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.

Learning To Be an Adult in a World That Loves Children

People often comment, almost in awe and incredulity, that my ex-husband and I are not only cordial and supportive co-parents, but actively share family and social gatherings together. When I mention that my ex, his wife and son came for dinner last night, I can almost predict the expression of horror, quickly disguised as awe that will come over her face. People like to believe it requires some super human power to allow our frontal cortex, rather than our archaic limbic system, to make decisions that serve the best interests of our families. The decision to nourish and foster a relationship that is the bedrock of my child’s life was a “no brainer”, albeit accompanied by some very strong physical/emotional responses.

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From Family to Society: The Broad Scope of Bowen Systems Thinking

“From Family to Society: The Broad Scope of Bowen Systems Thinking” was the subject of the Center for Family Consultation Summer Conference held in Oak Park on July 20, 2018. Dr. Katharine Gratwick Baker, a scholar of Bowen Family Systems Theory and historian, was the presenter. Dr. Baker has a PhD in Social Work and an MA in Russian History.

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Living in the Triangles: Learning from Our Parents Over a Lifetime

Movements toward resolving immature emotional attachments with one’s parents affords the opportunity to develop mature beliefs, feelings, and thoughts. An increase in differentiation of self sets  the stage for seeing self in the parental triangle and moving forward to secure a more mature adult to adult relationship. Gaining more neutrality in the parental triangle positively impacts one’s differentiation of self, marital relationships, and parent-child relationships.

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The Ups & Downs of Social Status

The “self-evident truth” that “all men are created equal” is a cornerstone of American democracy, and an ideal toward which our society strives.  We hold individuals to be equal under the law; we legislate equal rights for all to access opportunities and participate in society.  However, despite the talk of “a level playing field,” progress toward equality has come slowly and only with concerted, organized effort.

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When Process is the Outcome

It is very difficult to make changes in our behavior without focusing on the outcome. If we exercise, we hope to be stronger, faster or more flexible. If we read a challenging book, we hope to be wiser. If we pray, we hope to find an answer. Bowen theory is not oblivious to outcomes, but using this theory in your life, the process, the work itself, is the key. Focus on process becomes an outcome, which requires time and effort to observe and think about ourselves and the world we live in. It means using increased awareness and insight to guide our actions. Leaning into process requires no, or very little, attachment to the outcome.

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“Hillbilly Elegy” meets Bowen Theory

J.D. Vance, author of the memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, is, by any measure, functionally successful:  a marine who served in Iraq, graduate of Ohio State, graduate of Yale Law School, and an editor on the Yale Law Journal.  Yet, his nuclear family of origin and extended family are low in level of differentiation.  Not the lowest, but low.  Individually, he’s probably somewhat higher than the system as a whole.

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Parental Anxiety: It Goes with the Territory

The birth of a child gives birth to the hopes and dreams of parents, hopes that their child will grow to live an interesting and fulfilling life. Alongside hope lies fear of threats, large and small. Worry about the health and safety of one’s child is a natural part of parenting, but concern about children has increased in recent decades.  Parents seem less sure of themselves, concerned they are not doing enough to meet the needs of their children. Our child-oriented culture contributes to this anxiety with endless admonitions to be more involved. The problems parents are told to be on the lookout for have expanded exponentially along with a myriad of suggested “solutions”.

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SES, ACE, and Differentiation

Authored by Jim Edd Jones, Ph. D.

At the 2018 Midwest Symposium on Family Theory and Family Therapy in Willmette, Ilinois this past May, Peter Gianaros from the University of Pittsburgh cogently argued that SES (Socio-Economic Status determined with a composite measure) partially predicts (correlation approximately 0.30) adult serious physiological symptoms, indicators of risk for serious symptoms, and neurobiological indicators of chronic stress/anxiety.  Notice that the correlation is modest, with many exceptions to the correlation.

I would expect that level of differentiation of the individual and/or the …

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What is SES and why does it matter?

Authored by Stephanie Ferrera, M. S. W.

This was the question addressed by Professor Peter J. Gianaros of the University of Pittsburgh, the guest scientist at the CFC Midwest Symposium held on May 4-5.  The brief answer is:  SES is SocioEconomic Status and it matters because one’s place on the socioeconomic ladder is a major factor in one’s health and well-being in many ways.  Dr. Gianaros is a leading researcher on SES and the central role of the brain in mediating stress reactivity and adaptation.  He …

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Science & Bowen Family Systems Theory

Dr. Murray Bowen was well known to be extremely interested and well read in the natural sciences. One of his main goals was to connect the study of human behavior and functioning to the natural sciences including neuroscience, immunology, genetics, & evolutionary biology to name a few. To this end he established the tradition of hosting annual symposia in which a well-established scientist would be invited to present his/her work to the Bowen community. According to Dr. Robert Noone, “Dr. Bowen was keeping the theory …

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