The Systems Thinker - Center for Family Consultation's blog

How do people work out their differences?

Authored by Kelly Matthews-Pluta, M.S.W.

In his book on Bowen Family Systems Theory, Mike Kerr stated “The main problem is not differences in points of view; it is the emotional reaction to those differences.  When people can listen without reacting emotionally, communication is wide open and differences are an asset, not a liability”.

This applies when working clinically with an individual, couple or family.  The effort is best focused on probing and questioning individuals to elicit their best thinking.  We know that when the pre frontal cortex is engaged, our emotional center slows and calms down.  Both cannot fire simultaneously with the same intensity.  It has a great deal to do with balancing emotion and thinking.  Thoughtful questions are a solid way to encourage the brain to balance this internal teeter totter.

Stephanie Ferrera wrote “Understanding emotional reactivity and sensitivity to threat is central to Bowen theory and the therapy based on this theory.  Being emotional is part of being human, a very valuable part.  But life goes better-differences are worked out, relationships are strengthened-when people are able to balance emotion and anxiety with thinking”.

Our current political climate may leave some with an abundance of emotion and anxiety.  While we may hope our leaders heed the idea that differences can be seen as an asset that may not occur.  We are left with how to manage ourselves in such a turbulent time.  The above quotes, from two great thinkers, can help us focus on self.  We may desire different ideas in the minds of our leaders, and we can express our ideas and present facts, but we cannot control what they think.  We can forge ahead with an effort at continuing to look at and work on our own emotional reactivity—working out our differences one day at a time, one thought at time.


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