Differentiation is Growth.
Depression and Stuckness
Lately, my fifteen-year-old tells me I am too rigid and he no longer believes in anything I believe in. It makes me a little weepy to hear this, but it challenges me to let go of my pre-planned images of how he would grow up. If I tried too hard to control his views, he’d just have to pull harder the other way. Differentiation is how we grow and stay engaged with life.
Depressed people tend to be bored people. Even if they are too busy with urgent responsibilities. I notice that depressed people quietly adhere to ideologies they’ve long since outgrown. They say, I could never… Yet, they show signs they desperately want to break free. Since they’re not at liberty to voice these longings, they do other things to rebel, like eat too much or lose important jobs.
Being stuck in our parents’ way of thinking restricts our growth…which is depressing.
Differentiation of Self
Each successive generation sees a bit further down the road than its parents. That makes us evolve as a society and as a global community. The fact that children become adolescents who say, Just let me be my own person! shows how forcefully the maturation process unfolds us and our children into the future and changes how we eat, drive, and talk. We live in constant change.
Change pulls us out of the funk and keeps life interesting.
Differentiation of Self happens normally as a child grows up, says No, becomes aware of her preferences, and bonds with an adult partner to form a new family. It keeps the species moving forward, which is healthy. The alternative is enmeshment, which feels like mental quicksand (think of people you’ve known who lived in their parents’ basements until they were thirty-five). Differentiation keeps us maturing into the people we were meant to be.
So if you struggle with breaking free of your family’s dysfunction, remember that your differentiation can help your parents grow up too. You, pulling in your own direction, forces your parents to mature – even if they don’t want to. Your misbehavior therapizes your family in an unexpected way, even if they go kicking and screaming into the more healthy future.
It’s all good.
I suggest these ideas for your emotional travel (growth) and for offering a hand to your folks who may see the ship disembarking and secretly wish to come along.
Misbehavior is Growth.
- Read banned books.
- Talk openly about your evolving spirituality (even if it’s no longer believing in anything).
- Disagree out loud.
- Make friends with people ethnically dissimilar, especially if they make you a little uncomfortable.
- Vote differently from your family. Tell them about it.
- Consider making your sex life different in some way (this, you can keep to yourself.).
- Go back to school. Study something opposite your current field.
- Read about philosophy.
- Take an art class.
- Give away stuff you don’t use.
- Take a trip and don’t tell your parents.
- Change something about your diet.
- Get a tattoo.
- Make a wardrobe change: experiment with clothes that feel more fun to wear.
- Learn to write naughty poems.
- Get some EMDR focused on staying true to yourself while in the presence of your family.
When the subject arises, embrace the chance to un-closet your changing self. (Do I always embrace the chance to un-closet? No, but I hold it as an intention.) If you block your misbehavior and maturity to keep your parents unruffled, you do so at the peril of your mental health. And you rob your parents of the chance to know who you really are. Your acting out might inspire them to do the same. (Picture your mother getting a tattoo or taking a lover.). Remember, one person’s evolution matures everybody around them a bit, even if it’s shocking and painful or fraught with disagreement.
Evolution lifts you out of depression by feeding your brain with new ideas. It propels you into things not yet imagined…the life you were meant to live.