Anxiety, Differentiation and Triangles, Oh My!

Anxiety, Differentiation and Triangles, Oh My!

We all struggle to repeat the past differently but without Glinda or the Ruby Slippers we might end up with the Wicked Witch of the West. Or crushed under a house like her older sister. In order to know where we’re going we have to first investigate where we’ve been. This can be best accomplished by working on differentiation of self in one’s original family.

Dr. Richard B. McCune offered Bowen Theory on Three Sheets. I’m going to double down and offer a beginner’s solution in three not so easy steps.

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The Emotional Roller Coaster of Divorce

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Divorce

Like most of life, divorce is a process and not an event, a journey and not a destination, a normative road taken by approximately half of all first married couples (though not taken by the other half), and also taken by a somewhat higher percentage of subsequently married couples. A road no less travelled by, a road filled with speed bumps and potholes, hair pin turns and flat out straight aways, with all the back seat drivers yelling “are we there yet” even though none of them know where they are going and fewer know where they’ve been. Some might even call it a road to nowhere, or as Yogi said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

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Is They Is or Is They Ain’t

Is They Is or Is They Ain’t

How is Bowen Family Systems Theory Different From All Others How it looks from here, is different from how it looks from there.” A recurrent theme in LinkedIn discussions on many of my blog posts revolves around the distinctive elements of Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) and practice. In a discussion…

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“The Emotional Shock Wave” of Death

“The Emotional Shock Wave” of Death

“And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?”
— Leonard Cohen
— Who by Fire

I am going to die. You are going to die. And with apologies to Country Joe And The Fish, We are all going to die. Aging, Sickness and Death in one form or another will get us all. And yet, many of us try mightily to ignore this inevitable and inescapable fact of life.

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The Alcoholic Family

The Alcoholic Family

A Systemic Lack of Responsibility for Self

“… Bowen Theory can be helpful
no matter whom the client is!”
— Kevin Cundiff

How to develop a drunk in 8 or more easy steps (with apologies to Murray Bowen)?

Start with an imbalance of responsibility among family members, toss in 100-year-old patterns of family emotional isolation, simmer over a large base of chronic anxiety, season with some acute stressors and then note:

  1. The more the family is threatened by irresponsible drinking behavior, the more anxious they get
  2. The more anxious they get, the more they become critical
  3. The more they become critical, the greater the emotional isolation
  4. The greater the emotional isolation, the more the alcoholic drinks
  5. The more the alcoholic drinks, the higher the anxiety
  6. The higher the anxiety, the greater the criticism and emotional distance
  7. The greater the criticism and emotional distance, the more the drinking becomes problematic
  8. The more the drinking becomes problematic, the more the family is threatened by irresponsible drinking behavior, and the music goes ‘round and ’round, Whoa-ho-ho, Back to number 1.
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Family Rules

Family Rules

The Bottom Five of Cohen’s Top Ten

What was it you wanted?
Tell me again so I’ll know
— Bob Dylan
— What was it you wanted?

In response to The Invisible Psychological Contracts We Make With Our Families, my virtual colleague and friend, Bonnie Hall wrote; “Now I wait with baited breath for the other 5 on your top ten list in a future post…” So Bonnie, this one’s for you (Be careful what you wish for).

Herein the bottom five of Cohen’s top ten list of unspoken rules of family togetherness behavior in reverse order just to be different (see Rule Number 9 below):

  • Rule Number 10: In this house there are no rules unless I say so.
  • Rule Number 9: Because …..
  • Rule Number 8: Don’t inhale, Bill Clinton never did.
  • Rule Number 7: “Nobody” did it.
  • Rule Number 6: Are you talking to me?
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Divorce and the Family Relationship Process

Divorce and the Family Relationship Process

Bridging Emotional Cutoff from a Former Spouse “And you may ask yourself -Well…How did I get here? And you may ask yourself How do I work this?” — Talking Heads — Once In A Lifetime I can sense the exasperated sighs, see the rolled eyes, ears, nose and mouth, and…

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The Clinician as a “Solid Self”

The Clinician as a “Solid Self”

How did we ever get anywhere without Google Maps? And for us guys, it’s a good thing we don’t have to stop at a gas station and ask for a GPS. But what do you do when you actually have to know where you’re going before you get there? Well it certainly helps if you’ve been there before. Now if we as clinicians, and especially those of us who subscribe to Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), aspire to engage the folks we work with on a journey of research and understanding, what is the road map we might employ?

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In the Best Interests of the Children

In the Best Interests of the Children

Problems with a “Child-Focused” Approach What would it take to sit with one’s own anxiety rather than passing it along to someone else? How often do we as parents make projects out of our children when we’d be better off making projects of our relationships and ourselves? In “We Don’t…

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The Invisible Psychological Contracts We Make with Our Families

The Invisible Psychological Contracts We Make with Our Families

The Unbearable Lightness of Maintaining Individuality and Being Connected

“Whom we are related to
in the complex web of family ties
over all generations
is unalterable by us.”
— Elizabeth A. Carter and Monica McGoldrick
—-The Family Life Cycle

Decisions, decisions. Have you ever wondered about why you do what you do when you do it, where you choose to do it, and how you do it with whomever you choose to do it with? (Hopefully this doesn’t strike too many of you as coming from the department of redundancy department). Me neither. But lets just think about this for a minute. How often do we truly make decisions for ourselves based on our own core beliefs and values? I’d suggest not nearly as often as we’d like to believe we do.

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Bowen Family Systems Coaching


Bowen Family Systems Coaching with Ronald B Cohen, MD is the treatment of choice for complicated relationship problems and intergenerational conflicts. Include the whole family in resolving and improving what is going on right NOW! When the entire family works to make the difficult journey together, the results are almost magical.
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Why Ronald B Cohen, MD?


If you are experiencing family relationship problems and distress, don’t treat all therapists alike. Look for a Family Therapist who has had specific training, is comfortable with emotional intensity and will offer clear direction to help resolve identified problems. Ronald B. Cohen, MD works with the whole family in a manner that can save you time and be more cost effective than equal doses of individual therapy.
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For Mental Health Professionals


I offer both individual coaching and a consultation group to help facilitate the acquisition and further development of knowledge and expertise in Bowen Family Systems Theory and Coaching for the enhancement of clinical efficacy, productivity and satisfaction. If this is something you want to do professionally, and especially if you have not had significant training and experience in working with family dynamics and relationships, then experiential learning by doing is the best way to go.
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