Autonomy

Autonomy is another important dimension of a relationship; autonomy is often put as a counterpart of closeness. Autonomy is independence of identifying self outside of “we” concept. According to S. Guisinger and S.J. Blatt and their publication Individuality and relatedness: Evolution of a fundamental dialectic, American Psychologist (1994) autonomy represents a clear concept in terms of western cultures but lacks a precise definition. It is a complex, multidimensional phenomenon that affects all areas of human existence – psychical, mental, spiritual, cultural, social, economical and political. Its carrier may be an individual, a group or an organization. In philosophy autonomy is associated with freedom and equality, self-governing or moral action. Psychology focuses on autonomy as a quality – emphasizes the ability of autonomous personality to resist the social pressure, to think, act and evaluate facts and issues based on personal standards, regardless of public opinions, the ability to break away from conventions, collective fears and beliefs. Also G. Heathcote in the Autonomy, health, and ageing: Transnational perspectives (2000) agrees and adds up, that autonomy as a subjective criterion of physical and mental well-being, affects mental health thus love relationship and further amorous development.

There are two major types of autonomy, personal autonomy and family autonomy. Personal autonomy is identified with individual freedom, sovereignty, self-control, sometimes with free will and control and in general with decision-making. Personal autonomy is also associated with privacy, dignity, integrity, individuality and individual responsibility. Personal autonomy depends on the quality and quantity of differentiation between family members, in other words to what extent and how everyone in the family is respected as a sole, unique human being, to what extent he/she has space to develop their personality, their identity, their interests and dispositions. A functional synergy of all the elements described helps to develop person’s autonomy within the family, it also allows to experience intimacy.

Family autonomy is a condition for maximum independence and minimal possible restriction of activities of individual family members. A reasonable degree of autonomy is an essential condition for a healthy development of personality and identity. The degree of autonomy varies depending on the development of the individual (for example a toddler gets disproportionately less autonomy than an adult). Within different family types autonomy is supported or represed. In what is described as functioning families, the autonomy of its members is supported and respected. Autonomy is viewed from many perspectives and is used in a large range of meanings. What these have in common is that they recognize autonomy as an essential feature of a desirable quality individual.

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