Your sister’s choice in music makes you crazy. You have no idea why your brother is majoring in geography. You wish your parents would watch the films you recommend. What’s going on here? Well, your family is healthy. They are able to make their own choices. They are DIFFERENT from you.
WHAT MAKES A RELATIONSHIP?
Hearing the word relationship, most of us think family, loved one, friend. And if we have healthy relationships with those folks, we get a warm fuzzy feeling. We know there is warmth and support behind us as we make our way in the world.
But another important word about relationships is differentiation. That word doesn’t sound as warm and fuzzy, but it’s extremely important to a person’s happiness and success. Here are some reasons why.
WE NEED TO BE OUR OWN PEOPLE
When I think of my family of origin, we have strong bonds, but we are also very different. Take careers: one brother is an English professor; one writes music and works in the music industry; I’ve been an English teacher and a nurse. My mother worked in the insurance industry. So healthy!
BUT WHY? YOU MIGHT ASK ANSWER: WE ARE DIFFERENT
We did share likes (music for one, reading for another). But the music thing? We often liked DIFFERENT kinds of music. We were open and didn’t impose our own individual likes. Same with what we liked to read. My mother didn’t ask that we all be the same. She loved that we were different. When there is difference, that is the spice in life, it makes the commonality more exciting. We can share, but our viewpoints can be different–because we come from different angles in our approach.
BUT LET’S ASK AN EXPERT; LET’S ASK MURRAY BOWEN
A major task of the family unit is to provide nurturance and emotional support to each child, so that child can self-differentiate from the family circle and go off and function on his or her own. Then each child can achieve emotional maturity and become his own person, able to form healthy relationships. A functional, healthy marriage or long term relationship only occurs between two mature, independent people who are responsible for their individual selves. Family therapist, Murray Bowen, created the term self-differentiation. That’s the process of finding a balance between autonomy (being a separate YOU) and connection (being with OTHERS). It also includes creating goals and working toward them.
Which of Bowen’s statements, defining self-differenciation, applies to you or your children or grandchildren?
1. I understand the position I hold in my family, and the power given and not given to that position.
2. I am committed to be fully responsible for my own life, while committed to those I love.
3. In developing autonomy, I set goals for my dreams and ambitions, yet develop intimacy by allowing those close to me to see and know me as I really am.
4. I can tell people what I need, ask for help, but not impose my needs upon them.
5. I am able to detect, to know when my controlling emotions and reactive behavior have sent me in the wrong direction; then I decide, instead, to use creative thinking to make better and more purposeful choices.
A CONCLUSION: (Long ago I gave up the search for the arrival of a Knight in Shining Armor who would save me from the beautiful struggles and possibilities presented in everyday living! It’s much better to make your own choices. ) Learn more go to: http://www.difficultrelationships.com/2006/03/25/bowen-differentiation/
Can you share any of the ways you helped your children or grandchildren differentiate– or how you helped yourself??