The Structure, Function and Emotional Process of Triangles

The Structure, Function and Emotional Process of Triangles

What Kind of Company Always Creates a Crowd?

“one’s company,
two’s a crowd,
and three’s a party.”
— Andy Warhol

Life rarely happens in ones or twos, but almost always in threes or more; and more specifically and theoretically exactingly, in groups of interlocking threes. From the Bowen Center Web site:

“It [a triangle] is considered the building block or “molecule” of larger emotional systems because a triangle is the smallest stable relationship system. A two-person system is unstable because it tolerates little tension before involving a third person. A triangle can contain much more tension without involving another person because the tension can shift around three relationships. If the tension is too high for one triangle to contain, it spreads to a series of “interlocking” triangles.”

Spreading the tension can stabilize a system, but nothing gets resolved.

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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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Societal Emotional Processes

Societal Emotional Processes

How does Bowen Family Systems Theory translate to the larger societal system?  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead (1902-1978) Societal Emotional Processes, on the face of it, a self-evident oxymoron. What…

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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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On Differentiation

On Differentiation

The Mindfulness of Murray Bowen

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.
It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
— Vivian Greene

In response to my blog post Doing “Bowen”, Rebecca Chesin, MA, LAMFT of Twin Cities Relationship Resources, LLC noted and requested, “Nice thumbnail sketches. Would love to see each one expanded into their own post.” To briefly review, the following are Bowen’s eight interlocking concepts

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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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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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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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An Adult’s Guide to Dating the Second Time Around

An Adult’s Guide to Dating the Second Time Around

The Post Conscious Uncoupling Conscious Re-coupling Transition

“…. but I was so much older then.
I’m younger than that, now.”
— Bob Dylan
— My Back Pages

OK now. You’ve uncoupled, consciously or not, paid your attorneys, filed your papers, re-mortgaged your house, complained to all your friends, had the necessary pity party, gone on your Club Med vacation to recharge your battery, made a complete fool of yourself before your children and work colleagues, sworn off ever getting married again, and watched more reruns of House than any one individual should be subjected to in multiple lifetimes. What else might you do on Saturday nights for the rest of your life? Maybe, go on a date?

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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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