Did you know the better you are able to differentiate yourself from what is going on about you by thinking logically rather than emotionally, the healthier your relationships are with other people? Are you asking what the heck does differentiation of self mean, and why should I bother reading about it? Are you getting frustrated by reading magazine articles where you hear about failed relationships and it is either the person's opinion or anecdote from their life experience, and you can only live vicariously through whatever they are writing about during the act of reading, but you have no clue how to actually go about making the change yourself? Learning what differentiation of self is will help you to actively begin changing how you interact with others--so that you have more satisfying relationships. By reading about this you are taking an active skill-based approach to improving your relationships. Did you know that when you become aware of and decide that what you are doing is not working for you, AND you actively learn a new definition or a new skill, then you will put a plan into action enabling you to change how you interact with others!
Differentiation of self is a term Murray Bowen coined when he created the Bowen family systems theory. This theory is used by people as a guide to help them understand either their own or others family dynamics. After all none of us are born into or live our lives in a bubble. Everybody comes from some type of a family. All of us have some form of dysfunction in our families of origin. READ: There are no truly 100& functional families out there. The beauty of picking apart your family dynamics with your family of origin (the one you grew up in) is that you learn to see how you grew up in an objective (or non-emotional) way. This allows you to make a rational thought-out choice as to how you would like to interact in your future family (if you're not married or partnered yet) or the one you now find yourself in with your spouse/partner. Even if you are or were adopted or fostered understanding the eight concepts of the Bowen theory may help you figure out the family dynamics the family you grew up in (and if you're in a new one now) and how this affects how you interact with others.
Hopefully you've read a few of my previous posts about making your relationships healthier so this is just one more tool for your tool kit. Maybe you have even perused the more specific pages on my blog about your current relationship status (single, marrieds, GLBT partnerships...even teens and tweens) or about communication, brain differences between men and women, shared decision making, healthy conflict/anger management, intimacy issues, and even the differences between falling in love and mature love. If not, then please check it out! This post is the beginning of a series of posts that will be discussing how to better understand your family dynamics so you can have healthier relationships. And, if you're looking, then please become a follower, leave comments, send me an email with a question, or subscribe to my feed & share with your friends and family!
The easiest way I explain self differentiation is how well an individual is able to separate the way she/he thinks and feels from that of her/his family's point of view. People tend to function both intellectually and emotionally on a scale. When talking about this concept we tend to lump someone either into having a low/poor "self" differentiation or high/well "self" differentiation. Those with low differentiation tend to become entangled with the group think mentality of their family's emotions. In other words, these type of people depend on others for approval and acceptance. People with low differentiation will either conform to what others want them to do/be in order to please them, or they will attempt to force others to conform to their way of thinking/feeling. By attempting to morph into another person's way of doing/thinking/feeling OR controlling how another person acts/thinks/feels, these type of people tend to be more vulnerable to stress and it is harder for them to adjust to life changes.
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