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.          

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Family, the Brain, and Differentiation of Self

The concept of differentiation of self entails two primary aspects based on the observations of Dr. Bowen. The first is that individuals vary in the degree to which they differentiate or develop emotional autonomy in relation to the family in which they grew up. The second aspect is the degree to which an individual’s higher cortical systems, referred to by Bowen as the intellectual system, differentiate over the course of development. The differentiation of this function underlies an individual’s capacity to utilize the intellectual system in self-regulation and self-direction over their life course. This presentation will describe the above and place these processes in the context of the co-evolution of the family and the brain.

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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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Highlights of the Presentation by Michael E. Kerr, MD on TOFT (Tissue Organization Field Theory): Relevance to Cancer and to Bowen Theory

It was another compelling presentation by Michael Kerr, MD, President of the Bowen Theory Academy that captivated the audience at the CFC Midwest Symposium on May 3, 2019 and evoked an engrossing discussion afterward. Dr. Kerr has captured our attention for many years by sharing his work investigating scientific evidence that would support a potential new concept to add to Bowen theory. He calls it “the unidisease concept” and first described it in the book Family Evaluation (Kerr& Bowen, 1988).

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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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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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SES, ACE, and Differentiation

Authored by Jim Edd Jones, Ph. D.

At the 2018 Midwest Symposium on Family Theory and Family Therapy in Willmette, Ilinois this past May, Peter Gianaros from the University of Pittsburgh cogently argued that SES (Socio-Economic Status determined with a composite measure) partially predicts (correlation approximately 0.30) adult serious physiological symptoms, indicators of risk for serious symptoms, and neurobiological indicators of chronic stress/anxiety.  Notice that the correlation is modest, with many exceptions to the correlation.

I would expect that level of differentiation of the individual and/or the …

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Science & Bowen Family Systems Theory

Dr. Murray Bowen was well known to be extremely interested and well read in the natural sciences. One of his main goals was to connect the study of human behavior and functioning to the natural sciences including neuroscience, immunology, genetics, & evolutionary biology to name a few. To this end he established the tradition of hosting annual symposia in which a well-established scientist would be invited to present his/her work to the Bowen community. According to Dr. Robert Noone, “Dr. Bowen was keeping the theory …

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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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