“Tolerating the pain involved in growing; mobilizing yourself toward growth you value and aspire to; soothing your own hurts when necessary, without excessive self-indulgence; supporting rather than berating yourself.” –Dr. David Schnarch
Differentiation, as Muray Bowen described, is the ability to recognize “self” with realistic dependence on others, having thinking which is “rooted in a careful assessment of the facts.” The choices are based on a thoughtful process not a reaction to pressure, it is not pushy or wishy-washy but oriented by a strong sense of self and relation to others.
To be more differentiated is to know yourself very well. Because you know who you are, you know what you accept. This orientation helps you reject being controlled, manipulated, or bullied into a decision by others. It also helps you not over-function for others or be overpowering.
We live in a social context and therefore get to know who we are by the ways we are different from the people around us. An important aspect of differentiation is being able to “hold onto yourself” through personal growth, as defined by Dr. Schnarch in the quote at the beginning of this article.
He includes: not avoiding pain (such as the emotional pain of learning you hurt people sometimes), pursuing growth within a belief you value, self-soothing when things don’t go your way but not dropping into a victimized narrative, using positive self-talk instead of harsh criticism.
One Thing to Do: Think about what helps you with your growth goals. Use the following questions to self-assess your hesitancy or readiness to take action towards personal growth.
- Is my fear keeping me from taking action?
- Am I accountable to myself for the actions I take or don’t take?
- Have I let others change my plans?
- Does the action I want to take add value to my life?
- Can I handle the setbacks which might occur once I take action?
- What words can I use to stay realistic and motivated?
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S, LPC.
Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.