A Proposed Alternative Pathway to a Bowen Theory of the Spiritual

In preparing for the Vermont Center for Family Studies’ upcoming conference on Meditation and Family Health (also available via streaming) I skipped ahead in my journey through Dr. Michael E. Kerr’s recent book, Bowen Theory’s Secrets: Revealing the Hidden Life of Families, to his chapter on the potential 9th concept of Bowen theory, “Toward a Systems Concept of Supernatural Phenomena”.  I’ll begin with a summary of that chapter before proposing an alternative pathway to a Bowen theory of the supernatural.

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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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Bowen Theory Concepts Reflected in Poetry

Erik Thompson, MA, Director of the Vermont Center for Family Studies (VCFS) submitted to The Systems Thinker, two wonderful pieces of brief poetry, which he says adorned this year’s final presentation by a senior trainee Kammy Kelton, MA, a family therapist from Waterbury, Vermont.  Both poems are about family. 

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Do We Ever Resolve “Unresolved Emotional Attachment”?

Bowen Family Systems Theory often seems counter-intuitive, making it sometimes difficult to grasp, and rarely self-evident. Comprehending an emotional systems perspective of families as a way of understanding engagement between people has little to do with stated intentions, and thus provides a constant challenge. I am always so impressed by certain individuals for whom the theory’s concepts immediately make sense, and who are then able to “see” relatively clearly in their lives many of the patterns Bowen described. While the concepts are theoretically clear to me, recognizing the emotional process in my own life remains frustratingly elusive.

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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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Thinking Systems After A Mass Shooting

I live and work six blocks from the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, IL. On February 15th, Gary Martin killed five people and wounded five police officers after being fired from Henry Pratt. At this time, not much is known about Mr. Martin. I’ve written before about violence in society. What I do know is that there is a connection between chronic anxiety in the family, one’s level of stress and violent behavior. All of us tend to move towards others to take control or to distance when anxiety goes up. In cases where there is violence, people move aggressively towards others when there is high levels of family intensity, significant cutoff among family members and a trigger of intense stress.

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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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Post Graduate Training in Bowen Family Systems Theory: A Must Take Opportunity for Any Clinician Working with Families, Individuals, or Children

I participated in the Center for Family Consultation’s Post-Graduate Training Program in Bowen Family Systems Theory while I was completing my doctorate degree in clinical Social Work at Aurora University. I began the program during the third year of my doctoral studies when it came time to choose two electives that would align with my distinct area of clinical interest. The timing for beginning the training program could not have been more perfect as my cohort had just completed our clinical coursework in families and family therapy.

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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.

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# Church Too

Earlier this year, Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of the megachurch Willow Creek in South Barrington, IL, resigned ahead of his planned retirement. The early departure was in response to allegations of sexual misconduct. Earlier this month, it was reported that Willow Creek Church settled a separate case of sexual abuse for $3.2 million after a volunteer sexually assaulted two disabled children. And then last week, a grand jury released its findings that over 1000 children were sexually abused by over 300 priests in six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.

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