Family-of-Origin Work: The Road to Maturity

At the Family Research Conference in 1967, Murray Bowen gave a presentation that was unusual for a professional meeting.  He had been seeking a way to teach family systems theory in a way that trainees could grasp.  He had also been “working intensively in a new phase of a long-term effort to differentiate my own ‘self’ from my parental extended family.”* He had reached a “dramatic breakthrough”* shortly before the conference. He decided to present his experience in his own family to his colleagues.  It was a very different kind presentation than expected and sparked surprise and much interest from the audience.  He described it as “a practical application of the major concepts in my theoretical and therapeutic systems (page 468).”* It was premised on the concept that the family emotional system is universal in all families, including those of family therapists.  Taking responsibility for defining oneself in one’s own family translates into greater maturity in one’s life overall, and is key to one’s effectiveness as a clinician.

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“Forward” to Death and Chronic Illness in the Family: Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives

The consideration of death, especially of one’s own mortality, has been a preoccupation of the human since the evolution of the wondrous primate brain allowed for the awareness of the future and so of one’s end. The reality of death is never far from consciousness. Along with the effort to understand life and how it came to be, the human has struggled to comprehend death and its meaning. It is a subject many seek to avoid considering and yet in one form or another it influences our daily lives.

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Highlights of the Presentation by Michael E. Kerr, MD on TOFT (Tissue Organization Field Theory): Relevance to Cancer and to Bowen Theory

It was another compelling presentation by Michael Kerr, MD, President of the Bowen Theory Academy that captivated the audience at the CFC Midwest Symposium on May 3, 2019 and evoked an engrossing discussion afterward. Dr. Kerr has captured our attention for many years by sharing his work investigating scientific evidence that would support a potential new concept to add to Bowen theory. He calls it “the unidisease concept” and first described it in the book Family Evaluation (Kerr& Bowen, 1988).

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Bowen Theory Concepts Reflected in Poetry

Erik Thompson, MA, Director of the Vermont Center for Family Studies (VCFS) submitted to The Systems Thinker, two wonderful pieces of brief poetry, which he says adorned this year’s final presentation by a senior trainee Kammy Kelton, MA, a family therapist from Waterbury, Vermont.  Both poems are about family. 

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Select Abstracts from the upcoming 36th Midwest Symposium on Bowen Family Systems Theory and Therapy May 3rd & 4th, 2019

During the month of April, we will be sharing the abstracts of presentations that will be given at the Midwest Symposium, May 3 and 4, at the Lakeview Center in Gilson Park in Wilmette, Il.  We continue with the abstract by Victoria Harrison.

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Do We Ever Resolve “Unresolved Emotional Attachment”?

Bowen Family Systems Theory often seems counter-intuitive, making it sometimes difficult to grasp, and rarely self-evident. Comprehending an emotional systems perspective of families as a way of understanding engagement between people has little to do with stated intentions, and thus provides a constant challenge. I am always so impressed by certain individuals for whom the theory’s concepts immediately make sense, and who are then able to “see” relatively clearly in their lives many of the patterns Bowen described. While the concepts are theoretically clear to me, recognizing the emotional process in my own life remains frustratingly elusive.

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How I Understand Suggestions Dr. Bowen Gave Me

On February 22, 2019, I presented some early family of origin work in my keynote address on Death and Chronic Illness at the Clinical Application of Bowen Family System Theory Conference. This blog post addresses a key question raised during the discussion that followed my presentation.

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Thinking Systems After A Mass Shooting

I live and work six blocks from the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, IL. On February 15th, Gary Martin killed five people and wounded five police officers after being fired from Henry Pratt. At this time, not much is known about Mr. Martin. I’ve written before about violence in society. What I do know is that there is a connection between chronic anxiety in the family, one’s level of stress and violent behavior. All of us tend to move towards others to take control or to distance when anxiety goes up. In cases where there is violence, people move aggressively towards others when there is high levels of family intensity, significant cutoff among family members and a trigger of intense stress.

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Grandparent Deaths in an Intense Extended Family Symbiosis

In the last two months or so, I have been studying symbiosis; e.g. parent-child symbiosis. Why? When I reviewed the quantitative research on families of schizophrenics, it was striking how symbiosis as a factor in development of schizophrenia has been neglected by all the quantitative researchers. It seemed odd when you consider how strongly Murray Bowen and other schizophrenia researchers of the 1950s had emphasized it. (Hill, Lidz, Mahler, Searles, Wynne, et al.).

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Violence in Society

Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed seventeen people and wounded seventeen more, I found myself in a conversation (really a debate) with a gun rights advocate. I’m grateful for the conversation because it helped clarify my thinking about gun violence and violence in general.

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