This oft-repeated phrase in AA and Alanon is profound in its simplicity. The capacity to define oneself in spite of the approval or judgment of another is a sign of emotional maturity and a quality that makes life work better. “Someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business.” Say it to yourself.
Differentiation is about knowing who you are, about your purpose. It is about distinguishing between the business that is yours and the business that is others. It is about self-definition and the management of opinions.
Trying to live up (or down) to others opinions of you is undifferentiation. Needing others to have your opinion is also undifferentiation. These are patterns of immaturity. Lots of conflict comes from this.
A client friend said to me this week, “I have spent my life working for my father’s approval that I have never received. I am unhappy, overworked, compulsive about everything and I no longer know who I am or what I enjoy.” He is a doctor, newly married, often angry, lost in compulsivity – what used to give him pleasure is now bland. Undifferentiation is a trap that can take years to close.
A few questions for you:
• When do you most feel yourself? When are you most in control of yourself?
• What relationships most allow you to be you? What relationships trap?
• Does your faith mostly freeze you with others, or free you for God?