Putting Estranged Self Back Together

Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Claim about Estrangement from Others

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Out of Touch

When one is a stranger to oneself
then one is estranged from others too.
If one is out of touch with oneself,
then one cannot touch others.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
How does Anne Morrow Lindbergh's claim relate to self-identity and estrangement from others?
Anne Morrow Lindbergh Out of Touch


The words by Anne Morrow Lindbergh focus on self-identity resulting from being a stranger to oneself, of being out of touch with oneself.

She claimed that the result of this separation from self is estrangement from others. The clear implication is that the self causes estrangement with others. 

However, according to the root definition of “estranged,” the primary source of estrangement is not the self but the family of origin. 

Consider the etymology of estranged from OxfordDictionaries.com

Late 15th century: from Old French estranger, from Latin extraneare ‘treat as a stranger’, from extraneus ‘not belonging to the family’, used as a noun to mean ‘stranger’. Compare with strange.

Lindbergh's statement might accurately describe adults who experience self-doubt. However, the root meaning of the word "estrangement" is about being treated as a stranger who doesn't belong in the family. 

About Estranged Families

Family estrangement takes many forms. Here are brief excerpts from three sources:

The Persistent Pain of Family Estrangement
Estrangement from family is among the most painful human experiences. We are born into a close family tie, and our continued inclusion is literally a matter of life and death. Without an adult’s attention, care and love, we cannot survive infancy. This basic need does not go away, even when we are able to look after ourselves. Instead, that early dependence grows into an emotional attachment that makes us feel, even as grown-ups, that our lives depend on connection to the people we love. Psychology Today, Terri Apter Ph.D.
A Breakdown of Family Estrangement
An emotional distancing. A cessation of communication. A cold war. Family estrangement can be defined in many ways. Because it is so prevalent and so hard to talk about, some have labeled it a silent epidemic. But because it is seldom talked about, it is often misunderstood. An estrangement need not be permanent, long-lasting or even mean a total lack of contact. A recent British survey defines it as "the breakdown of a supportive relationship between family members," and that definition captures the heartbreak of family estrangement: Those who are supposed to support you, don't. Those who should be on your side, aren't. Parents who lose contact with adult children suffer, of course. But when their children have children, they also lose contact with grandchildren, and that means a double heartbreak. The Spruce, by Susan Adcox,
Effects of Trauma: Estrangement From Family
When someone has an estranged relationship with their family, the question is often whether the distance they place between themselves and their family members is due to healthy boundaries (it is certainly true that some relationships are toxic and that one is better served to end them), or instead due to an unprocessed emotional detachment.
When a relationship with a family member is not healthy — meaning it is emotionally, physically, or financially abusive and causing suffering-the victim has every right to stop interacting with that person. You should not have to tolerate any unacceptable behavior just because someone is related to you. It is more important to stay safe than to be in contact with a family member. Angelina Jolie, who was estranged for many years from her father Jon Voight, said: "I don't believe that somebody's family becomes their blood... families are earned." Somatic Psychology, Susanne Babbel Ph.D, M.F.T.

In these examples — and in so many more — what Anne Morrow Lindbergh claimed about self-identity and estrangement from others doesn't describe the impact of family estrangement for people who grew up without supportive relationships within their families. 

About Gift from the Sea

In this inimitable classic—graceful, lucid, and lyrical—Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age, love and marriage, peace, solitude, and contentment during a brief vacation by the sea.

Drawing inspiration from the the shells on the shore, Lindbergh's musings on the shape of a woman's life will bring new understanding to readers, male and family, at any stage of life. A mother of five and professional writer, she casts an unsentimental eye at the trappings of modern life that threaten to overwhelm us — the timesaving gadgets that complicate our lives, the overcommitments that take us from our families — and by recording her own thoughts in a brief escape from her everyday demands, she guides her readers to find a space for contemplation and creativity in their own lives. With great wisdom and insight she describes the shifting shapes of relationships and marriage, presenting a vision of a life lived in enduring and evolving partnership. A groundbreaking work when it was first published, this book has retained its freshness as it has been rediscovered by generations of readers and is no less current today.
[Original Post September 7, 2014]
What are your thoughts about estrangement?  Please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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