What is integration in a psychological sense and why is it important in our lives?
An individual’s internal experience of self is understood to mean that one is fully connected with all parts of themselves and their life experiences, rather than in denial about those that are too painful. This is not to say that it’s possible to be completely aware of all of our thoughts, but rather that, in a general sense, the different parts of our personality, history, and experiences, both positive and negative, are ones that we have accepted. When someone represses significant aspects of themselves in order to avoid dealing with difficult material, they may experience a disconnect along with any number of psychological struggles. The person might not even realize that their struggles are being caused by their inability heal from that which they repressed.
Integrating our experiences doesn’t automatically get rid of the bad ones; our painful experiences are still a part of us. However, if we are aware of those experiences and their impact on us, we will not fall victim to the subsequent problems that arise seemingly out of nowhere. It’s impossible to fix an issue when you can’t identify its cause. Unless you tackle the root of the problem, you’ll only be treating a symptom.
What does it mean to be integrated interpersonally?
A person who is interpersonally integrated has healthy boundaries between themselves and others in their life. The practical manifestation of healthy boundaries between two people in a relationship is the concept of assertive communication.
Assertive communication emphasizes the importance of the needs of both people in an interaction. During assertive communication, a person stands up for their own needs but also listens to and respects the needs of others. They must have confidence but also be willing to compromise. However, in the event of finding oneself with someone aggressive and unyielding, the assertive person will set a boundary for themselves.
This is also how we would define healthy integration between us and other people. We don’t allow people to walk all over us like someone with weak interpersonal boundaries might. Having weak interpersonal boundaries is specifically characterized by being unable to say no to a request; compromising your values and beliefs in order to please others; relying on others opinions, feelings, and ideas more than your own; and allowing others to define your limits. When someone is incapable of healthy integration, they constantly allow their needs and feelings to take a backseat to those of someone else.
When a person has healthy boundaries, they value the opinions and feelings of others as well as their own. Someone who is integrated can both tell someone no and accept the same answer from others. When you establish healthy boundaries in your relationships, you can accommodate others without compromising yourself and your needs.
Integration is a person’s best chance at maintaining healthy boundaries in their relationships with others. It’s also the best chance we have to integrate the different parts of our lives be it our professional and personal lives, behavior while with friends as opposed to family, inner turmoil with what we allow others to see, etc. Maintaining a façade and, essentially, living multiple lives is not only really difficult, it causes unnecessary stress that affects every aspect of your life.