Over the past few weeks, I have highlighted programs and people who exemplify what it means to be an agent in God’s mission to heal the world, and how the YMCA of OKC is an agent in God’s mission to heal Oklahoma City. This morning, I want to pause highlighting our programs and people, and clarify what it means to be an agent in God’s mission to heal the world. I want to focus on the concept of self-differentiation.
Self-differentiation is being able to separate yourself from the emotional process of a system such as your family, work, friends, etc. while staying connected. It is being able to have different opinions and values than others in your organization and stay emotionally connected to them. In an organization system or family system self-differentiation is being clear about your role in the system and clear about your identity outside the system. Not allowing the system to define your identity.
Allow me to break it down for you.
My name is Joe. I am a father, husband, son, brother, pastor, YMCA employee, toy-photographer, amateur pitmaster, storyteller, leader, theologian, caretaker, dream maker, speaker, coach, explorer, dreamer.
All that I listed, while an outward expression of my identity, are not my identity. Those are roles I play within my family system and my organizational system. If you remove all those roles from my everyday life, I should be able to tell you who I am. I should still have my identity. If I do, then I am a well selfdifferentiated person. If I do not or feel that I do not, then I need to realign myself with my values and principles.
Self-differentiation is not something that is mastered. It is something a person must work on daily and become mindful when they are not differentiated. Trust me, even with a doctorate using Family System Theory as a main source, I must work on my own self daily.
Remember, self-differentiation is staying connected but separating yourself from the emotional process.
Here are a few resources if you wish to learn more about self-differentiation:
Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman
Differentiation of Self: Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives by Peter Titelman
Differentiation of Self by Paul-Roy Taylor
Self-Differentiation Journal: Free Yourself from Limitations Set by Your Family of Origin by Destiny Keeper
The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory by Dr. Roberta M Gilbert
Leadership on the Line by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky
Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger
Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What by Steinke, Peter L.