Anxiety Bound

Anxiety appears in our lives in many forms. Humans have been creative in using anxiety to get things done. Nervous energy can motivate us to act and accomplish much. There can be relief in the doing. There is little to worry about if we are a bit anxious about hosting a family holiday and cleaning the house or apartment makes us feel better. However, sometimes the things we do when we are anxious create more challenges for us.

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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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Can You Dance? Differentiation of Self: Observing is the First Step

Authored by Kelly Matthew-Pluta, M.S.W.

Very often clients are puzzled by Bowen Theory’s concept of Differentiation of Self.  Clinicians are often stumped on how to make this crucial concept, upon which the theory is based, understandable and useful to clients.  The first step is to observe self.  If one cannot identify what and how one is thinking and responding to self and others, understanding, and possibly making lasting changes, will be impossible.  The idea that one is only in charge of oneself is both liberating and …

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Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There: Emotional Intensity and its Crucial Place in Relationships

Authored by Kelly Matthews-Pluta, M.S.W.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe” John Muir

Human life is a complicated business.  We are connected to the world around us in every way imaginable.  Some of that connection is within our conscious awareness and much is outside of it. The relationships we have with family are how most of us work out the complicated nature of being humans in this universe. Often important relationships become intense and …

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Early Stress and Later Disease: Research Shows One Mitigating Factor

Authored by Kelly Matthews-Pluta, MSW

Gregory Miller, PhD, gave one of the many interesting presentations from the 54th Symposium on Bowen Theory and Psychotherapy in Washington, DC, on November 4-5, 2017.  Dr. Miller, a professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, discussed his research on Adverse Childhood Events/Experiences (ACES) and physical health in adulthood.  He described experiences in childhood being “sticky” in a biological sense and often showing up later in poor physical health outcomes.  The ACES he outlined were the usual suspects: abuse and/or neglect …

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Blame and Blaming

Authored by Kelly Matthews-Pluta, M.S.W.

One of the central ideas of Bowen Theory is differentiation of self—a concept of how one sees oneself, emotionally, as an individual and in relationship to and with others.  Often people studying Bowen Theory struggle with the idea of separation of self and other.  Of course, it is complicated.  The two, self and other, are at the same time both separate and connected.  It is exactly that paradox which makes the concept challenging for many: “Am I a separate self or …

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How do people work out their differences?

Authored by Kelly Matthews-Pluta, M.S.W.

In his book on Bowen Family Systems Theory, Mike Kerr stated “The main problem is not differences in points of view; it is the emotional reaction to those differences.  When people can listen without reacting emotionally, communication is wide open and differences are an asset, not a liability”.

This applies when working clinically with an individual, couple or family.  The effort is best focused on probing and questioning individuals to elicit their best thinking.  We know that when the pre frontal cortex …

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Highlights from The 53rd Symposium on Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy

Authored by Kelly Mathews-Pluta, M.S.W., and Robert Noone, PhD.

The 53rd Symposium on Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy offered by the Bowen Center for the Study of Family in Washington, DC was held November 4th and 5th, 2016. This Annual Symposium brings together the liveliest minds in the Bowen network to present, question, and discuss the latest research and ideas about Bowen theory. As always, the Symposium also features a Distinguished Guest Lecturer from another discipline whose research is relevant to Bowen theory. Bowen theory is …

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Bridging the Distance

Authored by Kelly Matthews-Pluta, MSW

Aaron Beck, the founder of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, once said “Evolution favors an anxious gene”.  The idea that we humans are biologically built for fight, flight or freeze is commonly known but little understood.  Over the last hundred years’ human life has gotten safer.  Over the last 500 years it has gotten much safer.  However, human evolution has not caught up with our modern, safer world.  Modern life and death can still hinge on how well we respond to an acute …

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