“Differentiation permits you to maintain your own course when friends and family pressure you to agree and conform. Well-differentiated people can agree without feeling like they’re ‘losing themselves’ and can disagree without feeling alienated and embittered. They can stay connected with people who disagree with them and still ‘know who they are’. They don’t have to leave the situation to hold onto their sense of self.” (p.56)
“Differentiation is the ability to stay in connection without being consumed by the other person. Our urge for togetherness and our capacity to care always drive us to seek connection but true interdependence requires emotionally distinct people.” (p. 57)
“Emotional fusion is the opposite of differentiation.”(p.57)
“Emotional fusion is connection without separation… Emotional fusion is a tenacious emotional link between people that allows anxiety to flow between them. It arises as the consequence of incomplete emotional development, wherein each partner relies on the other to support and supplant is or her functioning. (“Few of us are highly developed when we marry-marriage itself makes us grow up. To the degree that you are not a well-developed human, you will be emotionally fused with the people around you.” p. 295) I’m not referring to some kind of unconscious feeling, but rather a tangible process by which people pass anxiety between them.” (p. 116)
“Lack of differentiation alienates us from those we love. Emotional fusion deceives us into thinking that we’re not connected and we move away in defense. But the deeper truth is that we have to move away to counterbalance the tremendous impact we feel our spouse has on us. Or, unable to turn away, we turn ourselves over to the connection, but it feels engulfing.” (p. 57)
“Differentiation is the ability to maintain your sense of self when your partner is away or when you are not in a primary love relationship.” (p. 67).
“The differentiated self is solid but permeable, allowing you to remain close even when your partner tries to mold or manipulate you.” (p. 67).
“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 can evaluate your emotions (and your partner’s) both subjectively and objectively. You have feelings, but they don’t control you or define your sense of self.” (p. 68).
“…we emerge from our family of origin at about the highest level of differentiation our parents achieved. Our basic level of differentiation is pretty much established by adolescence and can remain at that level for life. In the process of regulating their own emotions, poorly differentiated parents pressure their children for togetherness or distance, which stops children from developing their ability to think, feel, and act for themselves. They learn to conduct themselves only in reaction to others.” (p. 69).
“By now the paradoxes of differentiation should be clear: while differentiation allows us to set ourselves apart from others and determines how far apart we sit, it also opens the space for true togetherness. It’s about getting closer and more distinct-rather than more distant. “ (p. 74).
Excerpts compiled by Anne Hays from Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, Ph.D.