It’s Time to Make Some Adult Decisions! Everything You Need to Know About Differentiation

Do you ever find yourself caught up in emotions so fast that you feel like you can’t think logically? Well, the good news is, you’re human! For most of us, we formed much of our internal compass from our family, including both positive and negative traits. One of the keys to living a happier, more purpose-driven life is the ability to separate our feelings from our thoughts and then move toward things that truly matter to YOU! This process is called “differentiation.” Undifferentiated people struggle to separate feelings and thoughts. Still, they often have trouble separating their thoughts and feelings from others as well, and they look to others to define how they think about situations that they find themselves in. So one of the most important things we can do as adults is self-differentiate, or learn, “to have different opinions and values than your family members but be able to stay emotionally connected to them. It means being able to calmly reflect on a conflicted interaction afterward, realizing your own role in it, and then choosing a different response for the future.”

Tony references Karen Koenig’s article “What is self-differentiation and why is it so important?” and he also found information on Dr. Murray Bowen from The Family Systems website

And Tony mentions two podcasts interviews where he was the guest, first was on Parenting in the Middle, by Kristen Goodman and The Jones Table hosted by Chelsea Jones subscribe to The Virtual Couch YouTube channel at and follow The Virtual Couch on Instagram

This episode of The Virtual Couch is sponsored by With the continuing “sheltering” rules that are spreading across the country PLEASE do not think that you can’t continue or begin therapy now. can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your own mental health a priority, offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

Tony’s FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to and sign up today. This course will help you understand why it can be so difficult to communicate with and understand your children. You’ll learn how to keep your buttons hidden, how to genuinely give praise that will truly build inner wealth in your child, teen, or even in your adult children, and you’ll learn how to move from being “the punisher” to being someone your children will want to go to when they need help.

Tony’s new best-selling book “He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions” is now available on Kindle.

Tony Overbay, is the co-author of “He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions” now available on Amazon The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.

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[00:00:00] So I’m pretty sure that I want to get a motorcycle, and I know for some people that might not be a big deal and you may, in fact, already have a motorcycle or you grew up with a family members riding motorcycles, or you may even have had some bad experiences with motorcycles in your life. You may have been involved in a crash or or, heaven forbid, even lost a loved one to a motorcycle accident. Or you might be somebody who hears me say, I want to get a motorcycle and you say it’s your life. Knock yourself out, do what you want to do, or you might be somebody who when you heard me say that I wanted to get a motorcycle, that your first response was, well, I know you don’t really want one. You’re smarter than that. Or you have kids and they’ll think that you have a they’ll say, well, do you have a life? Don’t you think about her or do you think she’d appreciate it if you get in a crash? But here’s the thing. I really can’t pin down exactly why I want one and just kind of want one. But I don’t want a really big truck and I don’t want a classic car to fix up. And I really don’t want to shoot an automatic weapon. And I don’t want to spend a week camping in the great outdoors. But I do want a new Mini Cooper.

[00:01:01] I drive one now and I love how zippi it is and how easy it is to park. And I don’t want to shoot an automatic weapon, not as a political statement. I just really don’t want to. And I actually don’t mind camping when I have lots of blankets and electricity and lots of food and my tent. But I would prefer a hotel with a view of the ocean, going out to eat for every meal instead of making my own meals. So teach their own right. But how often do you find yourself wanting to tell people your opinion or why they shouldn’t want a motorcycle or why they should want to camp or why they need to try shooting an automatic weapon? So sometimes it comes from a really good place and it might be because you really like something so much that you want everybody else to experience what you’ve experienced. But on other occasions, are you telling somebody that they shouldn’t get a motorcycle because, well, you didn’t have a motorcycle? Or is it simply an impulse that you just respond, you tell somebody what how you feel or what they need to do just because that’s kind of what you do. You just respond. Know, I used to work out early in the morning at a local gym. This is a couple of years ago, pre pandemic. It was open in twenty four hours a day.

[00:02:04] And one of my workout buddies who would also be there at three three thirty four in the morning, was a friend named Stacey, and she was a few years older than me and her husband was there at the gym as well. And he like to do cardio consistently on one particular type of machine and his wife like to do various machines. So when I found myself on a particular piece of exercise equipment called the Cybex, I remember to this day if there was a spot open next to me, Stacy would come work out and we’d chat the entire time and it would make the workout go quickly. And Stacey was upbeat. She was positive. People turned to her for help on numerous occasions. That was kind of what she was known for. And but I just enjoyed talking to her. So on many occasions I would start telling her a story and she would say, well, did you try this? Or she would say, you know, you just need to tell them that they need to do. And you could fill in the blank there. And I would smile, maybe give a little laugh. And she would, too. And she would say, you know, you weren’t actually looking for help on that, were you? Or we keep talking and I know so I know for a fact that she meant so.

[00:03:02] Well, I didn’t mind for a second when she would start telling me how to handle things or that I truly wasn’t looking for help and handling things, that I was simply telling a story to the prompt of her saying, so what’s new with you? But I’ve had other people in my life, however, who are quick to tell me why I shouldn’t do something or they would tell me exactly what to do again when there wasn’t any part of me that was actually going to them to look for advice or certainly not correction often talked about psychological reactance, that instant negative reaction of being told what to do. And they also have been saying, as long as I can remember, that nobody likes to be should on. So when you put those two factors in place, you can see how difficult it can be to start to feel like you can’t open up to somebody if they are going to be one of those who’s going to tell you what you need to do psychological reactions or tell you what you should do. Also, psychological reactions and nobody likes to be should on. So for many of us, as we get older, we start to get a little more crotchety. And I didn’t know if that was a real word, but then auto correct actually corrected the way that I spelled it. And I don’t know if that’s anything that resonates with you as well, but I often get feedback from listeners who will either love when I say I’m pulling an old man moment and tell these younger kids to stay off my lawn or they are younger listeners who truly don’t understand what I’m really meaning to say when I say that phrase.

[00:04:19] But what it means is that for many of us, quote older folks, and if you are if you’re not watching this on YouTube, I did some air quotes there. Then we slowly start to disengage from friends and relatives and even our own immediate family when we feel like all we ever hear is what we are doing isn’t enough or what we’re doing is wrong because that becomes becomes emotionally and mentally exhausting. Unless you can realize and as simple as what I’m about to say, sounds what I’m going to say next. Sounds so simple, but I know that it is absolutely one of the most difficult yet key things that we need to do to find emotional maturity, happiness with ourselves and in our relationships. So unless you can realize that ultimately this is your life, you can like and enjoy what you like and enjoy. And as adults, you don’t even have to justify or defend yourself. You can just be. So the concept that I’m talking about today is called differentiation, differentiation of self. And it is yet another quote, air quotes again, game changer when it comes to really being who you are, trying to figure out who you are in determining how you show up in your relationships. And that’s relationships at work or in your family and especially with your spouse. So today we’re going to be breaking down the concepts of self differentiation.

[00:05:36] That and plenty more coming up on today’s episode of The Virtual Couch.

[00:05:44] Hey, everybody, welcome to Episode 251 of the virtual couch, I am your host, Tony Overbay. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified might have a coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, ultramarathon runner and creator of the Path Back and the Path Back is revamped And this is for people who are trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. As far as turning to that as a coping mechanism. And I have amazing group calls on Wednesday nights. So head over to there you can find out more information. There’s also an e-book. You can download that talks about five mistakes that people often make when trying to, or five myths that we encounter when trying to put pornography in the rearview mirror once and for all as a coping mechanism. Again, that’s And honestly, email me at and maybe we can get you connected with the group. Calls us to take a look and see what those group calls are all about, because they are amazing. They’re phenomenal, they’re positive. They’re uplifting. So, again, that’s And I can honestly say that the majority of emails I’m getting right now are in regard to when is the next magnetic marriage cohort, when when will it begin? And I don’t know for sure, but I know this sounds like the the old lead magnets, but head over to and sign up to learn more.

[00:06:54] You’ll be the first to know. I’m trying to ramp up my emails to subscribers to let them know when the when when things are coming. There’s some really cool things that are coming up. If you go on the homepage, you’ll see a place right there that says sign up to find out more. And you can also go to And there’s a page there where you can sign up as well and just wanted to share. I had a couple of amazing podcast recordings last week where I was the guest that aired and a couple more that I think are coming out this week. I’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately and I enjoy that so much, but I’ll include the links in the show notes. But I was interviewed by Kristin Goodman on her brand new podcast called Parenting in the Middle. And our episode is called Connection Overcontrol. And we were we were vibin. I loved that interview. And I think you will, too. And I will again include the links. But just look for parenting the middle wherever you find podcast. I think I’m episode number five maybe. And I was on another podcast called The Jones Table with Chelsea Jones. And we did not plan on talking about what we ended up talking about, which was attachment styles. But we talked about all things attachment styles and marriage.

[00:07:58] And then that too was another fun conversation. And I’ll include those links as well. We could have gone on for hours, but some other ones coming up coming up very, very soon. And as I and I know I keep mentioning or I try to mention my YouTube channel before, but if you happen to be somebody who who watches things on YouTube and you feel so inclined, then please feel free to look up the virtual couch on YouTube. I got I have the link to the channel in the show notes as well, and hit the subscribe button. I’ve never been one to try to drive the the ratings and reviews and subscriptions. But don’t get me wrong, I truly do love reading the reviews and the ratings and subscriptions really do make a difference with not only the way algorithms work on who sees the podcasts or the videos or that sort of thing. But there’s just odd things that you learn when you hit certain numbers. It’s as if the more tools open up to you. And so I’m close to that when it comes to subscriptions on YouTube. So I could use some help with that. So if you happen to be a YouTuber go find to find the virtual captioning subscribe, that would be great. But let’s get back to the topic today, which is self differentiation. And while you may not hear this term used on a daily basis, I have noticed more and more people putting it out there on social media and in a couple of Facebook groups that I belong to.

[00:09:07] And it’s an essential piece of my magnetic marriage program. And so I found a blog by a fellow therapist named Karen Koenig, and I include the link there to and Karen does some phenomenal work in the field of compulsive, emotional and restrictive eating. She’s been in that space for over 30 years. But this is where I really like having an article to kind of work from or a blog post or that sort of thing from a colleague or from some nice research article. But it’s because this is somebody who specializes in what I’m going to talk a little bit about today and something that I’m familiar with. But when you can refer to somebody who really knows the subject matter in far greater detail than I do, I think that that is a kind of a fun base to operate from. So Karen shares the following about this concept of self differentiation. She she also says self different self differentiation is a word you probably don’t hear in everyday usage, but it’s a crucial process to living. And that’s why I let you know that she does some stuff with restrictive eating. So it’s a crucial process and living and eating well.

[00:10:08] She says it’s happening when you hear people speaking their minds with thoughtful conviction, even though others might disapprove. It’s lacking when someone spends their life rebelling against the views and values of, let’s say, one’s parents and clinging to their opposite, which this is where I talk so much about this concept of psychological reactance where that good old cliche of you can cut off your nose to spite your face of where even if this isn’t something that is helpful for you, if someone is telling you that you need to do this, whatever it is, that oftentimes we push back and we say, I’m not going to do any of whatever you just said, even if it’s. Something that’s good for me, so part of this concept of learning, what self differentiation means, what it’s about, will help one recognize when there is this psychological reactions and then saying, OK, I might be being told that this is what I need to do or this is what I should do, but this is my my journey. And ultimately, if that’s what I want to do or what I feel that is best for me, then I’ll do it. And I really don’t care as much if somebody then says, I told you so or finally you’re listening to me, and then they assume that you will do everything that they tell you to do from this day forward. Some of that good old all or nothing thinking. But she said it’s lacking again.

[00:11:21] It’s lacking when someone spends their life rebelling against the views and values of their parents and clinging to the opposite. It’s missing when someone stifles their feelings and thoughts in fear of hurting others or being rejected or shamed by them. And then she asks, do you get the picture? So with all the work I do with acceptance and commitment therapy, that the only version of you is you based on all of the things you bring to the table from the make up your nature and nurture, part of me feels like I don’t want to go into that because I do this and I will get people that I can see them mouthing along at times as I go nature, nurture, birth, order, DNA, abandonment, rejection. But all that stuff is so real. That’s what makes you you the only version of you. But so with all of the talk about acceptance and commitment therapy, then I hope that you can start to really get that picture that we often do feel like we don’t want to. We feel a certain way, but we don’t want to necessarily go along with what someone’s telling us to do because that reactance. But we also just desperately want to find our independence while still being a part of the group, because we don’t want to get booted out of the group. So there’s the acceptance and commitment therapy stuff I love. And with all the talk that I love to talk about of what abandonment and attachment issues look like in adulthood, then and you can go to any of my last few episodes of the last one that I did on anxiety, I went really deep on this.

[00:12:39] But at some point I feel like I’m laying out what those abandonment and attachment issues look like in adulthood. So I’m laying out in detail what what I’m talking about that in a nutshell, abandonment issues in adulthood assume that if people aren’t responding to me, if they aren’t meeting my needs, if they aren’t curious about me, if they don’t care about me, then something is wrong with me that I must be broken, then I must be unlovable. And that is simply not true. That’s your childhood defense and coping mechanisms that we have brought into adulthood. And on the attachment side of things, attachment wounds are this deep seated fear that if I don’t present myself in the right way, if I don’t exactly figure out how to express my needs in a way that people that I’m speaking to, even right there in the moment, will understand that they may disappear and that I won’t be accepted and that I won’t be part of the larger group and I will be abandoned. And my internal factory setting from babyhood programing tells me that if I am abandoned, well, abandonment equals death. So I better express myself in a way that I will be heard or understood whether that means through anger or drama or even if I have subconsciously have to deny any wrongdoing, also known as gaslighting, a childhood defense mechanism that people bring into adulthood because they are unable to differentiate from self.

[00:13:53] So but people thinking that I must do this at any cost because abandonment equates to death. So what is differentiation? It’s learning that you are the adult now. And whether or not you’re in a marriage or you’re talking with a boss at work or about demanding adult parents. At the end of the day, when push comes to shove and all those types of clichés, you are ultimately captain of your own ship and you can be you without being a jerk, without being mean. This is where a few episodes ago I talked so much about this passivity that we have this all or nothing, black or white, thinking that either we have to be completely passive and go along with everything, or we feel like we have to ramp up and become a jerk. And there’s a fine line before that being a jerk, that is this calm, confident energy. So you and so we don’t I mean, because I know we don’t want to be mean, but you must intentionally work toward what I do like to refer to as this calm, connected confidence that if somebody is saying, do you really know how that makes me feel? Or You really don’t believe that, do you? You don’t really want the motorcycle, do you? And instead of retracting on what we believe is the true US, we stand in a calm, confident energy and say, but this is how I feel, or this is actually what I really do believe.

[00:15:02] And I need to start being true to myself, because if I’m not being true to myself, we can jump back into acceptance and commitment therapy world. I am not being true to myself if I am living what is called a socially compliant goal, if I’m doing something because this is what I simply believe I should do or that I’m supposed to do, or I’ll let other people down, then I am. I am. My motivation is. Dr Steven Hayes, founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, says my motivation is weak and ineffective because it goes against my own sense of unfolding, my sense of self, who I am at my core, if it’s going against my values that are are there because I am the only unique version of me that has ever walked the face of the earth, and that is called a socially compliant goal. And what that often leads to my friends. Is a term called experiential avoidance, also known as kicking the can down the road, if I’m really not invested in something that I am thinking I’m supposed to do. How easy is it then to just watch one more show on Netflix or play a couple more games on my phone or do it later or do it tomorrow? If I’m not really connected to what I am doing in my life, then it is so easy to just put things off and put things off until all of a sudden we’re putting things off until the kids are out of the house, until we retire and you’re missing out on a lot of life.

[00:16:16] I mean, we can the more you can self differentiate, the more you can figure out who you are and how to show up and what your values are and what your goals are. The more you can do that now, the more rich and just incredible life you can live today. So back to Karen’s article. Back to the differentiation of self, so she she shares that this concept was initially developed or discovered by Dr. Murray Bone, and he developed the self differentiation theory, which applies to human development and family dynamics and bowins. Theory has two major parts. One is the differentiation of self is the ability to separate feelings and thoughts. Again, is that the differentiation of self is the ability to separate feelings and thoughts. Undifferentiated people cannot separate feelings and thoughts. And when asked to think they are often flooded with feelings and they have difficulty thinking logically and basing their responses on thinking logically. So they are flooded with feelings, flooded with emotions, and then that hijacks their rational thought process of their brain. And so they just act on impulse so often to Karen says further, they have difficulty separating their own from others feelings.

[00:17:29] So they look to family to define how they think about issues, how they feel about people and how they interpret their experiences. So here’s where you can start to see that it takes work to differentiate to to differentiate from your family of origin or to differentiate from your community or to differentiate from your spouse. Because from our factory settings, we look we’ve always looked to other people on how we think about issues or how we feel about people or how we interpret our own experiences. The old what do you think I should do when somebody says, I think you should do this? What’s the what’s our typical response? Yeah, but I don’t know. Because in your mind, you’re thinking because I really need to figure this one out on my own. I mean, that’s why what I love about being a therapist is when you really have this this good rapport built with the client, you’re right there on their journey, walking right beside them. And then as you are coming up on things in their life, you’re saying what are what do we do? And so often they want to say, well, what do you think I should do? And I say, oh, no, no, no, that’s not what you’re paying me for. The easy for me to tell you what I think you should do based on my experiences.

[00:18:36] But I pretty much guarantee that at some point you’re going to say either, well, this isn’t working for me or or if things don’t work, you get to say, well, the therapist told me to do it. I find this so often when I’m working with couples and they’re talking about very difficult subjects like divorce, where you often get the what do you think I should do? And I remember even early on in my career, if there were times where I felt like, well, if you’re if you really want my opinion from all the data I’ve seen and I feel like that, that, you know, you should stay, but then the person says, OK, but then I really don’t know what their experience is like. And if they’re being emotionally abused, spiritually abused, financially abused, any of these things, then I can’t believe that that’s not my job. And you have to meet somebody where they’re at. Or if you tell them, OK, I think that divorce kind of seems inevitable. People get divorced. There’s the data on divorce. You can have a it’s better to be out of that emotionally abusive relationship for you, for your kids. But then if they really aren’t buying into that themselves, if they don’t go through the process of rule outs, of getting to the place where they feel like this, I can’t do this anymore, then oftentimes you’ll hear, well, I mean, I didn’t want to, but my therapist told me to do it.

[00:19:42] And that’s where I say, whoa, don’t hand that power over to somebody else, whether it’s your spouse, whether it’s your parents, whether it’s your boss at work, whether it’s a therapist. But learn how to differentiate from from self. Learn how to realize that this is my journey and I have my own experiences and I’m welcome input. I of course, I can welcome feedback, but ultimately it’s up to me to decide what direction I want to go. And this is where I think it’s so important to know that. And going in that direction does not mean that that is my path for the rest of all eternity. You know, this is where I like to say we often want our brain just once this all or nothing, black or white, thinking. It wants patterns and it wants to just know it wants to know the end. It wants to know the end of the story. We’re condition that way because of the way that we we read stories, the way that we watch movies. We know that there’s an end. And we want to know right now how many times do you or have you ever flipped to the end of the book to want to know the end of the story or how many times? If you’re like me? I think this is a component of my ADHD, but where I’ll get about two thirds of the way through the book and once I see OK, I think I know where it’s going.

[00:20:44] I’m kind of kind of done with it because I know the end, but we don’t know the end. We our lives are made up of just all of these various experiences that could change at any moment. That is one of the things that is so fascinating is once we have this acceptance that life is difficult, then we aren’t trying to prove to others that this isn’t fair. My life’s more difficult than your life. And the acceptance is like, OK, maybe it is, but what are we going to do about it? What are you going to do about it today? So differentiating yourself is really a process of freeing yourself from your family’s processes to define you. So Karen shared in her blog this means being able to have different opinions and values than your family members with being able to stay emotionally connected to them. And that takes work, especially when you’re the rest of your family is not doing the same thing, which is often the case. So let me read that one again. This means being able to have different opinions and values than your family members, but being able to stay emotionally connected to them. It means being able to calmly reflect on a conflicted interaction afterward, realizing your own role in it. And that’s where it’s taking ownership is so important and then choosing a different response for the future.

[00:21:54] That’s from from BO and family therapy right there. So thank you, Karen. And I will include a link to her article there, which I think is just a pretty amazing, actually. She has a couple other things here. Let me let me finish up this article. She goes on to say that self-defense. Self-defense. Easy for me to say. Self differentiation involves being able to process and identify your own thoughts and feelings and distinguish them from others. It’s a process of not losing connection to self while holding a deep connection to others, including those who you love, whose views may differ from yours. She said if you grew up in a family in which everyone maintains attachment or only as very brief disconnects of attachment in spite of having different thoughts and feelings, then it’s a little bit easier to self differentiate. But the alternative to that which I feel like most of us grew up with, if there was a what she calls a parental dictum that was more of my way or the highway or let’s all get on the same page to show each other that we love each other. And self differentiation is very difficult if we’ve all kind of had a shared experience or we have these shared unified family goals and values, which again, all come from a very good place, we need some sort of direction or guidance, I feel like, to aim the our ship. But then ultimately at some point, then, I don’t know, we jump out, then a little dinghy and now we’re captains of our own ship.

[00:23:18] Not very good with analogies, but we’ll try to see if that one works. But the importance of differentiation, she said, is articulated by Lisa Firestone from this book called Differentiation Living Life on Your Own Terms. She said, although we are born genetically unique individuals, which goes right back to all of my act, stuff of nature, nurture, all that stuff, she said. We internalize our early environment so that when we grow up we are not really fully differentiated selves and many ways we are and just is so good. What she says. In many ways we are re-living rather than living, so reliving rather than living. So even though we’re our own unique individuals, we have to make sense of something in this family system. And so then we are re-living rather than living. So then we again, our job is to intentionally and focus on becoming a self differentiated individual from our our family of origin, from our from our parents, from our spouses. And that is not a negative thing. And goes on and talks about this. And I almost feel like you could plug in. She’s going to talk about dysregulated eating and think about any any whether it’s a an addiction, whether it is some self-esteem issues or any of these things. I think you can plug in where she says when she talks about dysregulated eating.

[00:24:34] So Karen said dysregulated eaters often lack self differentiation. She said sometimes they’re too nice or they go with the flow. They fear disapproval or they aim solely to please, which leaves them disconnected from self, she said. Other times they develop an identity by choosing whether it’s consciously or unconsciously their feelings and thoughts precisely because they are different from their families. And moreover, she said, the dysregulated eaters often go along in some instances and then disagree and take arbitrary oppositional stances and others, especially with authority figures. Neither reaction is rooted in a deliberate exploration and critical thinking skills about what they think or feel. Reactions are based on fear of becoming totally detached from somebody. There’s that abandonment, attachment, fear leading to doing what others want, or to becoming totally enmeshed with someone leaving the fighting to be viewed as oneself or as a separate individual. So she said not only do problems with the lack of self differentiation make healthy adult relationships impossible because they can cause tremendous inner turmoil, which in again her world often leads to comfort eating. But you may get furious because you might feel controlled by someone who wants you to do something that you don’t wish to do but believe you’re unsafe, expressing your feelings openly and again and in her world, and then use food to emotionally reregulate. Or you may silence yourself around others and feel inauthentic or unheard or invisible and with needs unmet in her world seeking food for solace, for how often do we seek other unhealthy coping mechanisms for solace when we feel like we are inauthentic, unheard or invisible, or we have these unmet needs? She says if you want to move toward differentiation, focus on being more authentic at the expense of approval and staying connected to others while disagreeing with them.

[00:26:17] And this is another area where something like therapy is tremendously helpful because this is a unique relationship, one where the underlying clinical goals is supporting you and developing a differentiated cell. So I did a little more digging on Boin and we’ll kind of kind of start to wrap things up. An article that talked about how Boeing had noticed patterns of managing anxiety in families that were similar to the instinctive ways that other species deal with threats or to their herds or pack. So, again, he goes along with we get anxious because we are afraid of being kicked out of our herd or kicked out of our pack or our family. And so, Bonin saw our personal and relationship problems is coming from exaggerated responses to sensing a threat to the connection in the home or the connection in any group that we happen to be a part of. So, for example, if we are in a family dynamic and there’s a disagreement that there can be such a what he calls an inflated pull for unity, that there isn’t really much tolerance for a difference of opinion.

[00:27:18] So an upset child is responded to with such an intense effort to protect the child that he or she consequently has no room to develop their own capacity to soothe themselves. So you can see how even in the best of families and the best of parents, if they immediately want to go and rescue that child, then at times that can come at the consequence of not giving that child room to develop their own capacity to soothe themselves. And where then they find themselves constantly wondering what what is how do I feel about something? And turning to the parent, try to figure out what their thoughts or feelings are from the parent. And all of a sudden, especially with adult kids, where now they’re looking toward their parent and their parent will say, well, hey, you’re an adult now. You got to make these decisions where throughout their life they haven’t really had a lot of practice making these decisions. So Bowen’s concept of differentiation of self forms the basis of a system of understanding maturity. So I read a little bit more. And the concept here is of differentiation can be confusing. But simply put, it refers to the ability to think as an individual while staying connected to others. And so it describes this capacity that every person has of balancing their emotions and their intellect and then also take that and balance that with their need to be attached, with their need to be their separate selves.

[00:28:38] So think about that alone. We have this desperate need to feel attached and part of a group. But then we also have this greater need to be an individual and again, self differentiated. This is where I think ACT can be so powerful because act is what can help you find yourself as cliched as that sounds and then show up in a relationship. Bone was unusual and I love this part. When you dig a little bit on Dr. Murray Bone, he was unusual in the field of psychiatry because he described himself as needing to address the same self-management issues as those of the patients he was learning to deal with. Some of the most most of the feedback I get or when I open up about my own struggles with my ADHD diagnosis or some of my own issues with even when I’ve shared things about my relationship with my wife and I’ve had these ah-ha moments or these epiphanies or some of the challenges I’ve had as a parent. And I love that Dr. Bowen said that he just really didn’t think that any human being was close to being completely differentiated. And he’s reported my close colleagues to have said that only on his very best days might appear to be in the upper to moderate range of emotional maturity. And here’s one of these fathers of modern psychology. But bowins theory doesn’t really focus on mental illness, but on the challenges of being human and the relationships that affect us all and all of these various relationships we have, whether it’s with family, colleagues, institutions, that sort of thing.

[00:30:00] So and it’s not always an easy theory to grasp, but it does because it’s focusing on more of this big picture pattern of a system. And this is from his family systems theory, rather than this narrower view of what causes difficulties for one particular individual. And so what happens is that we often then that we just try to view things through our own individual lens, but we forget that we’re part of a bigger group or a bigger picture or a bigger family relationship, even if it’s not your family of origin, if it’s a family, a church family or a work family or a community family, I recently spoke to, Well, and the last thing I had on some notes here is I was looking at this, seeing this this whole system takes people beyond blame to seeing the relationship forces that set the people on their unique different paths. So this is a way of seeing our life challenges and in the lens of trying to avoid finding fault in others. And it really proves like this unique path to taking a look at things through our own lens as an adult, taking a look at things through our own experiences and not of how someone else makes us feel or how someone else reacted to things that we’ve shared.

[00:31:13] But more about our experience. And again, in a perfect world, if everyone oneself differentiated, then this concept of tell me more about that, what’s that like for you? Flows naturally. A couple of things and I’ll wrap things up. But I recently spoke to a group of couples who are in what they refer to as a mixed faith marriage. So. That is where one person is still in a faith community and one person might be having challenges or struggles with that faith community and looking at or already has transitioned out of that faith community. And this this this event was put on through a group created by Allen and Katie Mountain, who are hosts of an excellent podcast called Marriage on a Tightrope. If you’re interested, that talk, although filmed it, was filmed looking up at me. So the camera does look like it adds many, many pounds. But it is on my YouTube channel, as I mentioned earlier.

[00:32:02] But in that talk, one of the most difficult applications of needing self differentiation, I think, is when couples do come together because they got together having this shared belief system. And then over the course of their marriage, they both are actually on their own unique spiritual journeys. But with these abandonment and attachment wounds from childhood to the forefront of their minds that scratch that, it can even be these subconscious wounds, then there’s still an intense fear of sharing these different opinions to our spouses because of that fear of abandonment. But what I was trying to convey in this particular talk that I’m that I’m referencing, as was this ability to have the conversations that eventually lead to a more differentiated, interdependent, not codependent relationship, which is ultimately a good thing. It’s using different muscles and you’re going to be emotionally sore and mentally want to stop the training and go back to the couch, so to speak, and go back to the way that things were before. But eventually, with the correct training and the right training plan, the new way to communicate or communicating using my four pillars of a connected conversation, for example, then become the you know, eventually those become these new neural pathways of connection and that being able to communicate in an interdependent way, in a self differentiated way becomes the brain’s new path of least resistance.

[00:33:13] And you’re able to communicate more effectively and you get to feel more authentic. And it is scary because we initially feel like there will be this abandonment of, oh my gosh, if I start really expressing myself in a way that’s full of I feel statements or if I want to know more about what my partner is going through, we have this fear of abandonment, but in reality it’s a better way to communicate. And there’s a quote I love by a philosopher named Terence McKenna who talks about jumping out into an abyss only to find out there’s a featherbed. And oftentimes that is the feeling. Once a couple of works through the difficulties of self differentiation is that finding that the scary abyss is a wonderfully new comfortable feather bed and possibly with maybe a motorcycle waiting for you just outside the door. So thank you so much for joining me today. And I hope that you have picked up a little bit more around this concept of self differentiation. It’s definitely a goal and it’s definitely not the path of least resistance. The path of least resistance is to still try to figure out how do I belong or how do I show up in this group or this marriage so that everybody will like me.

[00:34:15] But in reality, how has that worked? Is that left you feeling oftentimes less than or unheard or unseen? Because if that’s the case like it is for so many people, then I would highly recommend starting to explore more around this concept of self differentiation. I did a podcast a couple of weeks ago about an interdependent relationship versus a codependent relationship, and the feedback on that has been pretty phenomenal. And again, the scary piece of this is that I’m not saying that this isn’t that you go do you and your partner does them. And then we show up and hopefully we like each other. We are designed, as Sue Johnson, founder of EFT, said, to deal with emotion in concert with another human being. It is a dyadic collaborative union so that when we show up as an interdependent, self differentiated person to our spouse now one plus one can equal three. That dyadic union looks like if someone is saying, man, I’m struggling with something, I’m struggling with my focus, I’m struggling with my attention, struggle with my parenting. And if we know that our partner is going to say, tell me more, what’s that like for you? Tell me what that brings up for you instead of saying, well, you just need to do this or.

[00:35:16] Yeah, I know. I’ve been noticing that. And you’ve really let me down. You see the difference there. So when we can come to our partner as an individual, self differentiated individual in this dyadic collaborative union, that is why we that’s why we couple that’s why we’re married, that and we can have babies and and have amazing experiences and and explore together and all those wonderful things. I mean, there’s so much more I really don’t mean to say that it’s just there to have babies and families and that sort of thing, although they can be amazing. But we are designed to deal with emotion in concert with another human being. And the best way to do that is to show up as it yourself differentiated individual in an interdependent, not codependent relationship. And then that is full of tell me more. What’s that like for you? I’m here for you. I care about you. I’ve got your back. I love you. So I will end there. Hopefully right now you can hear some music building that is the wonderful, the talented Aurora Florence with the amazing song that I love each and every time. It’s wonderful.

[00:36:19] And because truly find that self differentiated, interdependent version of yourself and I’m telling you is the quickest way the things truly meaningful I will see you next time.

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