Thursday, November 29, 2012

This blog post will change your life for the better

Perhaps you've never heard of Bowen Family Systems Theory. If you haven't no worries. There are lots of great resources out there you can read to learn more, and seminars to attend. I recommend them. You might start by visiting the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. Bown theory is first of all focused on family systems, but is now increasingly used to analyze emotional processes in society as a whole, for example in an essay like "Emotional Process in Society: the 8th Concept of Bowen Theory."

Some readers of this blog will probably click through to read that essay or visit that web site, but let me here give you the very short version on Bowen Family Systems Theory, and why it can change your life for the better.

This is the part that will change your life

Bowen's theory is describing change in systems through the "I" position (what is sometimes called self-differentiation). This kind of change happens when people in emotional systems take a self-focused approach to their difficulties (in contrast to an other-focus). Change in families and couples can happen, and happen well, when just one person in that system can achieve six goals:

  • achieve an inner calmness (lowered level of anxiety);
  • think through self's own principles, beliefs, and convictions;
  • state his or her own convictions and beliefs;
  • take action on them;
  • refuse to criticize the beliefs of others; and
  • refuse to become involved in emotional debate with others in the system who react to the person's self-focused action.
Re-read that set of bullet points again, maybe two or three times. Then try to recall a real-life situation where you did or did not achieve these six goals in a relationship or system. 

Bowen therapists tend to invite those they counsel to talk through their situations to gain greater clarity and self-differentiation, to ponder how they can make change in systems through the "I" position. Such change can happen in families. It also helps in groups. Communities of self-differentiated people (like churches or businesses) will function better and be more healthy. [all of the above is adapted from Ronald Richardson's excellent Polarization and the Healthier Church: Applying Bowen Family Systems Theory to Conflict and Change in Society and Congregational Life

For example, Michael Kerr in Family Evaluation
 writes, "The higher the level of differentiation of people in a family or a social group, the more they can cooperate, look out for one another's welfare, and stay in adequate contact during stressful as well as calm periods. The lower the level of differentiation, the more likely the family [or social group like the church], when stressed, will regress to selfish, aggressive, and avoidance behaviors; cohesiveness, altruism, and cooperativeness will break down." 

Would you like to be less anxious? Would you like your family or church to be more healthy? Would you like to break the cycle of criticizing others and instead examine how change in your own self can effect change in the world? Then read on. Perhaps this post can change your life.

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