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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Ethical Wills: A Tool For Self Definition

Authored By Eric L. Weiner, M.S.W., Ph.D.

As families consider options for the distribution of assets to the next generation, most of the emphasis is on the tangible assets. Many people, however, view wealth as more than money and real estate. Wealth, for them, includes passing on their wisdom, guiding principles, spiritual beliefs, and family heritage to the next generation. One way to do that is by writing an ethical will.

Ethical wills have a long and rich history. They were first described in the Old Testament …

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The Family Emotional System and the Functioning of Slave Owners, Slaves and their Descendants

Authored by Mignonette N. Keller, Ph. D.

(Abstract of paper to be presented at the 35th Midwest Symposium May 4th, 2018)

This study applies Bowen family systems theory to investigate the factors influencing the functioning of slave owners, slaves and their descendants from a systems perspective.  The findings in this investigation reveal the extent to which there is a direct correlation between the quality of a person’s family relationships and how that person functions.  In effect it is an attempt to answer a basic research question asked …

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Reacting to a Racist Family Member

Authored by John Bell, M. Div.

As I followed the news about Charlottesville, I came across a story of a family coming to grips with the revelation that their son participated in the organized rally of white nationalists.  I’ve decided not to reprint their names.  The story is about a father who published a letter online in response to his son’s participation in the rally.  In the letter, the father repudiates the son’s beliefs and behavior.  The father tells the son that he is not welcomed …

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Polarization: What Happened to the Continuum?

Authored by John Bell, M.Div.

The ideas presented in this blog are taken from a new training module that is available to congregations and community stakeholders who are interested in addressing polarization in their communities.  If you’d like more information about the training, contact John Bell at moc.snoitagergnocgniknihtnull@nhoj. Reverend Bell also presented these concepts on May 6, 2017 at the 34th Midwest Symposium Theory and Therapy.

Polarization takes a toll on communities and creates additional problems for institutions.  Compromise, collaboration, and cooperation are replaced with confrontation, obstinacy, …

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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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Cutoff: The challenge of the parent/child relationship

Authored by John Bell, M. Div.

“The more a nuclear family maintains some kind of viable emotional contact with the past generations, the more orderly and asymptomatic the life process in both generations” Murray Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, 383.

Phillip Klever, LCSW, LMFT recently published the results of a fifteen-year research project on cutoff in the family.  He studied the most extreme cases in his family of high symptomatology and low symptomatology.  He found five couples on either end of the continuum of symptomatology (high …

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The Hospital Visit

Authored by John Bell, M. Div.

Early on in my career, I used to stress over hospital visits.  I didn’t mind going to the hospital.  Growing up, I saw hospitals as helpful and caring places.  My stress about making hospital visits had more to do with my role as clergy.  I worried about encountering the unexpected and having to think on my feet; having to know what to say or do or what not to say or do.

To me, what is challenging about hospital visits is …

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Does Meditation Foster Differentiation of Self?

Authored by:  Erik Thompson, M. A.

Licensed Psychologist-Masters

Principal, Thompson Leadership Development, Inc., and Executive Director, Vermont Center for Family Studies

“Just as a solid rock is not shaken by the storm, even so the wise are not affected by praise or blame.”

-The Yoga Vashishtha, 6th Century BC

Bowen theorists have developed a unique set of tools for expanding personal, family, and organizational health, including seeing the group as a system, managing self, de-triangling, and strengthening overall relationship capital with original members.  More “self” decreases chronic anxiety and reactivity …

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Fooling Self and Others: Self-Deception in the Practice of Differentiation of Self

Authored by Jim Smith, M. S.

In this presentation I did a brief review of the extensive literature on self-deception in the evolutionary biology literature, including evolutionary biologist Robert Triver’s theory of self-deception. I then discussed self-deception from the perspective of Bowen’s idea of the pseudo-self, using examples from my effort to define a self in my own family.

“Deceitful behavior has a long and storied history in the evolution of social life, and the more sophisticated the animal, it seems, the more commonplace the con games, …

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