differentiation, stone-cold sober

“[T]he essence of belief is doubt, the essence of reality is questioning. The essence of Time is Flow, not Fix. The essence of faith is the knowledge that all flows and that everything must change. The growing man is Man Alive, and his 'philosophy' must grow, must flow, with him. . . . the man too fixed today, unfixed tomorrow - and his body of beliefs is nothing but a series of fixations.” 

“Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.” 

“I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.” 

all quotes from Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again

vintage photos at a store in Austin, photo by me and my cell phone

vintage photos at a store in Austin, photo by me and my cell phone

Thomas Wolfe famously said it:  you can't go home again.

One of the most important and difficult tasks that adolescents face is differentiation from their parents and their family of origin.

Unforunately, for many of us, differentiation was characterized as rebellion.  We were told that our job was to conform rather than differentiate:  "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right."  (Even when you're no longer children?  For how many decades, exactly?)

The good thing about differentiating in adolescence is that everybody else is doing it.  It's normal.  

But if you didn't get to do that as a teenager, if you were (like I was) a bit of a parentified child, praised as "mature" and "rational" (as compared to all those immature, irrational adolescents--the normal people) then you'll have to make the break as a grown-up.  

The hard thing about differentiating in adulthood is that you have to do it stone-cold sober, without the fuel of hormones and the comfort of peer pressure to push you over the edge.  

When you have

  • a parent with a personality disorder
  • a parent with unresolved trauma
  • a parent with a high level of fear and a deep-seated need for control
  • a parent with very set beliefs:  religious, political, dietary, medical
  • a parent with other difficult circumstances that keep them stuck in some particular place.

When you want to move forward, but your parents have built their retirement home in that spot, differentiation is a difficult move to make.

Your parent will resist that move.

Your siblings will resist that move.

You will resist that move.

Guilt and sadness and longing will threaten you with loneliness, and cajole you to stay here.  Here, where it's always been comfy and warm.

But when you are ready, as Wolfe so beautifully said, "Keep on going. Don't freeze up."

As you keep on going, stay in your lane, live in your life, be responsible for you.  

Perhaps the good thing about differentiating as adults is that--maybe, perhaps, we hope--we can do it with respect for the boundaries of others.

We do that by allowing our parents, our siblings, our family to have their own experiences and emotions, just as we want those things for ourselves.  

We let them be who they are, we let them live as they prefer without controlling, manipulating or punishing.  

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.  There will be an answer:  let it be."

You've been set free for freedom, so take it up and fly.  Just don't drop poop bombs on the people below.

Be an ambassador for freedom instead, an inviter, a welcomer.  

A liver of life, a dreamer of dreams, a traveler of travels, a lover of Love.   

"Transcend and include." Richard Rohr

"Peace fell upon her spirit.  Strong comfort and assurance bathed her whole being.  Love was so solid and splendid, so good,"  Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again

Print Friendly and PDF