…that would be almost equivalent to explain Christianity in one sentence. Because
the whole notion of differentiation.… Let me put in a few words about
this. Among all the concepts that I've developed, probably the most important had to
do with extended family.
And another one that I consider the most important would be the differentiation of
self. And I think it is difficult for people to deal with the differentiation of
self because they are too much stuck to the rest of the family. And I don't think
any of us can be aware of how much we are like our family because it is impossible
to separate these things out.
And that is probably what I'm trying to say, that the differentiation of self is one
that I would consider probably the second best concept that I defined. And nobody
else has tried to define that. Some other efforts would be – the effort that
Maslow made and people like that that would say people are different from each
other along these lines.
The U.S. Army has a quote/cliche which I consider one of the best.… You
know, to change what can be changed, to be serene about what can't be
changed.… The Army's one is "to be all that you can be."
And if there is one thing that a therapist has, I think, a command to do, is to
help this person or this family become all they can be. And I don't believe that
I, or you, or anybody else has become all you could be. I think you still have
a million things to work on – and why do you keep putting
them off? You could start any day now, just like I can start any day now.
1985 videotaped presentation on alcoholism, at a conference in Wisconsin.
It begins with Dr. Bowen's response to an attendee's request for a one-sentence
explanation of "differentiation of self." As you read, try to hear Dr. Bowen speaking
these words in his conversational style, and ending with a laugh.