A Bowen Theory Lexicon

A Bowen Theory Lexicon

How Even the Great Ones Get Confused ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The…

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On Triangles with Dead People

On Triangles with Dead People

“Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship,
which struggles on in the survivor’s mind
toward some resolution which it may never find.”
― Robert Anderson

In a previous blog, The Structure, Function and Emotional Process of Triangles, I wrote “De-triangling occurs when strategically someone comes into a polarized situation and makes an effort to not take sides, and to relate well to each person.” A highly regarded, well respected colleague who has, with great equanimity, integrity and compassion, withstood all of Hal’s attempts to befuddle and confuse, wondered, “What if they’re Dead?”, most specifically in regards to the primary parental triangle we all struggle to resolve.

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Rituals Through Time and Space

Rituals Through Time and Space

Why Go Directly to Cinco, Start With Dos

“Rituals have the power to mark
or to move us
through transitions.”
— Rabbi Roni Handler
Prayers from the Heart

Evan Imber-Black has written the following “working definition of ritual”:

Rituals are coevolved symbolic acts that include not only the ceremonial aspects of the actual presentation of the ritual, but the process of preparing for it as well.

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The Last Quarter: Part I – The Predicament

The Last Quarter: Part I – The Predicament

Reflection and Acceptance

“Do not be afraid.
Do not lose resolve.”
— Deuteronomy (1:21)   דברים

A friend and colleague who has chosen to remain nameless wondered how does one do the “work” of self-differentiation or “growing oneself up” in the “last quarter” of life? Given ever-increasing longevity, health related quality of life (HRQoL), and the widening circle of multigenerational caretaking, we might wonder what exactly constitutes the last quarter? Does it start with the 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th decade of our lives? Regardless, by the time we have reached this stage, and certainly before we are done passing through it, we will have encountered most (if not damn near all) of the normative life-cycle transitions and many unexpected, unplanned for crises.

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Family of Origin or Family of Procreation

Family of Origin or Family of Procreation

Looking Up or Looking Down

Sailing up (sailing up), sailing down (sailing down)
Up (down), down (up!) – up and down the river
Sailing on – stopping all along the way
The river may be dirty now
but it’s getting cleaner every day
— Sailing Up, Sailing Down
— Wyatt & Reed
Performed With Pete Seeger on the Clearwater

In response to several previous blog posts, Marilyn Halls, MA of Counseling Associates of Sarasota, LLC wondered “how you would help parents differentiate from their children and at what age,” to which I would respond that:

The best way to help parents differentiate from their children
is to help parents differentiate from their children’s grandparents.

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On Family Emotional Systems

On Family Emotional Systems

Nuclear Family Emotional Process, Projection Process and Multigenerational Transmission Process “ …the problem a patient or couple or family walks in with is less important than the relationship obstacles that keep them from working to resolve it”. — Guerin & Fogarty What is it about family gatherings, holidays and life…

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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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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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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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