Edwin Friedman on differentiation

From Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve:

Differentiation refers to a direction in life rather than a state of being.

  • Differentiation is the capacity to take a stand in an intense emotional system.
  • Differentiation is saying “I” when others are demanding “we.”
  • Differentiation is containing one’s reactivity to the reactivity of others, which includes the ability to avoid being polarized.
  • Differentiation is maintaining a non-anxious presence in the face of anxious others.
  • Differentiation is knowing where one ends and another begins.
  • Differentiation is being able to cease automatically being one of the system’s emotional dominoes.
  • Differentiation is being clear about one’s own personal values and goals.
  • Differentiation is taking maximum responsibility for one’s own emotional being and destiny rather than blaming others or the context.

Differentiation is not to be equated with similar-sounding ideas such as individuation, autonomy, or independence. First of all, it has less to do with a person’s behavior than with his or her emotional being. Second, there is a sense of connectedness to the concept that prevents the mere gaining of distance, leaving, or cutting-off as ways to achieve it.  Third, as stated above, it has to do with the fabric of one’s existence, one’s integrity.