Be with Yourself Before Being with Others
One of the unique things about Bowen family systems theory is how it conceptualizes self. Murray Bowen, who developed the theory, termed this the Differentiation of Self. Although a bit confusing at first glance, it is essentially a person’s ability to think and act as an individual while remaining connected to others. Awareness of the self is an ability to peer into and engage their own thoughts and feelings, which can fuel emotional self-awareness, and is known as introspection. Introspective thinking generally leads to more functional relationships by allowing individuals to hold themselves present with others without becoming overly emotionally fused with them. Differentiation of the self should not be confused with the concept of selfishness as the former generally leads to better relational understanding and the latter generally brings about relational discord.
We, as social beings, live in relation to others and when life with others is in balance all people involved generally enjoy greater relationship functionality. A primary way to achieve or to maximize the harmonious function of a relationship is to become increasingly aware of what and how the self contributes to that relationship. Interestingly, as we concentrate on what we bring to a relationship we have less time to think about what the other person brings. As we improve ourselves and are able to engage with others in a more thoughtful and more considerate way we become more aware of our own self and begin to experience improved functionality in relationships with others.
So, after slowing down and realizing what feelings and thoughts come to surface when relating to others you may wish to share these with others who are close to you and invite them to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Practicing this process may feel awkward and odd in the beginning but over time it will become more natural and flow more easily. Even if you decide not to share this process with others, you will likely find your relationships richer and more rewarding in time. Amazingly you might find that by doing this, relationships improve or become more functional and more rewarding for both yourself and others.
David B Yentzen, M.Ed. (Candidate)
Graduate Student Intern
Supervised by Angel Hirsch, LPC #78101