Deur: David Schnarch
Inspired by the work of Dr David Schnarch; Compiled by Antoinette Ehmke

As Human Beings, we have equal but opposing driving forces: on the one hand each of us want to be an individual, achieve great things as an individual and be acknowledged as an individual. On the other hand, we want to be part of a relationship / a group / a “tribe”; we crave a sense of “belonging to”; being “emotionally connected to”.

“Differentiation” involves balancing these two basic life forces: the drive for individuality and the drive for togetherness. Individuality propels us to follow our own directives, to be on our own, to create a unique identity. Togetherness pushes us to follow the directives of others, to be part of the group.

When these two life forces for individuality and togetherness are expressed in balanced, healthy ways, the result is a meaningful relationship that doesn’t deteriorate into emotional fusion. Giving up your individuality to be together is as defeating in the long run as giving up your relationship to maintain your individuality. Either way, you end up being less of a person with less of a relationship.

Mature individuals strive for a balance between these two opposing needs, rather than choosing fulfilment of the one need at the cost of the other.

“Differentiation” is not opposite to “Connection”. Differentiation is the higher order process that balances our drive for individuality with our drive for emotional connection.


Consequences of Emotional Fusion:

Controlled by the connection
Lose the ability to direct yourself
Get swept up in how people around you are feeling
There’s room for only one opinion, one position.
Have to “move away” to counterbalance the tremendous impact the other person has on us. “I-got-to-be-me-by getting-away-from-you” (= pseudo-differentiation, because the person is unable to choose to get closer)
Become oppositional – an attempt to fight off the impulse to fuse.
If unable to turn away, surrender to the connection, but feel engulfed by it.
Identity is constructed out of a reflected sense of self.
People whose identity is primarily dependent upon their relationship, don’t facilitate the growth and development of those they love or lead. They lose their identity when others change! Everyone is supposed to stay in their assigned “seat” so that someone can maintain the “self” he / she has established in relationship.
Dependant upon agreement and approval.


Consequences of Differentiation:

Makes it possible for you to maintain your sense of self when you are emotionally or physically close to others – especially as they become increasingly important to you. You can agree without feeling you “lose yourself” and disagree without feeling alienated and embittered. Can stay connected with people with whom you disagree and still “know who you are”. Don’t have to leave the situation to hold onto your sense of self.

Fewer resources in well-differentiated relationships / systems have to be rigidly devoted to compensate for the inability of any one member to take care of him/ herself. Conversely, there is less need for anyone to sacrifice growth or self-direction to maintain the stability of the relationship. Differentiation allows each person to function more independently and interdependently.

Differentiation doesn’t involve any lack of feelings or emotions. You can connect with your partner without fear of being swept up in his or her emotions. You have feelings, but they don’t control or define your sense of self.

The self-determination of differentiation doesn’t imply selfishness. Differentiation is not about putting yourself ahead of everyone else. You can CHOOSE to be guided by your leader / team member / partner’s best interests, even at the price of your individual agenda. But it doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re e being ruled by others’ needs. What they want for themselves becomes as important as what you want for yourself. You value their interests on a par with yours. This is called mutuality.

“Mutuality” as a mindset offers a solution to the central struggle of any long-term relationship: going forward with your own self-development while being concerned with your leader / team member / partner’s happiness and well-being. “What I want for myself versus my wanting for you what you want for yourself” is the conflict – not “What I want for myself versus what you want for yourself”. If you talk your partner out of what he or she wants so you can have your way, you lose. When you participate in the agendas of those you love and sacrifice out of your own differentiation, it enhances your sense of self rather than leaving you feeling like you have sold yourself out.


If “I am” = who I think people think I am, then I can’t tolerate it if they change, or if their opinion / attitude about me change.

If “I am” = who I FEEL I am (i.e. I get my identity from my feelings) then I can’t afford to have them change!

With a stable sense of self, one’s feelings can come and go like the weather. Other people can come and go and change like the weather, too.

The differentiated self is solid and permeable, allowing you to remain close even when your leader / team member / partner / child tries to mold or manipulate you. When you have a solid core of values and beliefs, you can change without losing your identity. You can permit yourself to be influenced by others, changing as new information and shifting circumstances warrant. Realize, however, that this flexible sense of identity develops slowly, out of soul-searching deliberation – not by simply adapting to situations or the wishes of others.

Passionate Marriage – Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships
By David Schnarch ISBN: 0-8050-5826-5
Opgedateer op : Sa 03 Des 11