Differentiation: The ability to be in emotional contact with others yet still autonomous in one’s emotional functioning.*
I wish that when I was a kid—a ‘sensitive, moody, emotional’ kid, someone had talked to me about this idea of differentiation. I think it would have been so helpful to know that some people can be especially affected by the moods and energy of other people and that sensitive people can learn healthy ways to hold onto themselves during those interactions.
Having the language to describe something like this along with the awareness of what happens is usfeul. Having practices that help to establish one’s emotional autonomy is life changing. It’s empowering. Practice is where we develop tools to use in all sorts of challenging moments that help regognize when we are getting pulled in a difficult direction and can do something about it. Regular practice can also influence and change what we believe to be our relationship to ourself and to others. We can go from distrust or fear in these relationships to something more secure and even joyful. This pursuit has been central to the work I’ve been doing through yoga.
When I began, I participated in group yoga classes. These experiences laid the groundwork for this work. The biggest change came with individualized practice and a relationship with my yoga mentor. Regular individual practice, with the guide of a yoga teacher, provides the method and the support for personal growth. The practices and philosophy of yoga can take us a very long way toward becoming the kind of person each of us wants to be.
If you’d like to know more, contact me. I offer a 20-min call to anyone who has questions about individual vs. group yoga or wonders if it’s the right time to begin a guided personal practice.
*I came across this definition in the book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate. It’s an excellent book, though it’s not an easy one. There are stories of people who have suffered terrible tragedy and trauma and whose addictions have cost them greatly. Reading this has also provided plenty of opportunities to look at my own addictive behaviors (not easy either). Mate paints a very thorough picture of the different biological and psychosocial aspects of addiction and gives us hope for those who want to recover and heal. The book has stirred a lot in me. I highly recommend it.