Episode 135 Differentiation With Gina (1)

Developing Differentiation with Gina – Client Spotlight

Differentiation is the ability to hold onto who we are in an authentic way when we are staying in connection with other people and doing that in an emotionally and mentally mature way.

My client, Gina, has been working on developing the skill of Differentiation, and has made so much progress, I want to highlight her and let her share her experience and some of her journey.

Gina shares why she decided she wanted to work on this particular skill, some of the difficulties she went through, and what was especially helpful to her.

I hope this episode is helpful to you as you go on your own journey in your family relationships.

Full Transcript


Gina, Tina Gosney

Gina  00:00

When I first decided to seek help, it was to work on my relationships with other people. And the thing that I’ve come out of it realizing is that the work I needed to do the most I feel like was within myself. And finding kind of the tools and the things that would help me to be able to figure out like what was going on inside of me, and that I have found has actually improved my relationship a lot with others, it’s just had that benefit.

Tina Gosney  00:30

Welcome to the coaching your family relationships podcast, where we work on you. My name is Tina Gosney, your host, as well as your family relationship coach, and positive relationship strategist. When we make peace with what’s happening inside of you, you’ll begin to find the peace you’re looking for and your family relationships. Let’s get started. I am so privileged today to invite a client on it’s the first time I’m having one of my clients on the podcast. And I really wanted Gina to come on today I asked her to come on because she’s made such significant progress. And as I say that she’s probably I can see her like, oh, just cringing a little bit like, I don’t want to be held up as an example. But I think she really does exemplify what can happen when we do the hard work and get down to really like what is holding us back in our lives from being happy and fulfilling, connected in our relationships, and just being happy with ourselves as well. And Gina has worked super hard on all of those things. And so I want to welcome her to the podcast today.

Gina  01:44

All right, thanks, Tina.

Tina Gosney  01:46

And we’re going to have a discussion, I asked her if she would discuss differentiation with me today, because that is something that she has worked a lot on. And I know that as I say that word, that there are going to be lots of people that are like I don’t even know what differentiation is. So we’ll go into that in a minute. But first of all, Gina, can you tell me kind of what your life was like and why you reached out for coaching in the first place?

Gina  02:10

Yes, so I have, um, I’m married and have four adult children. I’ve been married for over 30 years. And I, before I had children, I always thought I would have a career that was something I had in my mind. But then it took us a while to kind of get our children here because of some medical issues. And so when I had my first baby, I had been yearning for quite a while and I instantly fell in love with motherhood. And just really wanted that to kind of be where I focused all my, my energy and my time. And I was fortunate to be able to have the option of whether or not to do that. And so I decided to be a stay at home mom and I have loved it, there has been so many amazing things about being there, with my children, and for all of the things that they go through and to being able to see them grow. But I also think that in the process a little bit, I also feel like I lost a little bit of my own identity by making it my own focus. Like, like, I was so busy growing my children that I quit growing myself. And I think that kind of eventually led to me when some things went in ways I didn’t expect to have a hard time emotionally with dealing with the bad things that we have in our life.

Tina Gosney  03:30

I would say there’s probably a lot of people that resonate with what you just said, motherhood didn’t, you know, I gave my whole self to it and, and lost myself in the process. And then things started going not in the way that I planned. I think that’s so many people’s story. So I know you’re going to help a lot of people just by what you’re sharing today. So let’s get into differentiation. And first of all, what it is it’s really like being mature with our thoughts with our feelings. How do we handle them? How do we know that we’re the one that actually is creating them, when we realize that it’s kind of eye opening for a lot of us and how that’s different when were children even like in a child development way, like our children do not have the ability to be differentiated. They’re seeing themselves through the eyes of their caregivers, through their parents and their siblings and their teachers, right. So they have like this, almost like they’re  looking at themselves in a mirror but the other person is the mirror. And it’s really uncommon, especially in our generation to have a parent that taught you that you could be different when you grew up. So so many of us have just taken that same mirror I just carried it with us into our adulthood. And we give other people the ability to control our thoughts and emotions or we just think that they have the ability to control all our thoughts and emotions. And so it’s really common to think that you can control other people’s feelings and that they can control yours. And we call that being enmeshed. Or another word for it is codependent. And but it’s a super painful place to be. Right? Because you don’t feel like you have any control over your own life. And so you’ve been working on separating yourself and meshing yourself in order to create a more solid Gina, a more solid you. So why did you decide that this was something that you wanted to work on? When and why did you decide that this was something that was important to you?


You know, I, it’s interesting, because that word enmeshment, I had never heard that before we started talking. And I never thought of myself as being enmeshed or being controlling. And in fact, my kids, they would often tell me, they were so glad I wasn’t that mom that track their location on their phones and like micromanage their every decision. And so I just thought I was doing pretty good. But as I look back, I can see, I feel like that I wasn’t matched. And I feel like my identity became too wrapped up and my children’s choices. And I think it there was a lot of things that I was really happy to let them just figure it out for themselves. I you know, I wanted them to be their own person and be who they wanted to be and pick their spouse and their friends and their, whatever their political path was, and all those things. But there were a couple of things that were very important to me, I think I really had high hopes that they would follow a traditional family path and that they would follow the faith path that resonates with me. And I think I just wrongly assumed that what worked well for me would work for them until it wasn’t really until things that are, were very important to me weren’t happening, that I began to see the way I was thinking wasn’t working. I had some family members that were struggling with depression and with anxiety and mental health issues, that I had some that were taking on faith beliefs, they weren’t taking on the faith beliefs that I was hoping for. We had one family member share some feelings of gender incongruence. And one day, I just realized I was getting exhausted and discouraged and didn’t have the answers. For all of this. In one day, I had a strong feeling that for our family to be able to come together and to love each other unconditionally and have what we wanted for a family that I needed to gain a deeper understanding of these people that I love so much, and to find a better way to be able to show up for them.

Tina Gosney  07:42

Yeah, that’s beautiful. You said you weren’t that controlling mom. But then you said you saw that you were controlling or enmeshed? How did you how did that shift for you? What did you notice? If you weren’t the one that was tracking their location and deciding what they were going to do in their life? How did you see yourself being controlling?

Gina  08:01

I think I was a little bit more like, well, if I try and invite all these experienced activities in our life and invite these experiences into my life, then they’ll just feel this certain way. And they’ll take on these these beliefs that I hope they take, because why wouldn’t they feel the same way I did when I had these experiences. So I felt like I was trying to create experiences for them. In a way I wasn’t telling them what to do. But I was trying to maybe create an atmosphere where I felt like maybe they would take on the thoughts I was hoping for.

Tina Gosney  08:36

Which I think is super common. We want to give our children experiences where they have the ability to have be influenced for good in their lives. I don’t know that’s controlling unless you were then pinning expectations on those experiences providing a certain outcome.


I think, yeah, and I think I was getting the expectations. I wasn’t saying that aloud to them all the time. But I was very much pinning those expectations. I feel like for what I was hoping for, which comes back to a little bit of getting my identity maybe too wrapped into into theirs.

Tina Gosney  09:23

So when you when we pin our expectations on so I’ve created this experience, they should be having the same response to that experience that I do. Then I’ll get this certain outcome and then we don’t get that outcome. Then it becomes an experience that we get to practice differentiation or enmeshment with right, like, am I going to, once I get this the outcome and it didn’t turn out the way that I want it to? What do I do with it then? Yeah, then it becomes a circumstance where I get to choose. Our child chose and then we get to choose. Yeah, yeah, definitely. One of the things that we worked on in coaching, and that’s this is something like from the very beginning that I work with all my clients is seeing how, like, we are the one that creates our thoughts. And those thoughts create feelings. And it’s so that’s really empowering for us to realize, oh, I create my thoughts. And that’s how I feel.  When I when I first learned this several years ago, it felt like I was finally getting off this, this emotional roller coaster that I felt like I had no control to stop before, all of a sudden, I had like the, the power the on and off button. And so it’s really common to swing all the way to this toxic independence, and just kind of put everybody else over to the side and say, Okay, you, you, do you, you can’t control me, you don’t get to control my thoughts and my emotions, I’m controlling that I’ll be over here and you’ll be over there. So that’s really common to just to swing the pendulum really far in the other direction. And and we isolate ourselves in a certain way. I know that for you, it did not happen to that degree. For you that did not feel good to swing that pendulum all the way over did, but you did see it swing further over to independence, not to a toxic level, but to a more independent level before you kind of settled that equilibrium in the middle. So what did that look like for you, when you were swinging far further over into independence, and then you tried to find that middle ground that felt better for you?

Gina  11:45

Well, I’m with my family, it’s like you said it’s true, I didn’t go over to that independence, I continued to stay on that like roller coaster of a measurement. So that was my work there. But with people outside of my immediate family, I, I very much did that I had felt before we had some of our circumstances happen, I had had a lot of sameness with people that that I was around with friends and neighbors. And now with our new circumstances, I was feeling a lot of difference. I feel like with others, and I had a lot of dissonance inside myself, while I was learning how to expand my way of thinking, I would find myself being frustrated a lot because I would feel like someone was too conservative or too liberal or too judgmental or not understanding enough for not tolerant like I had a long list. Because I have things that were kind of pulling me kind of a way and wanting me to retreat from other people. I think I did eventually realize I was feeling isolated and that I was doing it to myself, it wasn’t really anyone doing it to me, but I was doing it to myself. So

Tina Gosney  12:58

I think that’s really, it’s very common for us to want to be around to be the same as the other people that were around. To feel like we fit in that we belong. And to do that we need to be the same as them. And when our life circumstances take us out of being able to be the same. It’s almost like we feel like we have to separate ourselves, which is there. Another way of talking about differentiation is that we want to belong to ourselves and feel confident in ourselves and have like the agency and ability to to become our best selves. But we also want to be in connection with other people and be the same as them and have things in common, but we don’t know how to do both at the same time. So being differentiated is being able to do both of those at the same time. That sounds like what you’re describing is that you were able to not be the same as other people and still stay in a relationship with them. That might look different than it did before.


I think so. I think that sometimes it can be hard to handle the feelings that come with disagreement, and especially when it’s something that’s very close to the heart. And I feel like there’s a lot. There’s a lot to learn to figure out how to handle those feelings. I’m still figuring that out.

Tina Gosney  14:17

I think differentiation is not something that we arrive at and we’re like, Okay, I’m perfect at this skill. And now I don’t have anything to work on for the rest of my life. I think it’s something that we keep working on through our whole lives. Which brings me to my next point was that I think I heard once every 15 to 18 months we have what this it was a book that I read and he called it the author called it a life quake. So some big upheaval in our life. That’s a lot of upheaval in our life 15 to 18 months. That’s a lot of upheavals. So we could find ourselves, being really good at this skill of differentiation and holding on to ourself and stay action with other people. And then something life quake happens, something really big happens. And we get sucked back to really easy to get sucked back into our old ways of enmeshment. And codependency. This happens when we go into crisis mode, you know, our brain is just goes, it says, I know how to solve this. And it goes back to the old ways that we used to solve things, right, it goes back to our old ways, because that’s super practiced. And this new skill of differentiation is not as practiced, it doesn’t feel sometimes as accessible when we’re in a crisis mode. So it’s really easy to be when that happens to be hard on herself. And to think, Oh, I haven’t made any progress at all. Here I am back right where I was before. And to just kind of beat ourselves up for that. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a big crisis. Just it can be even a simple conversation. Sometimes that will send us back into old ways of thinking and doing. Yes. How have you experienced this? Have you seen this happen to you? Like, what is your experience of that? Yes,

Gina  16:09

I’ve seen this happen a lot I, I have found that I’ve learned to like kind of stop and to check in with my feelings and try to evaluate why this is happening. And I found that often, it’s something as simple as that. I’m tired. And I’m more sensitive. When I’m tired, I realized, so I’ve learned, you know, to prioritize taking care of my physical health. And then I’ve also realized how much fear can drive my negative thoughts. And so I’ll, you know, do things to change my focus, but then the circumstance does come up, that will throw me right back in to that place of fear, and getting enmeshed all over again. And so then I think I have to be patient and kind of work through it and let the peeling fillings pass again, because the intense feelings, they do pass, and then I can gain some perspective and be able to see more clearly again, but it often does feel like, like you said, like steps backwards. But I feel like throughout the process, like I feel like initially, I felt like my circumstances needed to change to be happy. And over time, I’ve kind of learned that the circumstances aren’t really what are determining my state of happiness, but it’s how I’m perceiving my circumstances. So that makes it a little bit easier when I take steps backwards, to be able to stop and evaluate it and kind of see where I’m at and then refocus again.

Tina Gosney  17:34

You just said something that I think is so significant. I want to highlight what you said, in that you said I used to think that my circumstances had to change for me to be happy. And then I realized, oh, it’s actually how I’m seeing my circumstance that creates whether I’m happy or not. Yeah, I think that that’s super significant. I think many, many parents think I can be happy if this was happening, or this wasn’t happening in my family. And so that and I think that’s when the that need that you can try to control that you were talking about before. It’s like no, I need to control things. So they get back into a situation that is feel safe to me, You even brought up fear, right? So I need to control this. So it gets back into a situation where it feels safe to me. Because I’m afraid and this isn’t okay. And I can’t be happy if I’m full of fear. And I have this circumstance in my life. Yeah. But that that was really significant what you said that you create your experience of the circumstance, and that determines whether you’re happy in it or not. Yeah,

Gina  18:48

that’s very true. Yeah.

Tina Gosney  18:50

I really believe that we were, we are all very powerful creators in our own lives. As far as like, even from the littlest things, just even for like what you decided to wear today, to who you decided to marry, right? And where you decided to live, and everything in between. And so those circumstances that we’ve been given, we get to create our experience of them, just like you said, How did you create this experience that you were able to find happiness without your circumstance changing?

Gina  19:28

I think I needed to start out with I think it’s that measurement and separating myself from my family enough to realize that my thoughts are not their thoughts and my path isn’t necessarily their path and separate that and that was such an important vital part. I feel like I’ve been taking that step to be able to see my circumstances different. And to be able to be more of a creator in my life as my kids are getting older now and I have I have a lot more freedom to To be able to, you know, go back to school and to be able to, you know, reconnect with some, some old hobbies and things I used to didn’t have time for that I do now. And I think a lot of it’s like when we’re talking about being a creator is creating a life A life for ourself. And it’s so easy oftentimes to feel guilty. Like, we’re not supposed to do that, as mothers. But I think it is actually very important to do that.

Tina Gosney  20:26

Why do you think that’s important?

Gina  20:28

I think, well, if we’re going to talk just about from the vantage point of the example we’re setting for our kids, I, which isn’t the main point, but I feel like they see us creating and doing things, and it helps them see that that’s an example that that’s a possibility in life. I think the even bigger part of it is it creates happiness for us within ourselves to be able to do that. And then that makes me a happier person. And then that affects everyone that’s around me when I’m feeling happy with who I am, and happy with myself and how I’m doing. Awesome.

Tina Gosney  21:06

Since you, we know that, like you, your happiness doesn’t create happiness for your kids. Hmm. But your happiness certainly influences your home.


It does. And I think it also, it lightens up the home, I feel like and it makes them feel like they can search for what it is they want in their life without feeling like guilt from guilt from a parent or wanting to rebuild with the parent like then it just becomes all on them what it is they want to choose for their life. They can choose that free of I think in a lot of ways of once they’re adults have, you know, parental influence and figured out what they really want when they don’t feel that burden from from a parent.

Tina Gosney  21:49

Did you see that possibility when you had so much fear – you were living from fear in your life?

Gina  21:55

No, not really, it’s hard to really see anything but trying to get things how you think they’re supposed to be with fear. I think getting rid of the fear, it’s helped me to step outside of like just seeing everything from my vantage point and being able to see more into into them and who and who they are not who I think they should be.

Tina Gosney  22:15

Fear totally just tightens up our perception and our, our line of sight, right, we can only see one thing, and what you just said is like it opened things up, I was able to see different perspectives, and different options. And just to like, let them have the freedom to figure things out on their own. That’s beautiful.

Gina  22:37

Thank you.

Tina Gosney  22:39

So differentiation, when we are working on developing this, it’s definitely a process that we go through over time. It is not like flipping a light switch on and off like, oh, all of a sudden, I’m a differentiated person. So what were some of the things as you went through the process, and I know you’re still in the process, I think we all are our entire lives. But you’ve come to certain to a certain point at this point in your life, what are some of the things that helped you to get there, maybe some things that you had to bring into your life or some things that you had to say no to and get rid of in your life? But what are some of the things that were helpful to you to get to the point where you are now?


I think a lot of the things I’ve mentioned previously in the podcast that helped me. But one thing I don’t think I have mentioned is I just feel like my experience with kind of leaning into a relationship with with God has helped me a lot. I I felt like one of the great privileges I’ve had of being a parent is all that I’ve learned. And I feel like I’ve learned a lot to come to understand God better through this process. Because I think about how much I love my children. And how intense that is. Being a parent is kind of just give me a small glimpse of, I feel like how great that our Heavenly Parents love. Love is for us and I’m grateful that I have this experience in my life that’s given me just like this small little glimpse of this infinite love. But this year as I’ve been like trying to figure things out and learn and grow one thing I did is I really did take a like a deep look at what was at the heart of my religious beliefs and why they’re so important to me. And the answer I came away with is they’re so important to me because it has been my personal experience with this love is I’ve felt blocked locked back in my life and kind of like trials and circumstances I had and times when I I feel like grew away from God because of those circumstances and how much God I felt like would just pull me back would pull me back and bring back just like a lot of times feelings to my awareness that I recognized as the love of Heavenly Parents and a Savior. And I felt like this awareness was it continued to be given to me freely whether or not I had earned it, it was very unconditional. And I do know that God is always there fully seeing us and loving us unconditionally. And I feel like this relates a lot to differentiation. Because seeing someone fully and loving them unconditionally is such a vital step in becoming differentiated. And I do feel like I am so far from that. But it’s a comfort to know that I don’t have to get there alone. And I have this love and the strength that I can lean into, to help me to be able to, to do this.

Tina Gosney  25:43

I love that I love that you’re bringing spirituality into it. I think part of what well, one of the really big aspects that we don’t talk often about differentiation is that it is developing our divine natures. Our Heavenly Parents are perfectly differentiated. And so as we practice this skill in our own lives, it helps us to become more like them and understand their nature a little more and, and lean into just being more, like you said, unconditional in the how we love other people, and ourselves. And I think those are just the three really important relationships that we have, with our one with our Creator, to with ourselves and three with others, that just highlights just such a big part of differentiation that you that you just went into. So I love that. Yeah, thanks. Great, thank you. There are some relationships. And we’ve talked quite a bit about this, there are some relationships that it’s not that hard to be differentiated to let somebody be different than you and to disagree. And, and to say, okay, that’s just them. And then there’s other relationships, that it’s very difficult to do that with. And usually, the closer the relationship, the more difficult is to be differentiated. How have you seen this in your life? As you’re working on differentiation, how have you noticed the difference, like sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s not?

Gina  27:20

I’ve noticed, it’s definitely the closeness of the relationships, that affects it, because like, even with very close friends, we’re all adults with separate lives. And I can go weeks or months without seeing a close friend, but with, you know, family, where there’s just so much interpersonal everyday interaction, and intimacy and closeness, and I feel like, like the relationships are much more than about just getting along. It’s about really understanding each other and accepting each other and what I said earlier about kind of stepping outside of ourselves, our own experience and trying to step into their experience. And that’s a hard thing to do I read this article a few months ago, have you heard of the platinum rule? No, I haven’t. So there’s the Golden Rule Do unto others is I’ve, you know, would have done unto me, but then you can extend that to the platinum rule, which is Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves. And that is, I feel like what makes the closest relationships, the hardest is, is doing that, because we have to let go of a lot of our beliefs. And a lot of what we feel is right to be able to do that. Like, for example, with my husband, we have the same goals and things that we want. But we’re two different people. So sometimes, we have very different ways of getting there are different ways of seeing how to raise our kids or to solve a problem. And I find it so easy for me to immediately just go to a place of oh, well, he’s wrong, which very much goes against that Platinum Rule. I just said, it’s, it’s very unfair to him to go to that place. But it’s so easy. It’s so easy to do that. Yeah.

Tina Gosney  28:55

And as you said that, I mean, that’s awesome. I love that role. And it makes sense, right? Because Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you, is pretty self focused. The focus is still a lot on you. But then that platinum role, the focus is solely on how am I taking into account what this other person wants and needs in the moment. So it sounds like it’s very other focused, which when we’re doing that, we’re you’re thinking more talk about relational thinking. relationally rather than transactionally. That’s very relational thinking.


Which is harder in the short run.

Tina Gosney  29:37

And in a day to day real life scenario, and putting it into practice, it’s it can be difficult. Yeah. In the long run, like we all like to look at the long run. Uh huh. In the short run, it’s a little bit harder.

Gina  29:57

It is

Tina Gosney  30:00

Differentiation takes time. It’s not something that we’re like, Oh, I know how to do this, like a light switch, I can just flip it on and know how to do this takes time. And it takes practice. Because we’re literally changing the ways that we old patterns, neural pathways in our brains, right? The ways that we’ve related to other people, the way that we have our own thought processes, doesn’t happen overall, overnight. Even though sometimes we get really impatient. And we want it to be like, I just want to get through this already. One thing that’s really important as you work on this skill, and you develop this skill is to be really kind and patient with yourself, to realize that you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to go back sometimes, like we said before, you’re going to go back to old patterns, like this is not a linear line where we just learned this, and then we’re really good. And we just keep getting better and better. Where’s there’s backtracking. So we want to be really kind and patient with herself. How are you being kind and patient with yourself, especially internally,

Gina  31:11

I have to, I feel like I have to remind myself, often that it, you know, changing ways of thinking and behaviors I’ve had my whole life, it is going to take a gradual process, and it’s a constant reminder. And I took, you know, when we first started, like, talking, and he started teaching me all these, like, you know, ways of, you know, things to do for, for coaching and like tools to help me, I had never heard of any of the concepts, they were all very foreign to me. And it took me a while just trying several different things. And to find out what worked for me personally, what’s what I have found works for me personally, it’s to get out of my head and quit thinking so much. And to like, try and dive a little in a little bit more to like, my, my, what I’m feeling and what I’m, you know, feeling in my heart and in my body. And I find this takes, this works a lot better for me when I take intentional time to do this slow down and take the intentional time to process my feelings and to meditate. And to journal journaling spent a huge thing for me, I find out I’ll start writing and I’ll write things I didn’t even know were in my head. So that helps me a lot. And then I also think it’s good to just be around people like go to I like to go to lunch or go hiking or something with a friend that uplifts me. I love to go running. I know that’s not everybody’s thing. But it’s just things that kind of helped me like connect, just kind of with myself and with with good feelings, then that bring up joy, for me.

Tina Gosney  32:51

Good. I love how intentional you are about taking care of yourself. And being patient with yourself as you’re trying to change these neural pathways and live into this new way of of relating to different people. So that’s, that’s beautiful, what you’re doing and you’re doing a great job. Can I just tell you that you’re doing a great job? Okay, is there anything else that we haven’t shared today that you want to add?

Gina  33:19

I think the only other thing I would add was I feel like when I first decided to seek help, it was to work on my relationships with other people. And the thing that I’ve come out of it realizing is that the work I needed to do the most I feel like was within myself. And finding kind of the tools and the things that would help me to be able to figure out like what was going on inside of me, and that I have found has actually improved my relationship a lot with others. It’s just had that benefit.

Tina Gosney  33:50

Isn’t that interesting? And I knew that already that that’s what we were going to be doing is we’re going to work on the relationship with you. But we don’t see that until we start getting into diving into the work, right? It’s because what we’re seeing manifests on the outside is this relationship I have with this person I love is suffering right now. And I just want to fix that. Right. So I think what you said was very important, and I hope that everybody rewinds it and listens to that again, is rewind even a word anymore. Do we rewind anything? Or we just like back it up? I don’t know. That’s yeah. Well, thank you, Gina, I really appreciate you being here with us today. And I know that you the things that you’ve shared today have really helped a lot of people. So thank you so much. All right, thank you. Thank you for being here with me on the podcast today. If you’re finding value here, please consider hopping on to iTunes or whatever podcast platform that you’re using. And leave a rating maybe even a review your ratings and reviews help other people to find this podcast. So thank you so much for doing My goodness I am so very grateful for your support