What Kind of System is the Family? Part 2/2

This presentation is intended to point out the way of thinking which organizes the application of Bowen’s family systems theory. These principals are not apparent in mainstream family therapy literature which begins with a priori assumptions organized by therapy as apposed to developing a science of human behavior. If you simply read through the concepts of Bowen theory, they will likely not be understood without the broader assumptions about human behavior which makes clear the presumption that the family is an “emotional unit.”

Part one of this presentation is a broad philosophical departure from the Bowen theory itself in order to understand this way of thinking. Part two of this presentation will cover specific aspects of the theory.

Notes

It is important to note for anyone who knows me personally that amidst the challenges of public speaking I mixed up some of the specific facts of my effort at differentiation in my own family, for example some of the “what” and “when” details. But the details are not important to make my point. The “how” details remain the same.

I also made an error about functional changes in position in a triangle reflecting the life forces of individuality and togetherness. These “functional” shifts represent the togetherness force. A person going against the triangle altogether might be the individuality, or “differentiation” force. The individuality force is one in which an individual specializes in the group.

What Kind of System is the Family? (Slides)

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What Kind of System is the Family? Part 1/2

This presentation is intended to point out the way of thinking which organizes the application of Bowen’s family systems theory. These principals are not apparent in mainstream family therapy literature which begins with a priori assumptions organized by therapy as apposed to developing a science of human behavior. If you simply read through the concepts of Bowen theory, they will likely not be understood without the broader assumptions about human behavior which makes clear the presumption that the family is an “emotional unit.”

Part one of this presentation is a broad philosophical departure from the Bowen theory itself in order to understand this way of thinking. Part two of this presentation will cover specific aspects of the theory.

What Kind of System is the Family? (Slides)

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Taxonomy of Vipassanā Terms

Here is a guide to the most basic terms of the Buddha’s teaching of vipassanā, organized as the Four Noble Truths (cattāri ariyasaccāni). It seems to me that this should be provided along with every writing on the topic.

  1. Life is Suffering; idam dukkham
  2. The Cause of Suffering; Dependent Origination; paṭiccasamuppāda
    • The Four Mental Aggregates (Short Form; Practical)
      1. Sense data (viññana)
      2. Evaluation of sense data (sañña)
      3. Generate bodily sensation (vedanā)
      4. Automatic reaction (saṅkhāra)
    • Twelve “causal” steps in the loop of paṭiccasamuppāda (Long Form; Theoretical)
      1. Ignorance (avijjā)
      2. Karma/action/reaction (sankhārā)
      3. Consciousness (viññana)
      4. Body/mind (nama/rupa)
      5. Sense organs (salāyatanam)
      6. Contact w sense organ (phassa)
      7. Sensation (vedanā)
      8. Craving (tanhā)
      9. Clinging (upādāna)
      10. Becoming (bhava)
      11. Birth (jāti)
      12. Sickness, old age, death, other miseries (jarā-marana)
  3. How suffering ceases; nirodha-sacca
    • Reprogramming the automatic craving of sensations triggers a systemic shift throughout the twelve links of paṭiccasamuppāda.
  4. The way to the cessation of suffering; Eight-Fold Noble Path; ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo
    • Morality (sila)
      1. Right speech
      2. Right Action
      3. Right Livelihood
    • Concentration (samadhi)
      1. Right effort
      2. Right awareness
      3. Right Concentration
    • Wisdom (pañña: heard, rational, experiential)
      1. Right thoughts
      2. Right understanding
        • All phenomena are impermanent (anicca)
        • All phenomena have no self (anatta)
        • All phenomena are suffering (dukkha)
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Overview of Vipassanā Meditation

Though the term “meditation” is well-known in the Western world today, it is not well known that various meditation techniques can have many commonalities but also many significant differences. Understanding what differentiates a particular style of meditation as well as the style of teaching it from another technique and style of teaching is vital to understanding any one style of meditation (Drummond, 2006; Drummond, 2006; Fleischman, 2016). This study takes as foundational some of the unique features of vipassanā and S. N. Goenka’s style of teaching it, and so this chapter will clarify some of those unique features. An in-depth examination of technical terms and their theoretical relationships will be provided later in the proposed study. Therefore, this section will only provide a brief description of important concepts within the stated tradition of vipassanā. For reference, you can use The Taxonomy of Vipassanā Terms as a guide to orient you reading this chapter.

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Psychometric Comparisons of Bowen Theory and Attachment Theory

Bowen theory contains many concepts which overlap with concepts from attachment theory and the question of their relationship is a logical one. For example, Bowen was known to use the term “unresolved symbiotic attachment to the mother” in his writing, which opens questions about whether or not Bowen theory accounts for the phenomenon described by attachment theorists. This section will review a few studies which compare psychometric instruments from both theoretical systems.

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Measuring Differentiation of Self

Bowen theory contains eight interlocking concepts which can be used to predict the ways in which a family will respond to environmental pressure. As one of these eight concepts, differentiation of self pertains to an individual and is the main construct of the theory. As of this writing, it is not possible to measure the other seven concepts but many attempts have been made at measuring differentiation of self. Aside from the clinical evidence from Bowen’s NIMH research project and subsequent anecdotal evidence, these instruments represent the state of the art of Bowen theory as a verifiable science.

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Differentiation as a General Concept

This post is philosophizing in a general way, probably more akin to the thinking of von Bertalanffy than Bowen.

Differentiation is a term which comes from biology and describes the process in which a non-specific cell specializes in relation to its neighbors. Relationship is embedded in this otherwise individual-centric term. Specialization implies a relative position inside a unit. Something that specializes is different from its peers. As it specializes, it differentiates.

If differentiation is a process that pertains to an individual cell, Bowen wrote about differentiation of self as the process that an individual person goes through in relation to their emotional system, particularly their family of origin. It describes the ability for a person to be an individual while remaining a part of the integrated system. I am beginning to see this differentiation concept apply to many other areas, and am beginning to think of this as a property which determines the adaptability of any system. Flexibility may come from a combination of increased complexity and coordination. Evolution implies increase in differentiation so long as the original function is not lost.

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Overview of Bowen Theory

This section is part of a chapter which includes:

In his seminal 1988 publication, Family Evaluation, Michael Kerr described the shortsighted nature of our approach to the most important human problems, “We demonstrate against war as if we understand the causes of war. We could just as easily demonstrate against schizophrenia” (p. 27). This critical view of what is known and what is not known, and how our inability to distinguish between the two impacts our decisions, will be an important emphasis of this section on Bowen’s way of thinking and the theory that is a product of that way of thinking.

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Section on Natural Systems

This section is part of a chapter which includes:

A natural system is quite simply a system which occurs in nature. Hall and Fagen (1956) write that “The description of these is the task of the astronomer, physicist, chemist, biologist, physiologist, etc., and again the amount one can say about a given natural system depends on the number of essential variables involved” (p. 72). Natural system researchers are typically more interested in direct observation with fewer a priori assumptions than Bertalanffy’s pure mathematical ideal for GST or Weiner’s machine-control philosophy for cybernetics. Though they may use mathematical models to describe the behavior of the system, the models are the result of the inductive process; they are derived from the observations as opposed to explaining the observation from the model. One may think about a naturally occurring system using some of the terms from general systems, but it is the intention of discovering the nature of the system that is not pre-supposed in the human mind that distinguishes natural systems research.

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