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     Personal Autonomy is


    to Personal Growth

What is Personal Autonomy? 

Personal autonomy is our right to be self determining, our right to choose how we live our lives. It is I think of particular importance when people are involved in any kind of therapeutic situation.

As humans we have a desire for personal autonomy. We have a desire to be the person who chooses how we live our lives. We have a desire not to be controlled by others. As young children when we are learning about the world we may be happy to follow what those we trust tell us, but, as we all know as we approach adolescence we fight with fierce determination for our right to change this situation and make our own choices, independent of those whom we have been accustomed to following. If we are not able to move into a position where we are self determining, if we feel under the control of another then we find ourselves in a very difficult situation. To not act in accordance with what feels right to oneself results in severe mental confusion because we are not able to be who we are. Indeed this problem begins far earlier than adolescence. If as babies and young children our basic needs are not looked after, or if we are expected to act in ways which are against our basic nature, then damage will have been done in our psyche.

What cuts us off from our Autonomy?

The reality is that it is more or less impossible in our world as it is now for someone to grow up being a truly autonomous person. If we did we would probably be what is considered enlightened. Most of us early on lose contact with who we are. We then develop our ego, which we believe is who we are. People acting only from this stance will be "living in their heads" and will not be able to feel empathy for others. However, thankfully, very few people are so hurt that they lose contact with their inner resources completely. The less good part of this is that most of us will grow up with some areas of disturbance. We will notice that sometimes we do not act as we would like to act and we do not feel as we would like to feel. Everyone deals with this in different ways. Some people take to criminal activity and end up in jails. Others will "go loopy" and end up in a mental hospital. Some get interested in Politics. Others become very good at their jobs. Still others will make sure they have the "best kept" family in the neighbourhood. Whatever avenue people take they are either acting out their problems or distracting themselves from the feeling of unease.

Getting our Autonomy back

However there is one other avenue that people may choose to go down. They may look for a way to sort out the problems so that they can gain access to their own genuineness and hence their personal autonomy. This is not the sign of a weak person, it is the sign of a honest person and this is where personal growth comes in.

Personal growth is all about and should be all about helping a person to be in touch with their own authenticity and hence their personal autonomy, and sadly much of supposed help does not do this. In a healthy world people who ended up in a psychiatric hospital or prison would also be given this help because this is the very thing that people need if they are to work constructively.

The problem with going for help which will respect one's autonomy comes about because the person who is "giving" the help frequently does not have very much autonomy themselves. The are frequently 'doing’ the help rather than genuinely "giving" in any way. They are so often more in a situation of controlling rather than empowering.

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