Differentiation of self

by Rod Smith

Self-Differentiation (a term coined by family therapy pioneer, Murray Bowen) is a progressive, internal interplay between autonomy (separation) and connection (togetherness) while progressing toward developing and known goals.

Being an authentic adult is hard work and a never completed task. The pathway is paved with difficulty and challenge.

To become an adult, every person faces the task of the differentiation of self.

Not to differentiate is to fuse (the failure to become a separate person) with others and to place responsibility on others (or on situations, predicaments, and hurdles) for the way in which our lives develop. To differentiate is to provide a platform for maximum growth and personal development for everyone in your circle of influence.

Differentiation is described in many ways in the following points:

1. Growing in the ability to see where and how I fit into my family, the position I hold and the power that is and is not given to that position.
2. Growing in the ability to be fully responsible for my own life while being committed to growing closer to those I love.
3. Intentionally developing, at the same time, autonomy and intimacy. In developing autonomy I set myself towards achieving my dreams and ambitions. In developing intimacy, I allow those close to me to see and know me as I really am.
4. Being willing to say clearly who I am and who I want to be while others are trying to tell me who I am and who I should be.
5. Staying in touch with others (co-workers, family members, neighbors) while, and even though, there is tension and disagreement. (This does not include a former spouse or former in-laws or any situation regarding a romance gone sour.)
6. Being able to declare clearly what I need and requesting help from others without imposing my needs upon them.
7. Being able to understand what needs I can and cannot meet in my own life and in the lives of others.
8. Understanding that I am called to be distinct (separate) from others, without being distant from others.
9. Understanding that I am responsible to others but not responsible for others
10. Growing in the ability to live from the sane, thinking and creative person I am, who can perceive possibilities and chase dreams and ambitions without hurting people in the process.
11. Growing in the ability to detect where controlling emotions and highly reactive behavior have directed my life, then, opting for better and more purposeful growth born of creative thinking.
12. Deciding never to use another person for my own ends and to be honest with myself about this when I see myself falling into such patterns.
13. Seeing my life as a whole, a complete unit, and not as compartmentalized, unrelated segments.
14. Making no heroes; taking no victims.
15. Giving up the search for the arrival of a Knight in Shining Armour who will save me from the beautiful struggles and possibilities presented in everyday living.
16. Paying the price for building, and living within community. I am not suggesting some form of communal or shared living. I am suggesting the differentiated person finds a place with others while also being separate from others.
17. Moving beyond “instant” to process when it comes to love, miracles, the future, healing and all the important and beautiful things in life.
18. Enjoying the water (rather than praying for it to be wine), learning to swim (rather than trying to walk on water).

(Please PRINT this page and STUDY it. Spread it around your office and among your friends. Read more writers about this concept. The ONLY thing I ask in return is that you let me know you printed it – by leaving a comment – and you SPREAD the word to others.)

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