Societal Regression & the Child-Focused Society

Societal Regression & the Child-Focused Society

What Happens When Helicopter Parents
Are Hit by Boomerang Children?

“If you keep doin’ what you’ve been doin’,
you’ll keep gettin’ what you’ve been gettin’.”

Societies vary in functional levels of differentiation and amount of chronic anxiety in a manner similar to families and individuals. Emotionally reactive behaviors in a societal context follow the same attack—defend, pursue, withdraw—interactions as do familial relationships. Coalitions and group conflict are analogous to fusion and cut-off.

Increased social anxiety, and a resulting decrease in the functional level of the society as a whole, can result in a gradual lowering of the functional level of its families. Conversely, Jenny Brown wrote, “Think about the benefits to society at large if more people took on the growing-up challenge and saw their efforts to manage their anxiety and be principle-driven as a way of bringing more maturity to their society!”

“Human societies undergo periods of regression and progression in their history. In a regression, people act to relieve the anxiety of the moment rather than act on principle and a long-term view. The current societal regression is characterized by an increased child focus in the culture.” (Bowen Center)

Societal Regression & the Child-Focused Society by Ronald B. Cohen MDChild focus is best understood as one of the three primary ways a family manages chronic internal anxiety, acute external stress, unresolved emotional attachments in the families of origin, and the extent of undifferentiation in its emotional functioning. The family projection process follows three steps:

(1) Scanning – The parent focuses on a child out of fear that something is wrong with the child.

(2) Diagnosing – The parent interprets the child’s behavior as confirming the fear.

(3) Treating – The parent treats the child as if something is really wrong with the child.

There is much in 21st-century society to be anxious and concerned about, but an emotionally reactive focus on child welfare and improvement is not the answer.

“An increase in the problems young people are having is part of an emotional process in society as a whole. A more constructive direction would be for people to examine their own contributions to societal regression and to work on themselves rather than focus on improving the future generation.” (ibid)

How then can we as parents become more “responsible” for ourselves so that we can act more “responsibly” toward our children? Parental “taking care of self” allows space for the child to develop her/his mastery of emotional distress and physical and psychological discomfort.

“People who advocate more focus on the children cite the many problems young people are having as justification for their position. Using the child’s problems as justification for increasing the focus on them is precisely what the child focused parents have been doing all along”. (ibid)

When the urge to do more of what one has already been doing to “fix” the problem one has helped to create becomes overwhelming and irresistible, consultation with a well-trained Bowen Family Systems Theory “Coach” and Relationship Consultant can help develop the strength a solid self-needs to “just stand there and not do something,” but rather focus on self and let the process unfold on its own.

Best of luck on your unfolding journey of a lifetime.

Please share your thoughts and experiences concerning the reciprocity between societal anxiety and differentiation of self in the “Leave a Reply” box below. To request more information or contact me directly for any reason, please click here. If you found this post helpful, please don’t keep it a secret. You are encouraged to click on the buttons below and share this article with your own networks. Looking forward to continuing the conversation.

Ronald B Cohen, MD, PC Ronald B. Cohen, MD
Bowen Family Systems Coach
1 Barstow Road, Suite P-10
Great Neck, NY 11021
(516) 466-7530

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