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.

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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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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 Family Relationship Consultant

The Family Relationship Consultant

Learning and Doing

“How long can we go on being angry?”
— Elie Wiesel

Relationships matter. We all belong to families whose emotional connections greatly impact our lives. The behavior of any member of a family affects every other member in some way. We exist in our relationships and our inescapable connection to our family of origin.

Families are systems of interconnected and interdependent individuals, none of whom can be understood in isolation. The family system resides in the self as much as the self resides in the family system. Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) understands family functioning and behavior as arising from an emotional system that is a universal feature of all living things.

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Individuation and Togetherness

Individuation and Togetherness

A plea for peaceful coexistence

There is no differentiation without connection,
no autonomy without healthy interdependence
(or as Michael Kerr wrote:
…differentiation of self and togetherness
are two distinct, counterbalancing life forces
that can operate as a working team.)

(N.B. see author’s notes below)

In response to my blog post On Differentiation: The Mindfulness of Murray Bowen, Bonnie Hall wrote:

Ron, I really like your succinct explanation of the togetherness and individuality forces. I have a question about this that I’d appreciate feedback on: Bowen believed these two forces to be “equally intense.” I’ve often wondered about the “equal” part. If they are equal, then why is the individuality force the one that needs the attention (hence also called the differentiating force)? It is hard to differentiate out of the togetherness force, not the individuality force, right?

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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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Self Knowledge is Not Necessarily Good News

Self Knowledge is Not Necessarily Good News

The Tao of Self-Differentiation

“Understanding the dark side of ourselves
will allow us to relate more fully to others.”  
– Star Wars

In her book, You Can Go Home Again: Reconnecting With Your Family, Monica McGoldrick cautions that in the process of differentiation of self in one’s family of origin, it is important to manage one’s anxiety, avoid becoming defensive, and be prepared to hear negative feelings and observations.

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What are the “Amazonian Forests of Family Connections”?

What are the “Amazonian Forests of Family Connections”?

“spooky action at a distance”

The cloud model of the electron represents a sort of history of
where the electron has probably been
and where it is likely to be going.

Reporting on A. J. Jacobs’ plans for the world’s largest family reunion, Gabe Friedman wrote, “I am his first cousin twice removed’s wife’s nephew’s wife’s first cousin’s wife’s brother’s wife’s second cousin’s wife’s uncle’s wife’s second great nephew.”

Now I pride myself on being able to draw large multigenerational extended family diagrams but this Family Forest has even me looking for help and direction. Mr. Jacobs notes that these connections are “… not even family trees. They’re Amazonian forests of family connections.”

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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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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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