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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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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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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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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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.

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An Interview with the co-editors of the book “Death and Chronic Illness in the Family”

Prior to publishing the book Death and Chronic Illness in the Family: Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives, Clare Ashworth, acquisitions editor at Routledge, interviewed the book’s co-editors, Sydney Reed and Peter Titelman.

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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.”

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