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Bowen Theory

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Jordan Simmons

on 20 November 2013

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Transcript of Bowen Theory

Bowen Theory
Key Concepts

1. Differentiation of Self
2. Nuclear Family Emotional Process
3. Family Projection Process
4. Undifferentiated Family Ego Mass
5. Multigenerational Transmission Process
6. Intergenerational
7. Togetherness & Individuality
8. Triangles
9. Emotional Cutoff
10. Sibling Position
11. Society Emotional Process
3. Family
Projection Process
7. Togetherness & Individuality
Born in Waverly, TN in 1913.
Education: University of Tennessee
UTK for undergraduate school
UT Memphis for medical school
Military Experience
5 years in total
WWII Veteran
Led him to Psychiatry
Professional Career
Fellowship of Psychiatry at Kansas.
National Institute of Mental Health.
Founded Family Center at Georgetown.
Focused on emotional, social, and physical aspects in relation to family systems.
The primary way parents transmit their emotional problems to a child.

5. Multigenerational Transmission Process
D: The repetition of relationship patterns, including divorce, suicide, and alcoholism, associated with emotional dysfunction that can be traced through several generations of the same family.

4. Undifferentiated Family Ego Mass
This is a conglomerate emotional oneness that exists in all levels of intensity.
On one level each family member is an individual, but on a deeper level, the central family group is as one.

Impaired Functioning
Heightened needs in relationships.

Difficulty dealing with expectations.

Tendency to blame oneself or others.

Acting impulsively to relieve anxiety.

Feel responsible for others happiness.
Or, others responsible for theirs.

Steps of Projection
1) Parent focuses on a child out of fear that something is wrong with the child.

2) Parent interprets the child’s behavior as confirming the fear.

3) Parent treat the child as if something is really wrong with the child

Self-fulfilling Prophecy
D: Parents try to “fix” the problem that they diagnosed in the child

Parents perceive their child to have low self-esteem.
They repeatedly try to affirm the child.
The child’s self-esteem grows dependent on their affirmation.

Transmission on Interconnected Levels
Conscious teaching and learning of information
Automatic and unconscious programming of emotional reactions and behaviors
Relationally and genetically transmitted information to shape “self"

The whole family joins in The Family Projection Process.
Reinforcing the beliefs of the family over generations.
Referring back to previous generations.
“He's just like his Uncle Albert – he was always irresponsible, too.”
“She’s just like your cousin Jenny – she was divorced four times.”

1. Differentiation of Self
The person considers himself independent from the family.
The degree to which a person can think and act for self in the presence of emotionally charged issues.
The Degree to which a person can discern between thoughts and feelings.

Type of Differentiation
Poor - More likely to internalize family problems, struggle emotionally, and make impulsive emotional decisions.
Strong (Highly differentiated)- More likely to remain calm and stable in times of emotional turmoil.

Another way to describe differentiation...
"Solid Self" and "Less Solid Self"

The Roots
Family relationships during childhood and adolescence determine how much "self" is developed.

Intergenerational Req's
Bowen required a minimum of three generations.

Not concerned with symptoms.
Symptoms as expressions of family's emotional system.
Solution: Increase level of differentiation.

Help the patient recognize an intergenerational pattern.
Why? Because it can act as an intervention.
They will see their role in passing down the pattern.
They will start to look at how they can prevent it from continuing.

6. Intergenerational
Human nature causes people to strive for togetherness and individuality, but it also creates a struggle to maintain a healthy balance.

Togetherness is feeling an attachment to others on a deep level. When a person invests too much of their life feelings and thoughts into a relationship, it is an unhealthy fused relationship.

It is feeling a need to direct your own life in a healthy way. While having a sense of individuality is healthy, it can also cause problems within the family if there is too much.

It is important to find a balance.
“Humanity needs closeness, but it is allergic to too much of it.”
8. Triangles
Triangles form out of discomfort. When a relationship becomes unstable, it triangles in a third issue or person by shifting some of the anxiety to the third piece. While this may temporarily relieve the problem between the initial relationship, it does not solve any of the actual issues that created the problem.

Triangle Process in a Genogram
What is togetherness?
What is Individuality?

What do we do?
9. Emotional Cutoff
"It describes people managing their unresolved emotional issues with parents, siblings, and other family members by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact with them."
How do they do this?
Moving away
Rarely going home
Physically present, but emotionally absent.
Why do they do this?
To reduce tension of unresolved attachment.
Unresolved Attachment
The dependent person...
The guilty person...
The angry Person...

Potential Pitfalls
Taking this unresolved attachment out on one's kids or wife later in life.
10. Sibling Position
"People who grow up in the same sibling position predictably have important common characteristics."
Bowen created this concept using the research of Walter Jones.
Oldest gravitates towards leadership.
Youngest gravitates towards follower.
Middle exhibits characteristics of both.
There are exceptions to this rule!

Marriage, Divorce,
and Parents
When couples compliment each other (oldest and youngest), then marriage will more likely be successful.
When couples don't compliment each other (both youngest or oldest), then this can be a precursor for divorce.
The parents position in their family of origin will influence how they treat their own children
11. Societal
Emotional Process
"Describes the emotional system that governs behavior on a societal level, promoting both progressive and regressive periods in a society."

Bowen first discovered the parallels between societal emotional functioning and the family when he began treating juvenile delinquents in families.
Bowen compared courts/juveniles to children/parents in their attempts to correct wrong behavior.
The Process

An Example:
Parents say, "We love you no matter what you do."
Child disobeys to some extent.
Parents lecture on responsibility.
Child disobeys again.
Parents punish the child.
Child feels controlled and rebels.
Parents give in to the child's behavior.
Child becomes indifferent to punishments.
Parents try to control but fail.

It is harder for parents to "hold the line" when society is in regression due to loosening of standards among people.

2. Nuclear Family
Emotional System
This system has four basic relationship patterns that govern where problems in a family develop. People's attitudes play a role in these patterns, but the forces driving them are a part of the emotional system patterns.

4 basic relationship patterns:
Marital conflict
Dysfunction in one spouse
Impairment of children
Emotional distance
"Stuck Together"
Can be so intense that family members know each others feelings, thoughts, dreams, and fantasies.

Emotionally connected or "stuck together."

Ego mass “gets bigger” to include:
Extended family
Their community

Can stay fixed for a long time--that is, calm or
stressed--or cycle frequently.

Contained within a small segment of the family.




Let's Do Some Therapy!
Therapy Techniques
Detrinagulization between Aleksei, Ana, and Sasha

Support differentiation in the family

Utilize "I" Positioning

Look at multiple generations to draw upon family history

Process Questions
Who is who?
Vlad - Aleksei Ribakov (father)
Kaley - Ana Ribakova (mother)
KD - Sasha Ribakova (child)
Jordan - Dr. Simmons (therapist)
Full transcript