Here are some basic things to help you self-differentiate and to grow a healthier you:
1. Calm your own anxiety. The more anxiety you carry the less solid self you have. Anxiety is typically contagious in family and marriages. Learning to calm yourself is a big step in the right direction to building a solid self.
2. Own your own attitudes. If you need an attitude adjustment then give yourself one. And if you can’t give yourself one, ask for help.
3. Become comfortable with disagreements. To disagree with your spouse is healthy and normal. But disconnecting because your spouse doesn’t agree with you, disrupts a healthy self and a healthy union. Question if being right is worth breaking the connection.
4. Develop your spiritual maturity. God repeatedly says, “Don’t be afraid” or “Be anxious for nothing.” Relax into His love for you. Christian spiritual maturity is the foundation for a healthy self.
5. Monitor your negative self-talk. Self-hatred refuses to let love in. Perhaps your spouse doesn’t love you the way you want to be loved. But self-evaluate. Is there any attempt on your part to refuse to let love in? Whatever your belief system is, you will do whatever it takes to prove that it is true, even if it means inventing evidence that is from the imagination. For example, if you believe you are unlovable, nothing your spouse can do will ever make you feel loved. Your spouse isn’t responsible to convince you that you are loveable. Their love for you can have a positive impact on your belief system, but ultimately it is up to you if you will let love in or not. You must love you.
6. You take responsibility to re-wire your brain. Remember, we were wired for love (or not) during those first three to five years of life. If that wiring did not go well, you have to participate in wiring your brain for love. Very little will change or help you in the growth process unless you take personal responsibility, create a positive structure for change, and engage the help of others such as coaches, comrades, and mentors.
7. Decide to trust that God is the master of rewiring our brains, hearts, and bodies for love. He is more than able. He promises to engage with us in this process … will you engage with Him?
8. Your past does not define your future. Changes begin to happen, when you start living from the belief of Christ within you. You instinctively calm down, anxiety lowers; love grows, because it is Christ inside of you doing His good and perfect work.
9. We are created for relationships. We are relational creatures, with a need to be rooted in relationships with God first and others second. We get into trouble relationally when we become dependent on others for our self-worth and when we expect others to calm our personal anxiety. The outcome of this is a needy and clingy self that pushes others away—believing relationships are too painful.
10. The more we are able to stand securely with our identity in Christ, the more love we are capable of giving and receiving. Love isn’t a feeling, love truly is an ability.
If a relationship has become enmeshed, sometimes you have to move away from the other to learn how to stand on your own two feet. Once you have become more stable, you are then ready to move towards the relationship as a healthy differentiated self. And the better self-differentiated you are, the more you are able to let those you love in. You are less insecure and more able to ask for what you need in a direct, clear way, in this growth process. For example, you ask for comfort, instead of attacking your partner and saying things like, “You are never there for me.” The healthy self, does not freeze up and shut down or move away from the other in a way that resembles withdrawal. Withdrawal isn’t helpful in becoming a healthy person. Neither is attack. Health is the ability to let the love of others in.
Thought Bomb: Which tip resonates with you the most, and how can you begin practicing it today?