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.


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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