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. 

Read More »

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.          

Read More »

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?

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

The Family In Society: Navigating Through Turbulent Times

Dr. Murray Bowen originated a theory of human behavior in the 1950’s and continued to work on it until his death in 1990. Bowen Family Systems Theory is based on his view of the family as a natural system that functions as an emotional unit. Bowen described emotional process in families and how it shapes and is shaped by the responses of each family member.

Read More »

Bowen Theory’s Secrets: Revealing the Hidden Life of Families by Michael E. Kerr, M.D. to be published February 5, 2019

For five years, 1954 to 1959, at the National Institute of Mental Health, psychiatrist Murray Bowen conducted a most unusual research project, focused on schizophrenia. Adult patients and their parents were hospitalized together for observation and treatment. The intensity of the emotional process in these families—the sensitivities, reactivity, and the profound influence of family members on one another’s functioning–came into view. Like a powerful undercurrent, this emotional system was guiding family interaction but was largely out of the awareness of the members. It is aptly called “the hidden life of families.”

Read More »

Looking at Marriage: Seeing One’s Own Part

The husband had a way of erupting emotionally that led his wife to call him “the volcano.” He pursued; she distanced; he pursued more rigorously. Her way of retreating, seemingly impervious to his needs, led him to call her “the sphinx.” At times of high stress, this pattern left this truly devoted couple in considerable distress, he feeling shut out, she feeling pressured. They found their own language—volcano, sphinx—as a step to observing their reciprocal functioning and eventually to seeing the absurdity and humor in it.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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 …

Read More »