Moving From Stabilization to Self-Actualization

“The child in each of us

Knows paradise.

Paradise is home.

Home as it was

Or home as it should have been.

 Paradise is one’s own place,

One’s own people,

One’s own world,

Knowing and known,

Perhaps even

Loving and loved.

 Yet every child

Is cast from paradise-

Into growth and new community,

Into vast, ongoing


― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus speaks of the Parable of the Sower, conveying that where we plant our ‘seeds, be it the Hard Ground, the Stony Ground, the Thorny Ground, or the Good Ground, determines one’s harvest.

In Octavia Butler’s science fiction classic “Parable of the Sower,” amid a dystopian climate of anarchy, a young orphaned woman named Lauren Olamina journeys north with kindred refugees to seek a better world.

Lauren and her comrades are seeking the Good Ground where salvation resides and the seeds of one’s labor and establishing the spiritual teachings of Earthseed will result in copious abundance.

Individually they are seekers, driven by both the impulse to survive and discover. United they support each other with actualizing the heroic process of becoming.

Similar to that of the aforementioned protagonist Lauren, as my therapy clients progress from stabilization to self-actualization and thriving, an inevitable impasse occurs.


What was once gratifying or simply tolerable, no longer satisfies the evolving standards, views and goals that accompany their psychological growth. They discover that their commitment to ongoing personal development requires quality bonds that encourage self-expansion. They find themselves evaluating where their ‘seeds’ need to be planted.

Relationships can offer us a mirror that reflects back to us projections of what is going on internally, thus serving as a metaphorical gauge of where we are at with our spiritual and emotional evolution.

Accordingly, it affords us the ability to face our shadow aspects, with the potential for enhanced self-awareness and integration. Our awareness of excessive individualism, demanding dependency, lack of self-love and self-defeating patterns emanating from one’s family of origin is critical to cultivating relationships of depth and consciousness.

The examination of core relational patterns and projections may be ignited when the painful quandary of discordant relational aims and ambitions organically creates distance.

Internal and external changes may be catalyzed.

Cutting Cords

The realization that loved ones are no longer in alignment and that paths are diverging, may ultimately lead to cutting cords if relationships cannot be redefined or if they prove to be a hindrance to fulfilling needs and potentials.

In the most unfortunate scenarios striving for more engenders resentment and mockery from friends and/or family who are threatened by the individuation process.

They may consciously and unconsciously maneuver a return to the status quo. The one feeling left behind may not have the aptitude to reflect on his or her insecurities. As a result, they may be compelled to sabotage, manipulate and even betray.

Efforts to re-establish a pattern of dependency can induce desperate measures. This theme is a repetitive one for recovering addicts who experience seemingly innocuous provocation to drink or drug by those closest to them.

Life inevitably leads all of us to encounters with relational disillusionment. Growth and basic human development necessitates metabolizing the failures of the world and of life.

In “Someone Like You,” Sarah Dessen wrote:

There are some things in this world you rely on, like a sure bet. And when they let you down, shifting from where you’ve carefully placed them, it shakes your faith, right where you stand.

While being stripped of illusion is initially shattering, it is also ultimately liberating if painful truths can be assimilated and tolerated. To come to terms with and appreciate what is, one must mourn and relinquish the illusory.

Progressing through disillusionment requires one to defy the impulse to succumb to willful ignorance and primitive ego defenses. It requires one to courageously reformulate and converge one’s idealism desires and dreams with jarring reality.

Illusion and Disillusion

Author Stanley Teitelbaum, wrote in “Illusion and Disillusion: Core Issues in Psychotherapy:

Throughout their lives, individuals maintain illusions about themselves and their world that sustain them and serve as organizing principles and the loss of these illusions in the harsh light of reality requires a psychological negotiation with the impact of disillusionment.”

American mythologist and writer Joseph Campell expounded on this notion in terms of the Hero’s quest. Campbell explained it is the experience of lack that catapults the hero to either recover what is lost or discover “some life-giving elixir.”

Therefore, with maturation and growth the impulse towards authenticity and actualization takes precedence. To be committed to knowing one’s Higher Self means making painful choices. Unavoidably, this quest will engender loss. Concomitantly, it will, in due course, prompt a seeking of those people who possess similar perspectives and purpose.

Before one can receive what is desired, solitary gestation with a time of transition will need to be embraced. This period of transition is a profound testing ground. Discomfort, stagnation, and paralysis may halt growth. Attempts to over-strive and take a spiritual bypass can also hinder successful passage.

Staying the course is challenging. Assimilating the myriad feelings aroused by leaving behind the routine and stability of what is predictable and known requires faith.


In enduring the loneliness and connecting to oneself and one’s inner world, the acceptance that loss is part of the ebb and flow of life ultimately transpires.

Through this process, one comes to recognize that healing resides through redemptive love and self-acceptance. Poet and novelist May Sarton said:

We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”

Only by doing so can we ultimately achieve the integrity that allows us to view the totality of our existence and relationships with resolute contentment and peace.


Moving From Stabilization to Self-Actualization

Rev Sheri Heller, LCSW

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, is a seasoned NYC psychotherapist with 25+ years experience in the addiction and mental health fields. Sheri is also an interfaith minister and playwright, and the founder of The Sistah Tribe - Phoenix Project, a therapeutic theater event for at-risk women and girls in the public sector of NYC. For more information, visit


APA Reference
Heller, R. (2016). Moving From Stabilization to Self-Actualization. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Sep 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Sep 2016
Published on All rights reserved.