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Dr. G. & Friends  |  

Choose Principles Over Feelings

Differentiation of self, one of the eight concepts in Bowen Systems Theory, is all about functioning.

One manifestation of how one functions in a self-differentiated manner is how well one can separate feeling from thinking (feelings being the experience of our emotions).

I recently consulted with a usually steady and effective staff person who found herself stuck on a particular issue.

In this case, she knew the right thing to do and could quote the company guidelines that were needed to direct her action, yet, she was second-guessing herself.


By the time she called me to think through the issue she’d triangled in two people in different offices in her organization (anxiety spawns triangles), reviewed the company guidelines several times, and called a person in a different company to double-check legal regulations.

Despite all that she still felt stuck.

After working through the issue she gained enough insight to see how her emotions kept trumping her cognition.

Additionally, she became aware that someone else’s emotions and anxiety were feeding her anxiety.

Despite knowing what she needed to do, she was stuck in not being able to follow through.


These situations highlight how important it is to hold clearly articulated principles.

A clearly articulated principle can be a stay against confusion in the moment when decisiveness and action is called for.

In the midst of anxiety, when cogitation and celebration become a challenge recalling the principles that guide action can keep one from getting stuck.


Here are examples that can be of help when one needs to decide on one’s feet (these are mine, you’ll need to come up with your own):


What principles guide your actions in times of challenge?

Excerpted from *Perspectives on Congregational Leadership.*

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.

His books on education include Academic Leadership: Practical Wisdom for Deans and Administartors, Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).


Dr. G. & Friends