May 12


Levels of Differentiation

Are you able to express your differences from others while still feeling caring and connected to them? Most people can do this easily when their stress level is low. To gain a better sense of how far you have come in expressing your individuality and differentiating from others, examine the way you operate during crises and conflict.

Undifferentiated Person Indifference & Intolerance


Differentiated Person Concern & Toleration

I have few preferences and like others to make decisions.

1 2 3 4 5

I am aware of my preference, even if I choose to go along with others.

My opinions, beliefs, and principles are almost identical to my family’s, friends’, or church’s.

1 2 3 4 5

I have questioned the beliefs of my fam ily, friends, and religion before reaching my own conclusions.

I am easily swayed by others’ viewpoints.

1 2 3 4 5

I consider others’ ideas and choose whether or not to change my own

I try to get others to see things my way or I try to defend myself.

1 2 3 4 5

I can state my position without attacking others or defending myself.

When my preferences differ from others, I either win or lose.

1 2 3 4 5

I can make compromises without fear of giving up parts of myself.

I express my beliefs with the words “We think . . ., I agree with . . .”

1 2 3 4 5

I express my beliefs with the words “I think . . .”

I prefer to be with people whose views are similar to my own.

1 2 3 4 5

I enjoy points of view that differ from my own.

Emotions Rule Intellect


Intellect Rules Emotions

My reactions are usually caused by others.


I can reason, reflect, and evaluate my re actions to people and events.

I am rarely emotional, OR I have “knee-jerk” reactions.

1 2 3 4 5

I am able to experience passionate emo tions without losing myself.

When I am emotional, I seem to lose my powers of reason.

1 2 3 4 5

My intellect and logic rule my emotions.

My decisions are based on instinct and what “feels” right.

1 2 3 4 5

I am able to think through my decisions.

I often don’t know the reasons for my decisions.

1 2 3 4 5

I am aware of the reasons for my decisions.

When others are in conflict, I am drawn to take sides.

1 2 3 4 5

During conflict, I see both sides of the issue.

Other-Oriented Goals


Self-Serving Goals

It is hard for me to act without others’ love and approval.

1 2 3 4 5

I can risk losing others’ approval when something is important to me.

I feel angry, hurt, or resentful when others don’t approve of me.

1 2 3 4 5

I am temporarily sad or feel calm when others withhold approval.


Murray Bowen’s ideas on differentiation are summarized in Family Therapy in Clinical Practice (Jason Aronson, 1978).

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