The Systems Thinker - Center for Family Consultation's blog

About Our Blog

An online forum to further the discussion of research and applications of systems thinking that continue to emerge from the ongoing study and practice of Bowen theory by family therapists, clergy, business leaders, consultants, and scientists.

Comments on “The Use of Force: Law Enforcement as a Reflection of Society”

Editor’s Note: Sandra Castillo’s blog post is a commentary on several quotes from the blog post on The Systems Thinker, of June 23, 2020, “The Use of Force: Law Enforcement as a Reflection of Society” by Stephanie Ferrera, MSW. 

Hello Stephanie,

Thanks for sharing your article. It is very well done. Some thoughts on a few passages from it: 

Stephanie’s passage: “The police are a reflection of the larger society, of the level of chronic anxiety and the level of maturity in the society.  The functioning of the police can be objectively understood only in this larger context.  The harsher treatment of the poor, minorities, and people of color, and the more lenient treatment of affluent and white people in the justice system reflect the projection process and extreme social stratification in our nation.” 

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A Personal Reflection on Racism and Inequality

In these turbulent times of an unending struggle with a deadly virus and a growing awareness of social injustice and systemic racism, many in our country are supporting Black Lives Matter and reading books on racism.  There is a growing consensus that some fundamental changes need to be made to address racial and economic inequities.  Change at a personal level will not come about easily as it involves examining long standing beliefs related to basic personal identity.  The split in our country over issues of race shows that change will also not be easy on a societal level. Changes on both levels must be addressed before the policy issues that maintain the inequalities will be changed.  The broad-based support for civil rights for the LGBTQ community demonstrates that after enough marches, enough education, enough open conversation and airing of differences change can come about.  Some believe we are at a “tipping” point regarding race relations in our country.  I believe we are at the stage of opening communication with each other and sharing of facts, thoughts, and opinions.  This blog is my effort to contribute to the conversation.  I recognize that this is a complicated and complex issue and I most certainly do not pretend to cover it thoroughly.  Rather, I will share my journey with the expectation and the readiness to listen to the experiences and opinions of others to continue the conversation.

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The Use of Force: Law Enforcement as a Reflection of Society

The use of physical force is an instinctual response to a real or perceived threat.  In a moment of fear, who has not found themselves raising a voice, or raising an arm, or seeking a way to constrain the other and protect self?  The use of force to bring conflict under control should be a last resort and applied judiciously, yet with rising emotional intensity, it easily becomes the first resort, setting in motion an escalation of conflict. 

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Memorial Day 2020—Inspiration is all around us

This blog post is in response to an excerpt from letter written by Richard Pearlman, M.S.W., on May 19, 2020, in which he said,

“Personally, this continues to be a challenging time for me ~ and the cool overcast extremely rainy days have not helped to lift spirits. Between sheltering in place, contending with personal/family matters, conducting needed maintenance on our property (emergency and otherwise), tending to our garden and bees, spending socially distant time with grandchildren, watching the sun rise, Zooming with family and friends, and keeping up with exercise ~ days are full, albeit dream like ~ as one day runs into the next”.

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Bowen Theory Conferences Adapt to Pandemic Conditions

For all of its tragic impacts on humanity, the coronavirus pandemic is presenting us with an opportunity and impetus to take time out for serious thinking.  Since the time of social distancing began several weeks ago, two important Bowen theory network events have taken place:  the annual Spring Conference of the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family (April 3-4) and the 37th Midwest Symposium of the Center for Family Consultation (May 1).  Both were originally planned as onsite conferences but converted to online.  In so doing, the conferences became very different experiences for all involved–planners, presenters, and audience members—and much was learned in the process.  This essay offers thoughts on what was learned, particularly in the area of human behavior and human response to threat.          

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Family, the Brain, and Differentiation of Self

The concept of differentiation of self entails two primary aspects based on the observations of Dr. Bowen. The first is that individuals vary in the degree to which they differentiate or develop emotional autonomy in relation to the family in which they grew up. The second aspect is the degree to which an individual’s higher cortical systems, referred to by Bowen as the intellectual system, differentiate over the course of development. The differentiation of this function underlies an individual’s capacity to utilize the intellectual system in self-regulation and self-direction over their life course. This presentation will describe the above and place these processes in the context of the co-evolution of the family and the brain.

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Meditating towards Differentiation of Self

Bowen has theorized, that each human being is the culmination of the mass of ancestors who have preceded her, each human being generations in the making, If we assume that is true, then, like a diamond, it may take a fair amount of excavating before we uncover the shiny nugget of “self” be-neath all the accumulated rock. When we look at humans, we tend to focus on their individual be-haviors or at best the individual within the context of their nuclear family. Bowen advocated getting information on as many as five generations of family history, in order to understand the patterns we observe. He advocated doing this so that we might see the patterns that have been active in our families and begin to distinguish between patterns that we have chosen and ones we may have simply inherited. Kerr in his most recent book describes one of the components of differentiation of self as “the phenomenon of thoughts and feelings operating as a working team”, those who are least differentiated have achieved the least separation from behavior driven purely by instinctual responses to others. Achieving more “self” requires distinguishing between one’s thoughts and one’s feelings, so that one’s actions more closely reflect one’s thinking, and are not merely a reflection of how we are feeling at any given moment.

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Unexpected Moments of Connection

Recently a friend introduced me to a colleague of his from another state, and suggested that we meet. I asked why, and he said, “I just think you two will have an interesting conversation”. I trust this person, so when his colleague called, we agreed to get together for lunch when she was visiting family in our area. We did indeed have a rich conversation and that evening I wanted to write some of my thoughts to her. The rest of this blog post started as an email to her, but since my grandchildren (and some of my friends) tell me my emails are always way too long, I decided to turn it into a blog for “The Systems Thinker”.

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Welcome to a New Year of Opportunity

The new year and new decade present us, our families and our nation with “necessary, serious, and great things,” some which have not been faced before.  Can we bring to it the wisdom we need to transcend our differences and build the cooperation that these times require?

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The Family Leader

Leaders are often described in terms of their individual characteristics:  special talents or knowledge, confidence, charisma, organizing ability and especially the ability to excite others around an important mission.  Some are “born leaders” and others work at developing leadership skills.  Leadership and followership are reciprocal functions in human systems. Leadership training programs abound, but I know of none on followership training which may be equally important.  One cannot lead if no one follows.

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