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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Reflections on Bowen Theory Post-Graduate Training at Center for Family Consultation

I thought it would be a relatively straight-forward task to describe the impact the training program has had on my life and my clinical practice, but that was foolish, considering Bowen theory requires most of us, and certainly me, to rethink much of what I had learned in my family and professional training.

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Lincoln and Leadership

I went to see Spielberg’s “Lincoln” a second time this week in order to verify whether Lincoln was really the perfect example of Systems Based Leadership I had thought he was when I first saw the movie. Even though Lincoln was born more than a hundred years before Murray Bowen, he apparently had an instinctive way of defining himself that is remarkably congruent with Bowen’s ideas about leadership.

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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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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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From Family to Society: The Broad Scope of Bowen Systems Thinking

“From Family to Society: The Broad Scope of Bowen Systems Thinking” was the subject of the Center for Family Consultation Summer Conference held in Oak Park on July 20, 2018. Dr. Katharine Gratwick Baker, a scholar of Bowen Family Systems Theory and historian, was the presenter. Dr. Baker has a PhD in Social Work and an MA in Russian History.

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Living in the Triangles: Learning from Our Parents Over a Lifetime

Movements toward resolving immature emotional attachments with one’s parents affords the opportunity to develop mature beliefs, feelings, and thoughts. An increase in differentiation of self sets  the stage for seeing self in the parental triangle and moving forward to secure a more mature adult to adult relationship. Gaining more neutrality in the parental triangle positively impacts one’s differentiation of self, marital relationships, and parent-child relationships.

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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.

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