This research began with people with schizophrenia and their mothers, but soon deed to fathers and to the rest of family in general as a major influential factor in peoples behavior patterns. Eventually, Bowen theorized that people are healthiest when they are emotionally independent yet still connected to their families. Bone’s contributions to family systems therapy were significant and unique considering his psychoanalytic roots. Basic Philosophical Assumptions The general narrative Of family systems theory is that individuals are products of their family.
As stated above, the best way to understand an individual is to see him in the context of his family relationships. Families are systems; therefore, they are complex networks of interactions, relationships and patterns (Morocco, 2009). People never function alone; the people and groups around them continually influence them. To a family systems therapist, an individual is not understood alone. Individuals are seen as being similar to a single piece of a jigsaw puzzle; if he is seen without the other pieces (the family) he is not well understood.
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If he is seen along with the rest of the pieces, a bigger picture can be seen (German, & Knickers, 1981). Bone’s Family Systems Therapy (BEST) is largely based on the concept of fermentation of self. When a person is differentiated from their family, they are not regulated by family roles or expectations. The goal is for the individual is to think objectively and rationally even when emotions are high. While objectivity is key, so is balance, therefore, being connected to the family is also still very important.
Motivation of Human Behavior Bowen believed that humans are ruled by reason, and because of this, differentiation is a natural human desire for humans. That being said, people are also a product of their systems and, therefore are influenced by patterns thin the system. It is easy to be pulled into family patterns of behavior and emotion when those have been a person’s main surroundings during their critical development. However, humans desire to reason prevails and their desire to break free of the unhealthy emotional constraints of the family system can prevail (Good & Bateman, 2006).
Bowen also believed that both humans and systems have the basic need to satiate their anxiety by involving other people therefore maintaining homeostasis of the self or the system. This struggle to maintain homeostasis is a perceived issue of sun,’avail. This will be discussed in the following paragraph about triangulation (Murray, 2009). Central Constructs Bone’s most sign efficient and widely recognized concept related to his theory of family systems is differentiation of the self.
Bowen believed that being able to balance individuality as well as a connection to the family is the key to a healthy life. Differentiation is a continuum. Those with low levels of differentiation are thought to respond through emotions and are reactive. Those with high levels of differentiation are able to see things more objectively and have a more solid idea of self. Although differentiation and acquiring a balance of togetherness and separateness is a lifelong process, one can make the transition between being reactive to having a solid sense of self.
A triangle is Bone’s term for a relationship system where a dyad (two people) is stabilized by projecting anxiety onto a third person. Triangles can be both healthy and unhealthy (Gooier & Junkers, 2007). In a triangle, only two people are engaged with each other at a time. Triangles often develop in a family when stress and angst are high. Triangulation is common when differentiation levels of those involved are low because people are less likely to be able to separate their own emotions from others’. Unhealthy triangles keep people in fixed states of differentiation as well as fixed negative patterns. Keeping in line with Best’s goals, clients who are working to self- differentiate are educated about the construct of a triangle, how and when they form and how to not engage in them. Not engaging in triangles, although a conscious choice, can only come when a client starts to have a solid sense f self and moving toward the continuum of high differentiation (Murray, 2009).
Triangles often lead to the forming of an identified “patient”. As mentioned previously, the goal of the family is to maintain homeostasis. Although change is inevitable for all families, it is a perceived threat to the function of the family. In the face of change, many families change in order to not change at all. Pathology often results. Often, one person is unconsciously chosen to hold the tension and stress of the family and express it through symptoms. The patient gives the family something to focus on during an unstable time.
An example that involves a triangulation would be parents who have started fighting and a child who starts to have somatic symptoms resulting from anxiety and the child starts to complain of stomach pains. The parents, obviously worried about their child, become worried and stop fighting and concentrate of getting the child’s health to improve. When the child, who is relieved that his parents have stopped fighting, starts to feel better and his symptoms disappear. Just following this, his parents, no longer distracted by their child, resume fighting (Mandolin, Angelo, Neigh and Nicola-Cornicing, 1983).
Bowen, working off of Walter Ottoman’s work, believed that personality characteristics correlate with birth order. He called this sibling position. Bowen also believed that sibling position determined levels of functioning within the family as well as levels of differentiation. For example, triangulation and projection is more common in only children. Gender composition is also a factor. For example, the youngest son with three older sisters might have a different experience within the family than the youngest daughter in a family of all girls.
In addition, within couples, if both individuals of a couple are eldest or youngest, there may be some competition or conflict in the relationship (Murray, 2009). In BEST, failure to display personality traits indicates dysfunction within the family such as projections and triangulations (Gooier & Junker, 2007). Bowen coined the term emotional cutoff. This was the idea that people enact certain behaviors to counter act high anxiety or emotional fusion With the family or family member. The term pseudonyms refers to a person who is emotionally fused or has a low level of differentiation.
The pseudonyms is highly reactive and does not respond to inflict with objectivity or logical reasoning. People experiencing these types of responses often reactively distance themselves from family either emotionally and/or physically but moving away and not seeing or interacting with their family. Cutoff can be both good and bad in that decreases anxiety but can be bad because it distances the individual from the family when the individual is not ready for that to happen (Murray, 2009).
If differentiation from the family does not occur before a person gets older and enters into other relationships or forms a family of their own, unhealthy emotional inspections can continue to the next family. This is referred to as family projection process and multidimensional transmission processes. Bone’s research with people with schizophrenia focused on mother’s with low levels of differentiation who fused with their sons, which, at first, Bowen attributed to causing schizophrenia.
How Humans Develop Bone’s contribution to how humans develop is based on the idea that people are heavily influenced by their surrounding systems from birth, most notably, their family of origin. Because humans rely on their family for arrival, they adapt to the system’s patterns, expectations and behaviors in an attempt to stay alive. These parameters help keep life extended and become part of a person’s way of seeing the world. If a person does not attempt to individuate from their family, they remain a part of the system and are bound by responding to the world through their emotions.
In addition, they approach other systems from the perspective of their system or origin. If they do the work to individuate but still keep a healthy connection with the family, they are able to see the world more objectively (Bernard & Chorales, 979). Mental Health and Dysfunction According to Bowen, health is dependent on the individual’s differentiation from his or her family of origin. Healthy people are able to balance a sense of separateness and individuality as well as a sense of belonging to their family (Mandolin et al. , 1983).
Those clients differentiated from their families are able to be objective in their thinking in that they are able to separate their feelings from those of their family members (Atwood, 1992). Dysfunction, according to Bowen, manifests as triangulation, projections, ND identification of a patient as well as other unstable behaviors. In general, those who have low levels of differentiation, poor concepts of self and are reactive, are acting pathologically. Undifferentiated clients are inflexible, dependent on the love and approval Of others and generally depend on people outside themselves to satisfy their emotional needs (Atwood, 1992).
Nature and Process of Therapy According to Bowen, a therapist’s main role is to help family members become aware of emotional relating and patterns of behavior within the family. Therapists help clients become aware of these goals through asking appropriate questions, mapping of sonograms and encouraging them to be intellectually and emotionally independent. Bowen called therapists “coaches” and emphasized the importance of psychoacoustics and role modeling for the client. Bowen insisted that therapists go through the process of differentiation with their own families before engaging a client in the process (Atwood).
There are no specific techniques unique to BEST. The goal is to aid the client in understanding their own family system and then aid the client in fragmentation from his or her family. A typical assignment in BEST would be to have the client go home to observe their interactions with their family in an objective manner. Bowen referred to these assignments as “journeys” and thought they were best experienced individually as opposed to as a couple or with other family members.
The client would then return to counseling to report their findings to their therapist. The assignment would take place throughout the course apothecary and would be compared and contrasted to past visits and observations (Murray, 2009). Sonograms, which are visual presentations of familial generations, are used to understand and assess the family at large in the context of relationships, behavioral patterns (such as divorce, abortion, miscarriages and suicide) as well as medical history.
Bowen mapped out sonograms with individuals and families to get a better idea of family dynamics. Personal Reflection I tend to gravitate toward systems theories for two reasons. The first reason is that it seems that systems theories are less threatening to the individual. I believe people are naturally defensive and looking at themselves for reasons why things in their lives are not going how they want them to be is very threatening.