly resentful. They are paralysed by internal conflict – self-sabotaging when they are about to succeed at something. They yearn for closeness but also fear losing their independence. They blame others for taking advantage of their good nature – all the while playing the ‘good-boy’ or the ‘good-girl.’ These are the people who are ruled by the word – should.

Core Fears:

1.If people really knew me, they wouldn’t love me.

2. If I show you how I really feel, you won’t love me.

Shame Based Identity (What they hold inside but rarely accept about themselves or show to others.)

1. Angry

2. Rebellious

3. Enjoy disappointing expectations others have of them.

4. Burdened.

Pride Based Identity (What they show to the world; Their social face.)

1. Nice, sweet, compliant

2. Good boy/ good girl

3. Fear of disappointing others

4. Pride at how much they can take on their shoulders: “I can take it.”


Autonomy comes from knowing what is right for them and having the ability to say, Yes, when they mean, Yes and, No, when they mean No.

Coping Mechanisms

1. Indirectness, not laying cards on the table.

2. Will, effort, trying.

3. Passive aggression

4. Guilt

5. Rumination

6. In relationships they strategise rather than communicate their real feelings.

7. Projects authority on to others.

8. Procrastination.


1. Ambivalent and paralysed by internal conflict.

2. Often complain of being ‘stuck.’

3. Fear of losing independence  when they become intimate.

4. Choose to please others rather than themselves and then feel resentful.

5. Fear of own spontaneous expression.

6. Fear of being rejected or attacked.

7. Feel guilty all the time and apologise too much.

8. Superficially eager to please.

9. Covertly feeling spite, negativity and anger.

10. Passive-aggressive; self-assertion; an access to healthy aggression is limited.

11. Secretive about their pleasures because they fear they will be taken away.

12. Feel they can only submit to authority or rebel.

13. Strong fear of humiliation.

14. Will distance themselves from a situation rather than confront it.

15. Believe others have an agenda for them – even when this is not true.

16. Want to know what is expected of them, so they can do the opposite.

17. Pressure themselves continuously but believe pressure is coming from outside influences.

18. Continual self-judgment and self-criticism.

19. Confuse their unwillingness to stand up for themselves with flexibility.

20. Use the pressure of waiting until the last minute to reach a deadline. The force of pressure helps them to break through the paralysis of ambivalence.

 Interesting, huh? Sound like anyone you know?

About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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4 Responses to Primal Need Four: Autonomy

  1. Wow, this is a member of my extended family to the letter. I’ve got a few of those too! Thanks for this series Karyn.

  2. Marcy says:

    I wonder if it’s possible to have all the styles! A good bit of this one resonates with me as well.

    • I think it is possible to resonate with all of the styles, Marcy. I certainly feel some connection with all of them – perhaps that is the key, just to find our patterns and undo them one at a time – the ones that helped us to survive in the past but that are no longer serving us well.

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