S:0009 Distinction: Assimilate vs. Integrate

(Distinctions are subtleties of language that, when gotten, cause a shift in a belief, behavior, value or attitude.)


To assimilate means to absorb something else into oneself, whereas integration means to unify by bringing parts together, making a larger unit.

An example of assimilation is photosynthesis which is the process by which a leaf absorbs sunlight, and via chemical reactions and chlorophyll, the leaf gets bigger, sprouts more and eventually leads to blooms or pine cones or whatever.

An example of integration is the mixing of vanilla and chocolate ice cream — eventually it becomes a milky chocolate — the two colors and flavors have been integrated and one is left with simply more ice cream.

One could say that the leaf/plant assimilates carbon dioxide, light, water, nutrients and becomes something quite different, whereas with the ice cream/integration example, just the flavor and volume have changed.

Integration is very important and needs to be handled before assimilation because without proper integration, assimilation can skew things. After integrating parts of oneself (personality traits, wants, shoulds, the past, the future, feelings, etc.), it is then useful to assimilate energy (truth, love, values, awareness, life, self, etc.). Therapists are trained to support integration. Coaches are trained to foster assimilation.


Copyright 1995 Steve Straus. All rights reserved.