This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from several “family systems” sources, including the work of Dr. Peter Steinke, the author of How Your Church Family Works and Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach.
A well-differentiated person thinks from an “I” position and focuses on their own behavior rather than on the behavior of others. This means that a well-differentiated person:
- Lets others know what they are thinking and feeling and stays in touch with them.
- Manages their own anxiety.
- Makes distinctions between facts and feelings.
- Affirms their own values and beliefs without attacking or judging those of others.
- Does not demand that others should think, feel or act as they do.
- Accepts differences between them and others, knowing that differences alone will not cause disputes.
- Takes responsibility for their own anger, frustration or distress; and does not accuse others of being the cause of these issues.
- Lives by their own goals rather than the rules of others.
- Refuses to coerce, will or threaten others into taking responsibility for them (or their pain).
- Forms open, one-to-one relationships with people, avoiding what is secretive or collusive.
- Changes thoughts of victimization to thoughts of “What can I do?”
- Gains space or time or another’s perspective in order to get a clearer picture of things.
- Contains their own reactivity to the reactivity of others.
- Takes a stand and maintains a non-anxious presence.
- Does not confuse closeness with sameness, or differentiation with isolation.
- Avoids thinking that sees others as “either/or” — either good or evil.
- Looks at how they may have contributed to a problem.
- Accepts anxiety, tension and pain as part of the human growth processes.
- Cultivates their own imagination rather than concentrating on only the observable.
“Self-differentiation is a life-long process. The best of the species only achieves it seventy percent of the time.” — Dr. Peter Steinke