Cutting Off From Fusion

Cutting Off From Fusion

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

“THERE IS NO DIFFERENTIATION WITHOUT CONNECTION.
‘F*ck you! I don’t care what you think’
is rebellion and reactivity, not differentiation.”

— Betty Carter

Goals of growing one’s self up include (1) the attainment of both financial and emotional self-sufficiency (i.e. being able to live on your own and avoid fusion) while (2) staying connected to the emotionally important people in your life (steering clear of cutoffs) and (3) creating the opportunity to develop a healthy intimate partner relationship that doesn’t require the negation of the first two.

Impediments to this process are defined by most, if not all of Bowen Theory’s eight interlocking concepts. For this discussion I will focus on Differentiation of Self, Nuclear Family Emotional System, Family Projection Process and Emotional Cutoff, not necessarily in that order.

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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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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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Doing “Bowen”
Turning Theory into Practice

Doing “Bowen”<br>Turning Theory into Practice

“There’s nothing so practical
as a good theory”
— Kurt Lewin

We all carry unresolved problems from past life cycle stages with us, into our current situations. At times of family life-cycle transitions and unexpected crises, conflict and dysregulation arise. Questions about how best to respond include: (1) What can you do to help resolve the conflict, reduce stress and anxiety, improve communication, and promote active problem solving and healing? (2) How do you maintain both your autonomy and the connections with emotionally important people in your life? (3) Which behaviors will help make things better no matter what anyone else does? and (4) How do you deal with differences without loosing connection?

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Conscious Uncoupling

Conscious Uncoupling

It’s Not About Gwyneth Paltrow
(It’s Not Even About Katherine Woodward Thomas)

—- and there is nothing new under the sun
— Kohelet 1:9

‘Conscious Uncoupling’ is not a new concept one. Twenty years ago Constance Ahrons, in her book The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart told the following anecdote:

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A Time to Die and a Time to Mourn

A Time to Die and a Time to Mourn

Death & The Family Life Cycle

The heart of the wise
is in the house of mourning
— Kohelet 7:4

While taxes may be avoidable, depending on the skill and daring of your accountant and tax attorney, death is not. Yet it remains, ahead of even sex and money, the subject people most avoid talking about. Few of us are prepared for the “emotional shock wave” that reverberates throughout the extended family system when confronted with the inescapability of the loss of our loved one’s physical presence.

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Family Palliative Care

Family Palliative Care

When a family member develops a serious, chronic or potentially life-shortening illness or disability, the entire family system. When death becomes imminent and/or inevitable, additional issues arise around anticipatory grief, mourning and bereavement. The integrity of the family is shattered, roles must be restructured and reassigned and the rules of daily living adapted to ever-changing circumstances.

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The Dangers of Launching While Intoxicated

The Dangers of Launching While Intoxicated

In response to a previous blog on the difficulties of the Launching Phase, Patricia Rosen wondered how the process might be complicated by the presence of alcoholic drinking and/or chemical dependence.

The struggles of our adolescent and young adult children on their journey to economic and emotional self-sufficiency are greatly compounded by misuse and abuse of both legal and illegal “mind altering substances,” including misappropriation of prescription medications. Alcoholism, substance abuse, and chemical dependence can be devastating to the individual and the family. These all involve systemic processes that require systemic solutions.

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Individual Therapy from a Family Perspective

Individual Therapy from a Family Perspective

How is Bowen Theory Coaching different from all other family therapies?

And why should you care?

As paradoxical as it may sound, the majority of family therapists have an individualistic orientation, while Bowen Theory coaches and therapists help individuals from a family relationship perspective. So Family Therapy with One Motivated Family Member is not an oxymoron. Who knew?

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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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