Boundaries and Differentiation

The importance of establishing healthy boundaries and a well- developed, positive, values-based self-identity when dealing with dysfunctional family members:

“The core of Murray Bowen’s articulation of Family Systems Theory is the concept of differentiation: “Differentiation refers to how one functions in response to one’s level of anxiety” (John L. Winek, Systemic Family Therapy: From Theory to Practice, Sage Publications, 2009, 83). In other words, differentiation is the ability for an individual to respond to either external or internal situations without succumbing to emotional pressures that would elevate anxiety and other unhealthy emotional processes. It is similar to the psychodynamic concept of ego strength, an emotionally intelligent, robust sense of SELF that is not solely dependent on the input of others. By contrast, emotional fusion is a move away from the differentiated self and individual autonomy within a relationship, family, and/or group toward unhealthy emotional attachment. The emotionally fused individual has great difficulty taking responsibility for his feelings and behaviors, and often makes others responsible. This increases anxiety within the system and makes individual balance and emotional regulation among the members more and more difficult.

Emotional enmeshment can manifest in acute anxiety and even develop into chronic anxiety, bad behavior, and emotional reactivity, which is often marked by anger and rage. All of this is incredibly harmful to relationships and creates a toxic environment. ” Evan Rohrs- Dodge. (CBB 3/29/2022)