Dear Andrea,I came across you website and wanted some help with this situation:
What ideas do you have about reentering a cutoff part of my family? (I have cutoff from this side of the family for around 10 years).
What are the pit-falls to be on the look out for?
How do I do it and maintain my self?
Is there a healthy way knowing that I have changed, but the reasons for my leaving the system are really still there?
Has such a chapter has been written by any one yet in the field of family systems. Many thanks,“x”
Hi there glad to give you a few ideas.First, there is a book on cut off.My favorite chapter is by Priscilla Friesen. Emotional Cutoff: Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives (Haworth Marriage and the Family) (Haworth Marriage and the Family) by Peter Titelman Yes, it is $62 dollars..
Also you may think about getting some to coach you. I will give you more information if you decide to go in this direction.
I can only give you general ideas as I am not able to coach people on e mail whom I do not know.
A recently story on bridging cut off and the impact on functioning is about Justine Henin who just won the US OPEN. She had to wait for her brother to be in a near fatal car accident for the path way to open to reconnect with her family.
In general cut offs are indicators of generations of side taking and deep beliefs in right and wrong, and it all unfolds as someone will be blamed.
People get isolated to protect self from harm or energy going in the wrong direction. It all can make rational sense but emotionally too much of avoiding the difficult people makes us weak.
At the extreme differences are not at all tolerated. Cut off leads to serious problems. At a milder level cut off functions to give people space to be “different.”
You can hear people rationalize cutting off when someone say things like: P People in my family are jerks. It is easier to talk to the people I sit next to on the bus.
Marriages make for a new drawing of loyalty lines. This is often the time when people cut off from the family of origin.
Again, it can seem rational but it goes in the direction of decreasing your flexibility. If you are willing to take on the slings and arrows of stillness from others then you are ready to reenter your family.
The main thing is you need to have a realistic plan and to get in and get out of a negative emotional system without trying to achieve too much. Think of going to an emotional gym.
You get a coach, find out how much to lift agree to keep practicing and then you go home and relax.
If you do begin by trying to relate to some of the more difficult people in your family on the phone, then you might say something that sets an immediate limit. I have five minutes to talk.
If the call gets negative or too intense then just say I will call back later when I am calmer.
Take responsibility for your part in getting out and let the person know you will be back. You never say negative things like: you, you, you are the reason I have to hang up leave etc..
You just let the people know in some way, I will be back because I will always be working on my relationship with you as I care deeply, even when we disagree.
I usually go back to reconnect with family members, with the intention to build my emotional backbone.Often my goal is to get to know more about someone in the family I have heard about but know little about at a personal level.
Often the history of relationships is stuck in the past. For example, my great aunt was upset with me as my great grandmother was not positive about her daughter.
It can take years of relate at a low key level before you can establish a more genuine relationship. When it happens you will know you are no longer seen as a shadow of the past family relationships.
But to get there you have to be aware of the past prejudices and take nothing personal.
It is hard to recover from taking on the verbal projections that people put on anyone who tries to reconnect. When anyone reconnects others can and do get upset. The pattern has been broken and people are dealing with the unexpected.
My question is- How do you keep from not reacting to others and relate at a more genuine level? Hope that helps..
June 28, 2007 In The Universe in a Single Atom, his holiness the Dalai Lama, has put forth his personal journey describing the need for the convergence of science and spirituality. The core approaches of Buddhist psychology are: meditative contemplation, observations of motivation, manifested by emotion, and thought patterns and behaviors, all of which are subject to critical philosophical analysis.
The goal is to overcome suffering, especially psychological and emotional sufferings. Psychiatry in particular and the mental heath field in general, have both long shared this goal.
Only since the advent of fast computers, beginning in the seventies, has mental health been able to investigate the usefulness of various types of Neurofeedback and EEG readings in general, to learn more about the advantages of four thousand plus years of meditative states.
As those of you who have explored my site know, Neurofeedback has long been of interest. You can find two interesting articles at http://ideastoaction.wordpress.com/consulting/neurofeedback-for-leaders/
Or my current view
Or one version of the history of Neurofeedback
It is possible that this western technological advance will be a way to introduce the benefits of being present, to the western mind. Technology may enable building a knowledge bridge with the Buddhist focus on healthy practices to alter suffering in our everyday lives. Two questions the Dali Lama poses are; how do we know what is useful, and has our capacity for moral reasoning kept pace with knowledge? Clearly humanity in general is in need of what he describes as a moral compass, to preserve our human sensitivity, and to retain in our minds our fundamental human values. He urges us to hold compassion as the key motivation for all our endeavors. Loving kindness is the key to compassionate interactions with others but it is often blocked by emotional reactive states which are often laid down in the uterus on or even in past lives. One way to look at the impact of loving kindness is in our relationship with people, the other is our relationship with the earth and even with the food we consume. In a world attuned to scientific facts we need to understand in a rational way the long term consequences of our actions. The methods of science can enable us to measure the impact of loving kindness on the earth and its inhabitants. Since my years of experience are in the filed of mental heath I can only give my perspective on the struggle metal heath has had in find ways to speak with those who represent the more spiritual worlds. These separated knowledge compartments can only be opened by the correct attitude towards all.
Freud took a position that all religions were based on the delusion of a promise of salvation. Therefore he considered religions as a drug, especially when used as a way to avoid the ordinariness of life and the challenges of knowing the darker side of one’s actions. His ideas set up a polarization. Needed or not this polarity still exists and can be summed up by saying if you can not prove it then it’s a belief and belongs in the unscientific camp. Psychiatry has long had ways of understanding man’s attempts to struggle with his dark side and to enhance his or her functioning in relationships. At its base psychiatry has as long of a way to go as religions in making the pathways towards more mature functioning a knowable and scientific fact. Murray Bowen, the originator of Family Systems Theory, thought there was a way to see how beliefs of all kinds functioned as gateways to change one’s life. There is no way to put a belief, be it in Jesus, God or emptiness, to a rational fact based test. But as the Dali Lama noted we can look at the behaviors generated by the energy of these beliefs. The fact that life energy may be transmitted in interpersonal relationships may be harder to measure than when this energy is transmitted into a substance like food. There are so many factors that can impact on one’s relationships that they are harder to measure. We may know and or believe that motivation and perception are the keys to being able to experience and to stay in a state of loving kindness, but how do we measure this? Humans and the human brain are non linear systems, which refuse to be controlled by the laws of cause and effect. Francisco J. Varela, Ethical Know-How: Action Wisdom and Cognition, was one of the early founders of the Mind Life Institute. He was also one of the earliest neurobiologist to gives us profound evidence of the lack of causal relationships in network driven closed loop systems. There is no A in and B out in the perceptual system. Humans are also not A in and B out systems. We are non linear systems. Changes occur in very unpredictable ways. The end result of altering behavior can still be measured as a flow towards more maturity or better heath or more acceptances of what is. It is the central nervous system which regulates our ability to pay attention and to self regulate. In the book Personal Transformation: An Executive’s Experience of Grief, Loss and Renewal by Kiril Sokoloff describes how both the relationship with the Dali Lama and the grounded ideas of Buddhism enabled a complete transformation and relief from suffering in one man’s life. This family story is a perfect example of emotional blindness in family dynamics. My heart went out to him, as he described not knowing how fusion between two people works in intense relationships. People do things out of love that ends up with one person becoming erased or divorced. Clearly we are a network of interconnected beings and when we get over controlled, confused or cut off, troubles magnify in the brain and in our lives. The inability to separate out a self when someone we “love” makes an incredulous demand on us, leads to a dark and confused road. To see this and know what to do, I think is one of the ways Bowen Family System Theory connects with Buddhism.
There is a beautiful piece on Swarm behavior in July 2007′s National Geographic. http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0707/feature5/
How do we explain, then, the success of Earth’s 12,000 or so known ant species? They must have learned something in 140 million years.
“Ants aren’t smart,” Gordon says. “Ant colonies are.” A colony can solve problems unthinkable for individual ants, such as finding the shortest path to the best food source, allocating workers to different tasks, or defending a territory from neighbors. As individuals, ants might be tiny dummies, but as colonies they respond quickly and effectively to their environment. They do it with something called swarm intelligence.
The authors depict how easy it is to get caught up in signals from local interactions. It is a beautiful adaptation for bees, birds and even locust when they are really hungry. But in some case becoming part of the swarm is very dangerous to our heath.
A group won’t be smart if its members imitate one another, slavishly follow fads, or wait for someone to tell them what to do. When a group is being intelligent, whether it’s made up of ants or attorneys, it relies on its members to do their own part. For those of us who sometimes wonder if it’s really worth recycling that extra bottle to lighten our impact on the planet, the bottom line is that our actions matter, even if we don’t see how. The Lemmings are good example of how local signals build and result in destruction, as are stock market crashes. When one person can separate out and be different, then the love and even the wisdom of the crowd are much likely to predominate. We also know that mediation and prayers have enabled people to be focused on organizing their mental energy to be more autonomous and responsible and that this has a tremendous impact on one’s health. Those who are able to self regulate live in a world with less anxiety and blame. Some people have describe feeling great compassion or profound love, which has enabled them to find a deep way to connect with others as who they are, and to stand apart from the confusing signals of others.
There are many new ways of knowing that science has brought into awareness, which deeply connect with ancient Buddhist texts.
There are also many areas of investigation which can enable people to use a compass that guides the individual to a healthy road. One is the use of Neurofeedback to increase the ability to both pay attention and to become profoundly relaxed.
More of this kind of technological inventiveness will be coming your way. I think scientific research will enable us to find many roads which can enhance our strengths and alerts us to our human weakness.
Here is a short summery of my overly brief and somewhat humorous thoughts on the field of mental heath. The Four States of Revolution within Mental Health and Hopes for the Future 1- Freud unearthed the feeling system. There is not much left of repression, after the internet and the media in general. People are still addicted to keeping secrets and unaware of forces impinging on them in all groups. People still learn from dreams. (12 years to do a psychoanalytic stint or a life time.) 2 – The interpersonal family interactions over the generations, Bowen family theory, has used the intellect and cognitive reframing if you will, to enable people to function better, make more authentic contact with others by being less cut off over the generations. People talk biology but are still blind to the deeper process in the hive or the swarms or the group. (6 to 9 years for serious students of the family as a system or a life time.) 3 – Drugs have been the answer to serious symptoms for almost sixty years. Food has been ignored as way to alter one’s health status. Talking and altering relationships has not been able to address problems deep in the CNS. 4 – Hope for the future take mental heath back to contemplative practice:The useful direction of metal energy can be enhanced by 1) greater ability to be present in life and 2) the ability to see the consequences of what we do, be it eating or relating.
Neurofeedback and mediation offer transformational possibilities as they both alter the functioning of the central nervous system. The discipline of training enables the CNS to reorganize. Specific types of Neurofeedback such as www.zengar.com
target the process of giving the brain itself adequate feedback on the current state of the brain. Any new product that offers greater ability to be aware will run up against the automatic resistance in the brain. Clearly the group process in society can enhance or inhibit awareness. All each of can do is move in the direction of compassion. It begins with the self, radiates out to the family, to the community and then to the planet and is always in the empty universe.
“How did I come to know what I know about the world and myself? What ought I to know? What would I like to know that I don’t know? If I want to know about this or that, where can I get the clearest, best and latest information? And where did these other people about me get their ideas about things, which are sometimes so different from mine?” H.G. Wells
I found this quote on one of favorite paces to go for ideas and opinions. At the EDGE, John Brockman and company go for the deep and thoughtful questions and ideas which bother some of the better thinkers of our age. http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge208.html In this piece, WHO SAYS WE KNOW: On the New Politics of Knowledge, Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia, considers the ins and outs of our ability to acquire useful and truthful knowledge. Sanger raises the personal question of how each of us knows who we are and in addition who are those around us? Then there are more questions about facts. Like how do we find and rate content? How do we find out about products, places, and people? The big one has to be how do we know about ourselves and decide how to use this information. These are not easy questions to answer but ones that have deep implications for our future. It is easy to pick up ideas as truth. My grandchildren often tell me phantasmagoric things that they truly believe. We can see the confusion between facts and different slices of fantasy everywhere. I use to believe everything I read and now I belive everything I click on. Most of it may be gossip but its exciting and therefore its carried around as facts. I do it because I am human, and sometimes I forget about the rigor of logic and putting facts in the well researched only pile.
At http://www.wikipedia.org/alone there are millions of articles. How do any of us weed out the facts? Test any of the articles and look for facts. If you come up short you can go through the challenging process of submitting edit corrections on all the subjective content. I noted that the piece on Dr. Bowen has more than one error but who among us has the time to fix them? Well, after complaining to others ( which is immature) I made one attempt. See- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Bowen#History I did not want to argue with all of the ideas, so I noted that Dr. Bowen wrote down the facts of his life as he saw them. I also said that there are many papers and audio plus video tapes available at the National Library of Medicine and at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. Will it do any good? Perhaps! It was well worth the effort. People will have various interpretations of Dr. Bowen’s life and motives. My effort can not alter that fact. It is still worth while to let Dr. Bowen speak for himself. His vita was written in 1990 about ten months before he died. You can find it under Dr. Bowen on this site.
People know, our brains love subjectivity and find facts dull. Now knowing this we can begin any effort to “know” with great respect for facts and a great respect for the difficulty of communicating ideas.
One personal exercise in this area is to write up your own story. It is good to do it before someone else does it for you. I have just finished redoing my effort see About Andrea
Hope you too are having fun being factual.
The book is done! The book is done! Yes, I am happy but not celebrating until it is sold. Next will be the excitement of the chase—how to find a publisher. No matter the outcome, all in all I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to think and write. Deb Schwab, my editor, has to go over all 400 pages one more time. Brave woman! I am grateful to her and to Judy Ball. They are two thoughtful women willing and able to help edit all the ideas I have into a readable book.
In the last four months the three of us have been working on the last chapter, part of which you will find below. Called “The Forest and the Trees,” this chapter introduces you to an Organizational Compass. Click [here] If you want to read more.
Before I introduce you to my last chapter I would like to say that it was written as I thought about and prepared for the impending death of Jacques Mauboussin, my son in law’s father, who died on March 11th. I first met Jacques in 1989 when he was the father of the groom. Even then I was struck by how genuinely kind and thoughtful he was, both to his wife and to his family. I knew my daughter was fortunate to be marrying into such a family. I enjoyed talking to him about what new car I should buy. (He owned an extremely well organized car dealership). When I traded in my old car for a new one, he sold my old one to a person who worked for him. Over time Jacques would let me know how my old van was doing. I love that kind of respect for past affiliations.
Overall the feeling that I got from his family and friends was that he made a difference in people’s lives just by his way of being there consistently for each person. Jacques had the rare ability to let important people be mostly free so that each could find his or her own way.
I had fun trying to ask him about his life without bugging him. Eventually he and his wife recorded their story, which is a fabulous gift for the next generations. When he died there was no big emotional upheaval but rather a great respect for a profound transition. Jacques seemed very happy to have lived his life the way he had, and was pleased to tell his view of things, but he did not impose his views on others. How fortunate for him and for us. He will be missed and be an inspiration.
Welcome to this new and updatable site. This site provides a beginning road map to theory as I understand it. Family Systems Theory developed by Murray Bowen, M.D., has been a guide to understanding human behavior and of course my own functioning. I think theory gives us a common sense look at our fmilies and other organizations. In addiiton it can enable motivated individuals to alter their functioing in these emotional and very social systems.
In the early 1950′s Dr. Murray Bowen, a psychiatrist, developed Family Systems Theory as an outgrowth of his research at the National Institutes of Health. I am one of the “second generation family researchers” who has benefited from his ideas and I now offer an introduction to a few theory-derived principles.
First time visitors may wish to read these links:
- An introduction to Bowen Theory
- How Bowen Theory can change your life
- Who is Andrea Maloney-Schara?
- Read my newsletters with thoughts on Bowen Theory
- Find out more about how individuals and corporations can benefit from Bowen Theory
Other links can be found using the menu to the left. Please contact me at email@example.com with any thoughts and questions!
- Andrea Maloney-Schara, LCSWA
Special thanks to Judy Ball who helped me edit this version.
It is unusual for me to write something about my family on this web site. But I think this is a family story that may be useful to those with a serious illness in someone they love.
One of the first things I admired about Dr. Bowen was that he wrote about how he managed himself in his own family. No one had ever written about the family as an emotional unit. The Anonymous paper (1967) ( Family Therapy in Clinical Practice by Murray Bowen,) detailed the story of his exploring complex emotional forces by breaking up old patters of communication, and eventually being in better contact with important people in his family.
The key was to lower anxiety in himself. Read and see for yourself the complex strategy he followed to be more separate but in better contact with his family. Bowen did not give us three steps to follow, but rather told a story of understanding the forces in the family as a sailor reads the winds and understands the sea.
The first time I met Dr. Bowen (1976) I was working in a psychiatric hospital,hoping to understand Manic Depressive illness in my brother, who was two years younger. The psychiatrists that I saw were not hopeful. In stark contrast I listened to Dr. Bowen give an un-convention talk to the world of conventional psychiatry. He presented a new world view where the problem was no longer in the patient but in the relationship system as a whole.
Bowen talked about detwitching rats and rebuilding family relationships to overcome serious problems. Any problem created in a relationship could be solved in one. His talk was hopeful. I took him seriously, and signed up for the special post graduate program. Eventually I found that working on my own anxiety, and detwitching anxiety in others could be fun, even if I was not great at it. Great means people do not get mad at you for your attempt to get outside the emotional system. Two factors anyone can work on are lowering the level of anxiety in the system and making an effort to increase one’s level of maturity. The only reasoned thing I can do is work on me.
July one year ago, my uncle died. I was not expecting serious symptoms but I noticed a few problems scattered around in the family. Then in April my youngest brother popped a manic episode. As noted I have been working on Bowen’s principle finding – breaking up old patters of communication and eventually being in better contact with important people in the family, for thirty years, nevertheless a bipolar episode in a family member is not an easy matter for anyone.
As I reflect back on the initial origins of his problems, its easy to focus on Drew not having a good start in life. His parents were drinking, as a way to handle what we now call post traumatic stress disorder. One factor is that my brother was very affected by the psychological cost of WW II.
Coincidently one of the events that motivated Bowen to get into psychiatry was his experience during the war. He saw that the biggest problem was the psychological cost of war and not just the physical causalities.
As a reminder of the impersonal continuing cost of war today we have the new Clint Eastwood film, “Flags of Our Fathers.” The three main characters who participated in raising the flag in Iwo Jima were taken out of the conflict, and put on a bond tour. Although these men left the war they never escaped it. The movie demonstrates one of the problems, flash backs, that distorts many families lives. During the bond drive, the pop of a camera bulb, a flash of lightning and the bang of a backfiring car engine instantly return the three to the island and its horrors, a blurring between past and present that occurs, with seamless, ruthless efficiency. http://movies2.nytimes.com/2006/10/20/movies/20flag.html?th&emc=th
The toll of war is one factor out of at least seven, in a family becoming weaker over the generations. Wars often must be fought, and the toll will be extracted, but people can know the cost ahead of time. I think this can make some difference in lowering the tendency to blame people if symptoms arise.
In April I was busy not noticing the building storm in the life of Drew. Eventually the phone calls came telling of the funny/scary ways my brother was behaving. The long arm of the law often captures those unable to keep a job or have insurance, as there is no treatment available unless it is court mediated. Fortunately Drew has a cousin who cared enough to get very involved in guiding Drew through the mental health system. The following is a summery letter written to the director of the state hospital where my brother stayed. I hope it raises as many questions as it answers.