One of my Facebook friends posted the other day this quote of Murray Bowen, an American psychiatrist who was one of the founders of systemic therapy:
A “differentiated self” (an emotionally, relationally healthy person) is one who can maintain emotional objectivity, while in the midst of an emotional system in turmoil, yet at the same time actively relate to the key people in the system.
I wonder how many of us qualify as emotionally, relationally health persons under that description. In the midst of emotional turmoil around us, it is easy to lose our center, so to speak, and be carried off by the waves around us. Alternatively, the price of maintaining our own equilibrium is to withdraw from those around us.
To not let our minds be disturbed by the insanity we sometimes find ourselves in the midst of but to still be able to minister to those around us – to love and extend compassion, wisdom and blessing to those who are part of the insanity around us (either as causes of the turmoil of innocent bystanders of it) is not easy.
Yet, we see models of exactly that not only so often in the life of Jesus, but in the lives of so many of the saints. Dorothy Day in the Catholic Worker houses of New York City. Isaac Jogues and his companions among the Iroquois. Damien of Molokai advocating for the needs of the leper’s in Hawaii.
We might profit from spending some time looking at our own behavior when in the midst of an system in turmoil and ask God for the grace to be able to maintain our internal peace at the same time that we remain present in an active way to those around us.