Autonomy is the need for an individual or other system to maintain itself and determine its own actions. An autonomous individual will operate without being unduly controlled by external influences. It has a separate identity, distinct from the environment in which it finds itself. We like to do our own thing and not be told what to do by others. An autonomous organism can maintain its boundary, or boundaries by itself, taking in the energy it needs to survive and repelling anything that might be a threat to its existence.

We cannot survive by just being autonomous. We do not live separately from the environment about us. We need to connect and interact with others. All our actions occur within an environment and we are defined by it. We need things like food, air, warmth, and companionship to maintain ourselves. Our connectedness to our environment and our relationships with others are crucial to our lives. Our connectivity is just as important as our autonomy.

WE must balance our needs for autonomy and connectivity, since increasing our autonomy often decreases our connectivity. The more I do what I want, the less I am connected to others. The more I do what the collective wants, the less I get to do what I want. Life is therefore a dynamic balance between the two. Sometimes my focus is more towards autonomy and at others more towards connectivity. We move back and forth between the two depending on the needs of the moment.

Just as order and chaos form a pair of dancing partners, so do autonomy and connectivity. We need both. We must be separate and individual and yet at the same time connected and linked to our world. Each of us has conflicting and competing individual desires in a constant battle to maintain the dynamic balance between autonomy and connectivity in our lives. It is a bit like a tightrope walker who cannot just find the balance point and walk. Sometimes the pole dips a little more to one side or the other and the walker must constantly restore the balance. The tightrope walker’s dynamic control over the pole enables them to walk safely along the rope.