The statistic greatly helps to understand the scale of the problem, but still, to make the audience fully understand what exactly happened and what impact it may have, it is better to add the stories of those who experienced that issue when writing research papers. Despite some of these stories may be heartbreaking, they will give much more understandable picture than bare figures.
Get professional writing assistance from our partner. Click to learn more. Your e-mail goes here. Your Password goes here. This method is found in a high percentage of marriages to a major degree. Bowen admitted that he unsuccessfully used distance, time, and silence to cover up his emotional fusion.
Contemporary Bowen therapists are paying more attention to gender issues. Ora Peleg and Meital Yitzak uncovered gender differences in married couples coping with fusion and separation anxiety: A significant relationship was found among men between fusion with others and separation anxiety: a high level of fusion was found to correlate with a high level of anxiety.
Among women, a high level of emotional reactivity was related to a high level of separation anxiety. While distance temporarily reduces anxiety, it then brings anxiety-inducing loneliness. Indications of transmissible multigenerational marital anxiety are marital instability, separation, divorce and never marrying.
Contemporary Family Therapy —36 , p. Anxiety pops up with every dysfunctional response. Only healthy, calm, unfused connecting brings lasting reduction of anxiety and emotional cutoff. Individuals who are cut off from their families generally do not heal until they have been reconnected.
Resentful badgering over the distance only increases the lonely distance. Distance serves as an emotional insulation. Emotional distance is a high price for tense peace. A lot of marital conflict is ironically fostered by attempts to avoid marital conflict.
Houghton Mifflin, Boston MA, , p. With fusion, we give away power to our spouse and end up seeking permission from them just to be our self. Giving away power is giving away self. One of the unintended consequences of emotional cutoff is increased loss of self. Giving up self is the embracing of non- existence for the sake of an unhealthy family system. To give up the core, genuine self is to cease to be, to fully live. When cut offs occur, the person always loses something of himself or herself.
Rather actual differentiation is the antidote to emotional cutoff. Differentiation is the core process in the family emotional system. At the heart of differentiation is the balancing of intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions of our humanity.
Peleg and Arnon noted: Higher levels of differentiation i. Differentiation is sometimes confused with distance. Some people anxiously use distance and cutoff to simulate self-differentation by looking independent. Cutoff is standing out against others whereas differentiation is standing out from others. Standing out against others brings rigidity and distracts people from doing their own marital and self work. The first step in differentiation is when one spouse starts taking responsibility for self and reduces the blaming of their marital partner.
Running away from anxiety is impossible, because it is chained like a ball or a pet rock to our ankle. It always comes along for the ride. The loss of multigenerational connection through undifferentiated cutoff produces an unhealthy excessive dependence on the present generation. Overdependence raises our anxiety level, making us more likely to cut off our spouse. Cutoff causes us to minimize our past and exaggerate our present.
The present marital moment was never meant to be the full weight of life in isolation. Multigenerational connectedness is the healthy marital alternative to multigenerational fusion or cutoff. In Session 2, the five couples were taught that the high road to marital growth and bridging cutoff is through a deeper understanding of the family we were raised in.
Self-differentiation honours differences and otherness. Homeostatic fusion demands sameness. Cutoff is pseudo-separation. Fusion, rooted in unresolved emotional attachment, often presents itself in the guise of cutoff. Marital and family cutoff can be subtle or more dramatic. The pseudo-self is an actor, a pretender, and an imposter. For this reason, the pseudo-self can be very persuasive in its acting as if it is engaged and maritally connected. Both those cutting off and those being cutoff feel powerless.
They mistakenly think that the other spouse has the power. Their cutting-off is often a reaction to their own perceived marital powerlessness. When spouses insist on their own way, marriage becomes a dreadful place of vying for power. The lower the level of differentiation in married couples, the more they will use cutoff to reduce the anxious symptoms of emotional fusion.
Cutoffs are liable to occur when the conforming demand overwhelms the drive for differentiation. Our people-pleasing and conflict avoidance can drive us to cutoff places that we never intended to go. With cutoff, we lose the opportunity to face, to process, and 46 Titelman, Emotional Cutoff, p. At the lowest level of differentiation, cutting off results in emotional collapse, accompanied by internal cutoff as a way of denying the ongoing parent-child attachment.
We lose both the facts and the emotional patterns. Cutoff increases reactivity. The more cutoff, the more reactivity. This declaration of independence from family is not the same as differentiation of self. It in no way resolves the emotional fusion with the parent. Both pretending and exposing our pretending is a significant Bowenian theme.
Cutoff creates emotional stuckness, solidification, and stagnation. Reduced marital reproduction has been linked with emotional cutoff and the absence of extended-family support. With the decrease in social complexity that accompanies emotional cutoff, there is a generational loss of flexibility and diversity in our marriages.
With multigenerational cutoff, the person perceives that there are fewer choices in their marriage. Emotional cutoff reduces the social complexity and increases systemic rigidity in marriages. Sometimes covert marital cutoff is hidden behind a cozy togetherness which masks an internal cutoff.
Cutoff is also closely related to the level of gossip and evasiveness. When we elusively avoid the discussion of certain family of origin issues, we maintain marital toxicity. Facing our own multigenerational marital cutoff can be a daunting prospect.
It is encouraging to know that cutoff is not an emotional death sentence that we are fatalistically doomed to endure. As Christ-followers with a strong theology of hope, this is good news. Richardson wrote that emotional cutoff can be reversed through 1 bridging cutoff, 2 gaining knowledge about the functional facts in the emotional system of our family and our part in it and 3 then managing self in the midst of having close contact with members of the system.
Rigorous self-examination and family evaluation are vital in reversing cutoff. The greater the multigenerational marital cutoff, the more challenging it is to integrate Bowen theory. Simultaneously those who are most maritally cutoff may be the most motivated to learn Bowen theory. Bowen made use of parables and displacement stories about parallel couples as a way of indirectly teaching highly anxious couples. Bridging cutoff requires recognition of the existing marital fusion.
It is often difficult to recognize emotional fusion because it feels so normal. It may be all that we know. A first step in bridging cutoff might be to name our blindness about how maritally fused we probably are. When we first attempt to bridge multigenerational cutoff, some may see us as betraying our family homeostasis and going over to the enemy.
Naively attempting to bridge cutoff without a clear family systems understanding can bring more distance and tension in the marriage and family relationships. If we rush in looking for a quick fix, we just make multigenerational cutoff worse. Reducing both emotional cutoff and fusion requires that marital closeness needs to be a choice rather than a pressurized obligation.
Playfulness and appropriate humour 55 Titelman, Emotional Cutoff, p. As our marriages become more goal- oriented and future-focused, both closeness and bridging of cutoff become more possible. Self-reflective detachment enables us to gradually bridge the emotional gap. It is challenging to bridge cutoff and enhance closeness without giving up on self. Bridging marital cutoff changes the adaptability of the brain and physiology of the bridging individual.
We will never outgrow the need to keep on restoring these multigenerational bridges. Viable contact with the past and present generations, both living and deceased, brings higher functioning. Multigenerational dialogue brings cleansing from cutoff, fusion, rigidity and emptiness. Because cutoff instinctively shrinks our definition about who is included as family, it is best when bridging cutoff to contact all family members rather than a narrow subset.
Emotional cutoff solves nothing. Ferch and McComb, p. To detach is to be freed from unbalanced attachment that lacks individuation and personal space. Unresolved attachment reflects our lack of core self. Our unresolved attachments are usually parental, but affect every other relationship. The marital past remains the unresolved present until we bridge cutoff. Unresolved parental attachment is closely linked to numerous undesirable symptoms and problems.
Bowen said that there are people who never separate from their parents and — all things being equal — will remain attached forever. Unresolved emotional attachment is linked with chronic anxiety. Unresolved emotional attachment is equivalent to the degree of undifferentiation in a person and in a family.
No one becomes an adult without some unresolved emotional attachment. Unresolved emotional attachment defines the relationship between emotional and intellectual functioning, bringing a rigid, dependent fusion dominated by the automatic emotional system. Defensive rigidity is emotional death, often resulting in marital death. Emotional cutoff is the universal mechanism for dealing with unresolved emotional attachment.
All people have an emotional attachment to their parents that is more intense than most people permit themselves to believe. The more we deny our unresolved emotional attachment, the greater the power of emotional cutoff in our marriages. Dillard and H. Papero described the coach as more of a consultant and teacher than a therapist. The maturing of marriages and families is a natural biological process that takes time. It takes years to bring lasting systemic marital and family change.
In western society, people often want fast results, including reducing emotional cutoff quickly through strengthening of marriages. Individuality is slow to emerge and easily suppressed underground. Bowen warned against the solution that becomes the problem. Greater clarity is key. As pastoral coaches, we must resist the pressure to collude with the couple by finding answers for them.
A basic premise of Bowen Theory is that marriages and families can find their own answers if they work on it. Friedman, Bowen Theory and Therapy, , Chapter 5, p. But it is up to the couple to implement the marital game plan.
The coaching challenge is to defocus from the symptomatic focus, and refocus on the emotional field. The pastoral coach is a calming presence who reduces the tendency of the married couple to vent, dump on each other, and emotionally cutoff. It is easy to regress while bridging cutoff without the encouragement of a 66 Bowen, The Origins of Family Psychotherapy, p. Carter and M McGoldrick Eds. Pastoral coaching of married couples is vital for strengthening marriages and bridging cutoff, both on the North Shore and beyond.
The Bowen model instead sees symptoms as indications of a wider emotional system that transcends the mere individual. Symptoms are multigenerational. The symptomatic spouse does not necessarily need to be the focus of pastoral coaching, as the aim is to modify the whole unit, acknowledging reciprocity between functions.
Symptoms like marital distress usually develop during periods of heightened or prolonged family or group tension. Because symptoms are a product of triangulation, the symptoms themselves tell us who is absorbing anxious undifferentiation, and who is projecting this onto another member of the 69 Gilbert, Extraordinary Relationships, p.
Sometimes when one spouse successfully sets boundaries, the other spouse will reactively develop physical symptoms. Thomas Murray, in a study of patients with fibromyalgia, has significantly correlated higher levels of emotional cutoff with more severe fibromyalgia symptoms. Quick symptomatic relief of anxiety is not the same as long-term marital change. As such, the quantitative marital research results may be misleading. One of the signs of marital cutoff is strong homeostatic resistance to change.
Even failed marital change has unexpected benefits. The good news is that by valuing and observing our initial failures to change, we are more likely to experience lasting marital change. The presence of symptoms is linked with a lack of marital flexibility and an inability to recover from emotional arousal.
The relationship between chronic anxiety and the resulting symptoms may vary significantly. Ironically, conflicted couples sometimes have fewer symptoms, because their conflict can provide a very strong sense of emotional contact with the other spouse. Many couples blame all their marriage problems on a lack of communication.
While this claim makes common sense, it may be misdirected. Communication is less a problem than a symptom. The actual problem is the relationship position or posture itself. The symptom of marital conflict 76 Friedman, Generation to Generation, p. The compliant or adaptive spouse picks up the anxiety projected from the dominant spouse, becoming more anxiously at risk for a symptom. The dominant spouse engages in will conflict, trying to will another to adapt to them, resulting in a loss of self and an increase of symptoms like anorexia, suicide, schizophrenia, abuse, violence, and many chronic physical diseases.
Domineering is not the way of the servant King. Focusing on the symptoms of the married couple tends to obscure the strengths of the couple and increases emotional cutoff. Married couples often come for coaching with a sense of failure. By focusing on what is right with the couple rather than on their pathological symptoms, one decreases the anxious reactivity and cutoff of the couple. Focusing on strengths is rarer than one might expect.
They just need to be discovered and tapped into. We can choose to step out of the anxious worry loop when 78 Kerr and Bowen, Family Evaluation, p. Symptoms need not have the last word in our marriages. Reading the original works by Bowen removes much observational blindness about how marriages function.
The more we nonjudgmentally observe, the less we maritally cutoff. We underestimate how difficult it can be to perceive things that we do not want to see. Bowen held that one has to become an observer before it is possible to see. The less that we see, the more we disconnect. The more we see, the greater neutrality. Conversely the greater the neutrality, the more we see. The ideal neutrality, said Papero, is like quietly watching the ripples of a mountain pond. Gilbert and Bowen described such observing as being like putting on a lab 81 Friedman, Failure of Nerve, p.
Learning to become an observational scientist is just as challenging. It takes time to retrain and develop those observational marital biceps. This is in fact a lifetime project till death does us part. Objective marital change requires an objective change in how we observe our marriages. This is not about being a 21st Century unfeeling Dr. Spock of Star Trek fame.
It is rather about being aware of our feelings, while choosing which feelings to act upon. Objectivity will be lost if we focus with couples on content issues like sex, money and children, especially on issues of right or wrong, fairness and rights. Note-taking helps us avoid taking marital sides. The greater our awareness of marital triangles, the more objective we will become.
Bowen was convinced that the only person we can change is ourselves. Are we willing to own our part in the marital system? If a person can discover and correct the part that one plays, all the others will automatically correct their parts. As Jeremiah painfully reminds us, our hearts are deceitful above all things. Bowen taught that it is never really possible to change another person but it is possible to change the part that self plays.
Intentionality is key in bridging cutoff through observational objectivity. It is very easy to lose objectivity, either as a spouse or as the pastoral coach. Thoughtful assessment of the marital system increases objective effective treatment.
To maintain objectivity, we must be careful what we promise as results. The higher the marital conflict, the higher is the emotional reactivity. As a spouse increases awareness and control of their own emotional reactivity, emotional cutoff is reduced. The more we understand, the less we react. The essence of marital cutoff is reactive conflict avoidance, and rigid repetitive homeostatic thinking and behaviour.
Emotional reactivity in married couples is associated with rigid inflexibility and demanding the other person to change. When reactivity takes over, we lose a sense of proportion, such as when to drop an argument. In our reactivity, we end up trying to control our spouse in order to regain our sense of personal control. Bowen emphatically said that one of the greatest diseases of humanity is to try to change a fellow human being.
The more that we reactively push our spouse to change, the more likely is marital cutoff. Changing emotional reactivity in a married couple is a long process. The more differentiated we are, the less urgent is this desire to change our spouse. To know the blessing and telos of creation frees us from both the frantic pursuit of controlling our spouse and the opposite danger of reactively escaping our spouse through distance and cutoff.
Many nowadays are attempting through techne and gnostic religion to escape from their bodies, their spouses, and creation itself. Sometimes a spouse, who is not feeling listened to, will anxiously chase their spouse until they get a reaction. Rugged individualism and compliance are often two sides of the same marital reactivity.
Such reactive fear causes us to maritally cut off rather than become a non-person. We reactively see ourselves as victimized by our stubborn, unloving, illogical spouse. We often see ourselves as having been treated unfairly, and we are not going to give in. Marital cutoff often brings emotional stuckness, denial of issues, frozen anger, and conflict avoidance. Bridging marital cutoff reduces hostility and blame of our spouse. As we accept appropriate responsibility for our life, we decrease the marital cutoff linked to our victim identity.
The pastoral coach has the potential to function as an immunological system. By being nonreactive and focusing on marital strengths, we set the emotional thermostat in the room. The pastoral coach also incarnationally models the process of nonreactivity in a way that can give a template to the couple. What limits us as pastors from being nonreactive in our ministry to married couples?
Perhaps it is the vicious cycle of our personal emotional reactivity which limits our ability to think clearly, which then limits our ability to be nonreactive with couples. In order to best help married couples, we need to become more aware of our own personal reactivity and our own tendency to cutoff. Undertaking a comprehensive guided self-examination is vital for pastoral coaching.
It can be very difficult to see our own defensiveness. Being counter-intuitive can sometimes help with responding to emotional reactivity. Some will even react to any suggestion of nonreactivity, claiming that their feelings are being disregarded and invalidated.
If we stay on track, the reactivity and sabotage will die down. Time is on our side when we do not emotionally fuse with the married couple. Unlike many family therapy pioneers, Bowen was not a technique-oriented pragmatist. He was exceptionally disinterested in techniques. Titelman said that Bowen was anti-technique.
The use of process questions is as close as Bowen came to a technique. Syncretistic attempts to blend Bowen Theory with other counseling practices often leave the counselor confused and frustrated. Psychoanalytic theory concentrates on the why of human actions.
Asking why is a much less helpful question to ask, as it leads to cause-and-effect thinking. Why, one might ask, is it so hard to stop asking why? Bailing others out does not strengthen marriages. Thoughtful questions leave the couple in their own quandary, thereby allowing them to potentially own their own marital process.
One of the opening questions is usually to ask the couple what they want to work on. Questions are intended to be low-key and calm. Rather than being advice-giving, process questions help the married couple see their role in the emotional system. The more thoughtful the questions, the more effective is the bridging of cutoff through detriangling.
His goal was to stimulate thinking more than to encourage expression of feelings. Bowen Theory has conceptualized the human as a scientific creature that also feels. Once you are able to tell the difference, then you can integrate them and have access to both. You are aware of your feelings, and at times you might want to go with your feelings. But you also have the counterbalance of the more objective thinking process that you can call on when it is important.
They help us to have a non-anxious presence, and to self-differentiate. Process questions help us overcome the denial that affects married couples. When the questions are paradoxical and mischievous, unexpected morphogenesis and cutoff reduction may occur. With married couples, one is often an overfunctioner and the other a dependent underfunctioner, with reciprocal intensity depending on the floating anxiety in the emotional system.
Bowen called this the overadequate-inadequate reciprocity. As pastoral coaches, we may find ourselves pressured to unwisely accept responsibility for insoluble marital problems. Nothing fuses married couples like one spouse over-functioning in the other's space, whereas nothing creates emotional space like self-definition. Overfunctioning brings emotional death to our spouse. This can include more self-effacing humour, more balance in being and doing, more peaceful presence, more honesty, more developing of character and virtue, more safe silences, more playful adventure, more creative dating, and less pressuring each other to conform to one's expectations.
When a couple has unrealistic expectations of themselves, it fosters unhealthy conflict. These can include the expectation that one spouse has to preserve the peace and harmony, or the expectation that one spouse knows what is best for the other spouse. People nowadays are sometimes pressuring their own spouse to function in superhuman, godlike ways. We will stop overfunctioning when we become accountable for the self and only for the self, communicate for the self and only for the self.
For many of us, marital and relational apartheid the state of apartness and separation is all that we generationally know. We may dislike it, but there seems no escape. The three marital symptoms that Friedman encouraged us to pay close attention to were distance, divorce, and conflict. Marital estrangement is often a sign of the intensity of unresolved marital attachment.
While there is loss of self in emotional fusion, there is also significant loss of self in the emotional cutoff connected with divorce. The inability of the couple to find a balance between closeness and personal space may predispose them to marital cutoff.
Divorce, said Ferrera, is a complex, emotionally intense, multidimensional, multigenerational process. Part of the stress of divorce is that both marital partners rarely agree that divorce is necessary. The one withdrawing from the marriage may have different reactions from the one pursuing. The avoider can always outrun the marital pursuer. Marital cutoff tends to be generationally repetitive. Relational runners tend to keep on compulsively running.
Runaway reactivity and unstable triangles go together. Those who run away from their own family will tend to run away in the marriage. Such marriages, followed by living together after failed marriages, were seen by Bowen as an expression of emotional cutoff. Edward Beal said: Divorce breeds divorce. There is a multigenerational emotional process operating in families, coupled with the societal changes regulating marital relationships, that contributes to the currently higher divorce rates and higher degree of emotional cutoff from family of origin.
Family Systems Theory holds that the issues are rarely the issue; rather undifferentiation is the issue. Ferrera holds that emotional cutoff between parent and child is arguably the greatest long-term cost of divorce. Key stresses that can lead to triangulation are child support, custody, and contact issues. The greater the difficulty and conflict in the divorce, the more potential it has to stir up reactivity and cutoff in others.
Can the tragedy of spousal divorce be contained so that the entire family is not divorced? Physical intimacy and connectedness in marriage depend on a functioning front-brain cerebral cortex. Without engaging the cerebral cortex, marital sex lacks the intimate power of choice and thoughtfulness. With anxious stress, said Ferrera, sex in a marriage is usually the first thing to go: Neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky describes the intricate interplay between the physiology of the stress response and sexual desire, and provides scientific undergirding for a fact that most people discover from personal experience: stress is not conducive to sexual desire and arousal for either the male or female Our epidemic of divorce and replacement dyads could be seen as a reflection of our anxious triangles.
Bowen held that a divorce, or threatened divorce, is implicit evidence of an unresolved emotional attachment to the parental families. Approximately sixty-five percent of divorced women and seventy percent of divorced men remarry, with an average three-year window between the divorce and remarriage. Through the family projection process, an ex-spouse can project their marital anxiety onto their children, either pedestaling them or scapegoating them.
The more intense the family projection, the lower level of differentiation the child may develop. Perhaps this is because marriage is not linear and clinical but is systemic and covenantal. Some divorced people deny the significance of their loss and cutoff through anxious busyness.
Others bridge their cutoff through greater self-defining and systemic awareness. While the ideal is that increased differentiation levels would eliminate or reduce divorce-based cutoff, there is also the potential that increased differentiation would enable divorced spouses to more maturely work out ongoing differences, Kerr and Bowen, Family Evaluation, p.
Beal and G. The more that one becomes emotionally neutral and observationally aware, the greater opportunity the ex-spouse will have to bridge cutoff. Ferrera said: Emotional cutoff can be minimized if the husband and wife and their families work to resolve the many issues and decisions of divorce in ways that are the least costly and disruptive to all involved. Sometimes the pain of divorce will motivate an ex-spouse to do the challenging family of origin work. Ferrera observed that few divorcing partners ever ask themselves what family patterns led to their divorce.
Through doing their family of origin work, especially using genograms, couples in our Strengthening Marriage Workshop and Strengthening Relationships Group have been able to see previously invisible patterns of emotional cutoff that went back for many generations. It is a joy to see marriages restored.
Family of origin work has the potential to increase the level of marital restoration on the North Shore. If embraced widely on the North Shore, such work could raise the level of the North Shore Societal Process, creating a climate where more marriages would reject the quick fix and instead look for long-term morphogenic answers to marital conflict.
I think that was the biggest one of all. And from there, it was a lot different. That was a big change. Both Lloyd and Linda were people of few words who know clearly what they value in the restoration of their marriage after six years of divorce.
Emotionally Focused Therapy is the only couple therapy explicitly based on attachment theory. The basic attachment needs for security, protection, and closeness have not been met. Where Family Systems Theory encourages thinking about our feelings, Emotionally Focused Therapy encourages feeling about our feelings. Johnson and Leslie S. Emotionally Focused Therapy also contrasts with the strong focus on behaviour and cognition that has been so popular with the Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy.
There seems to be similarities between Emotionally Focused Therapy and Family Systems Theory in their emphasis on the marital pattern of pursuit-avoidance. John Bowlby, an Attachment Theory pioneer and author of Attachment and Loss, strongly emphasized the importance of the mother-child bond and the trauma of its disruption through separation and loss: What is believed to be essential for mental health is that the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother or permanent mother substitute in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment.
While this Attachment Theory insight makes common sense, there are unexpected downsides, involving increased fusion and overattachment. We are not as fragile as we think. Attachment Theory, said Schnarch, has underestimated the ability of infants to self-soothe and recover. Attachment or togetherness is only one half of the picture, from a Family Systems Theory perspective. We need to hold in dynamic tension our desire for closeness and togetherness with our need for our personal space and self-differentiation.
Bowen Theory calls attention to J. Over- attachment brings unsustainable loss of self that causes many to anxiously flee. Many Marriage Retreat models are emotionally-fused hothouses that lack self-differentiation and personal boundaries.
The very intimacy that some marriage retreats celebrate may become the seedbed of later anxious marital cutoff. Strengthening marriages comes in resolving our unresolved emotional attachments through unfused connections rather than emotional cutoff. We can maritally re-engage without losing self. Some call this positive fusion.
It is less confusing to call it unfused connecting and engaging. It only makes the intensity of the attachment grow temporarily dormant. The antidote to unresolved emotional cutoff is in developing a more objective sense of reality, refocusing our expectations, and reducing fusion.
Our marriages are best strengthened through reducing emotionally fused attachment. The method for evaluating any potential strengthening was done through a qualitative analysis comparing the results of the MESI Interview Protocol done with the couples before and then after the four-session workshop.
The workshop was conducted over one month, in agreement with the doctoral advisor, in order to lengthen the impact of the teaching and give the couples more time to process the material in their lives. Evenings were selected because it worked better for those working during the day.
Four sessions, lasting 2. Given the busyness of many North Shore couples, this time commitment worked well, resulting in no dropout rate by the five couples. The specific focus on remarried couples who had been previously separated, divorced or widowed was decided upon in consultation with the doctoral advisor.
Such a focus brought a greater clarity in researching and understanding emotional cutoff, which is foundational to the Doctoral Thesis Project. While it was more challenging to recruit such a specific subgroup, the data collected in terms of emotional cutoff was of higher value. One of the couples divorced and remarried each other. The other four couples were divorced and then remarried to new partners. Through conducting the pre-interviews and post-interviews, there was opportunity to learn from the wisdom of these five couples about common patterns of habituation related to divorce and emotional cutoff.
While the research focus was on previously divorced, remarried couples, the concern has been for strengthening marriages more generally, including people preparing for marriage and those wishing to improve their marital stability and satisfaction. To obtain a more representative sample of North Shore couples, there was intentional advertising primarily in the wider North Shore community setting rather than in uniquely church settings.
Married couples who had been married more than once were invited to participate. In the workshop, Family Systems Theory was taught on selected topics on strengthening marriage, including emotional cutoff as related to family of origin issues. Choosing anonymous names, rather than Couples 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, helps bring each of the five couples to life for the reader.
The face-to-face interviews were very helpful in getting the emotional tone. There was one final three-part question about the workshop added to the post-workshop MESI interview: a How was the workshop for you? The seventh three-part question could not have been asked in the pre-interview, because none of the five couples had yet experienced the workshop. Turning points are recognized in Family Systems Theory as key for understanding and bridging emotional cutoff.
Richardson said that he would always ask people about critical turning points in their own lives, who was most affected, and the outcome of these turning points. Over four evening sessions, couples learned how to bring greater balance in their need for intimacy and personal space. They learned to honour differences as a way of growing closer together. Valuing marital conflict became seen as an avenue to personal and marital growth. From the workshop, a Strengthening Marriage manual was created which was added as an appendix to the Doctoral Thesis Project.
This manual is transferable to other church and non-church contexts. A glossary of Family Systems Theory terms is included in Appendix ix to bring greater clarity for the reader. A transcript of the four-session workshop was produced in order to give transparency regarding the content of the workshop teaching.
A MESI interview was given before and after the four workshops. The research method was qualitative, looking for meaningful patterns, particularly for measurable differences in the responses of those married more than once. Edward Cook observed that Qualitative research involves the use of qualitative data, such as interviews, documents, and participant observation data, to understand and explain social phenomena. Qualitative researchers can be found in many disciplines and fields, using a variety of approaches, methods and techniques.
The target group was married couples who have been separated, divorced or widowed and who either live or have lived on the North Shore. There is a smaller but significant group of young adults, many of whom are single but interested in potential marriage and couple issues. There is a large Caucasian population, a significant Iranian population, and a growing Chinese population. At St. There was a qualitative analysis of the MESI interview results from before and after the four-session workshop.
The protocol involved 1 recruiting the couples through the North Shore media, posting of workshop posters, and word-of-mouth 2 meeting each couple in a neutral location: the North Vancouver City Library, a coffee shop, or their home if preferred, and having them sign the Informed Consent form 3 interviewing the couple using the same MESI Interview Protocol before and after the four-session workshop, using an IPhone4 Audio recording 4 transcribing the recording 5 tabulating the results of the findings 6 turning the results into pie chart and bar graph analysis 7 ensuring the anonymity of the couples being interviewed through what is quoted or not quoted, and 8 reporting the results of the interviews in this doctoral thesis project.
North Vancouver, British Columbia Code table. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. Released March 13, The interview objective was to do qualitative research, rather than quantitative research. Qualitative research is defined by John Creswell as A means for exploring understanding the meaning individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human problem.
Edward Cook noted: Qualitative research can be conducted by observation of the situation by an outsider coupled with information provided by key informants. This approach is generically designated ethnographic research and is extensively used in sociological and anthropological studies.
This method is inductive in that it builds theories from the specific to the general. One of the obstacles was busyness. Another issue was privacy and John W. Assuring them of anonymity and that no one would be expected to publicly talk during the workshop was helpful in getting consent.
Part of the anonymity was that, in consultation with the doctoral advisor, new first and last names were randomly selected for each of the five couples from the North Shore phone book. The methodology of data collection involved a pre-interview before the workshop and an identical post-interview after the workshop was concluded.
Only the seventh question directly related to the workshop was new. As part of the data analysis, the comparative responses of the couples were assessed regarding meaningful patterns of similarity and difference. Of the five couples, two of the people were in their thirties, three in their forties, four in their fifties, and one in their sixties.
With none in their twenties or seventy and above, the people in the workshop were primarily GenX or Babyboomers. All the five couples had been previously divorced. None were previously widowed. Two couples had been separated from each other but reunited. Only one of the couples had both been divorced before marrying their current spouse. One of the five couples had been divorced once and married three times to each other.
The number of children in these five marriages ranged from zero to six. Three of the marriages were blended families with children from previous marriages or relationships. One couple had two residences, with one spouse primarily in West Vancouver and the other in North Vancouver. Both West Vancouver and North Vancouver are expensive in terms of purchasing accommodation, though West Vancouver is more expensive, requiring a higher income level.
All five couples wanted to stay on the North Shore for the rest of their lives, though two couples were uncertain because of job possibilities and in the second case, family who live elsewhere. Genograms are a vital tool in both understanding and bridging marital cutoff. Categories: faith Categories: Common Goals What are ways to grow in that area?
Categories: Avoidance Categories: Good Pre-interview statistics: Compatible Pre-interview statistics: Stoic 5. Pre-interview statistics: Future hope There was significant emotional cutoff with the mother and some of her adult children. Lloyd said that cutoff is a choice to ignore the other person, something that he tries not to do. The Bowen concept of emotional fusion was clearly identified in the interviews with the five couples.
They would circle all the time. Thinking like a scientist, which reduces observational blindness, holds great promise for bridging cutoff and strengthening marriage. One contribution to the knowledge of ministry is an increasing understanding of the value of Family Systems Theory in strengthening marriages. Another contribution was the development of a MESI Interview Protocol that looks at strengthening marriages through the reduction of emotional cutoff.
Doing the workshop made a measurable difference in the life of the participants, resulting in self- reported stronger marriages and reduced emotional cutoff. This learning has the potential to impact other married couples who desire stronger marriages through Strengthening Marriage workshops.
The hope is that other clergy would find this material useful in their pastoral coaching of married couples in their congregations and community. All pastors are involved in marriages in their congregations. Learning about pastoral coaching will equip pastors to make a greater marital impact.
Another contribution to ministry has been a deepened understanding of the theology of marriage as covenant, Appendix ix: Analysis of the Interviews with the Strengthening Marriage Workshop Couples. The convergent integration of bridging cutoff and covenant-restoration is new ground in the academic literature, and has great potential in strengthening marriages.
This wide-ranging blueprint for marital functioning is both very simple and very complex. Marriages and families become emotional units by spending time with each other and thereby becoming important to each other. What is a relationship system? Bowen taught that any relationship with balancing forces and counter forces in constant operation is a system or a field.
The nuclear family emotional system is made up of the patterns of emotional functioning in a family in one generation. Carolin, Ph. Major effort was invested by Bowen over many decades into both clarifying theoretical assumptions and developing a coaching model consistent with these assumptions.
He was convinced that such integrated clarity between theory and practice would provide a better structure for investigative research, and improve the predictability and outcome of the coaching. Theory was ultimately more important to Bowen than clinical therapy, because he was concerned that therapists would too easily adopt techniques without examining the underlying theoretical assumptions.
Bowen often commented that there is nothing more practical than good theory. A systems thinker embraces marital complexity while simultaneously cutting to the core of the issue. Thinking in systems is a learned skill that does not come naturally for many people. Kerr, Foreword, p. It gives us a method of organizing and categorizing events, helps us predict future events, explains past events, gives a sense of understanding about what causes events, and gives us the potential for control of events.
Family Systems Theory, in contrast, is biological, with a focus on living emotional systems. I therefore chose to use concepts that would be consistent with biology and the natural sciences Discovering such pre-existing living systems is like encountering a tribal system in the African jungle that no one imagined existed. It was there all along. We were just unaware of it. Biological thinking uncovers living patterns that reduce reactivity, encourage detriangling and bridge marital cutoff.
Bowen was one researcher who was able to take this step back and to discover that there was indeed an order and predictability in what he called a seemingly impenetrable thicket. The Family Systems Theory emphasis in strengthening marriages is not on the content or subject matter as much as the process.
We need to pay attention to marital process and structure. Process refers to patterns of emotional reactivity and structure to the interlocking network of triangles. Out of crisis came unprecedented breakthrough. Bowen said: Originally conceived as an emergency measure to control uncontrolled emotion, it opened up a new area of observations, techniques, and concepts.
Bowen was also concerned about the tendency of Freudianism to blame the parents. Family Systems Theory seeks to blame no one. Bowen described this clinging symbiosis as a very sticky thing. He worked hard through being supportively neutral to not get stuck and incorporated in the symbiosis.
Staying out of symbiosis was a major emphasis in the development of Bowen Theory. And right in front of our eyes is a new way of thinking. Abandoning diagnostic labeling allowed Bowen and his colleagues to systemically notice the previously unnoticeable. Bowen stated: The use of a familiar term of diagnostic label, associated with the individual, was sufficient to cause an automatic revision from family unit to individual thinking.
It is possible to hear this simple drumbeat, this simple story without hearing it. What is important to hear and see, said Bowen, is not what is in people but what is in-between people. Bowen moved the attention from what was going on inside the heads of each family member to instead drawing on other scientific models and analogies with which to observe the relationship process itself.
The lack of training in theoretical assumptions left mental health practitioners oriented towards the therapeutic relationship but unable to reflectively question its theoretical basis. Bowen longed for a scientific basis for counseling theory. Friedman saw the wedding rite of passage as essential to understanding married couples. He believed that weddings are like icebergs in which only one eighth is visible. One of the greatest dangers to healthy marriages is the loss of adventure and anticipation.
Anxiety is the crucial issue. There is a chronic anxiety in all of life that comes with the territory of living. How we observe and manage anxiety is key to strengthening marriages and reducing cutoff. Bowen observed that relationship patterns are more closely related to fluctuating anxiety than to emotional illness.
The greater the level of anxiety, the more behaviour becomes automatic or instinctual. Anxious people are often painful to be around, sometimes leading to emotional cutoff. Jonathan Wilson said that when we fear anxiety, we betray the very truth of creation being redemptively brought into the new creation.
As we become less anxious about being anxious, we become freer. As a result, they never grow in their self- differentiation. Bowen reminded us: Anxiety does not harm people. It only makes them feel uncomfortable. It can cause you to shake, or lose sleep, or become confused, or develop physical symptoms, but it will not kill you and it will subside. People can even grow and become more mature by having to face and deal with anxiety situations. Of all the relationship patterns, people caught in conflict are most apt to seek help because of their awareness of pain.
Growth comes from increasing the pain threshold, not reducing the pain. Emotionally-fused soothing does not help the married couple. Neither does dumping our anxious and angry feelings onto the other spouse. Anxiety rubs off on people, being transmitted and absorbed without thinking. It has been compared biologically to the response of an animal herd under threat, causing Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, p.
We may lack the clarity that we usually count on to make good marital decisions. It can also reduce the ability of married couples to see the big picture, the emotional system. It dehumanizes the key people in our generational family. As anxiety increases, couples tend to focus on linear cause-and-effect blaming of each other. Bridging marital cutoff involves replaces simplistic linear thinking with process thinking. Groupthink simulates thinking, using the appearance of reason to whitewash over anxiety.
Appearances can be deceiving. Reasonable thinking is less common that many realize. Bowen observed that with groupthink, if one member had an itch, another member would scratch himself. The loss of curious learning increases emotional cutoff. In contrast, learning bridges marital cutoff and reduces anxiety. Marital learning takes courage to stay thoughtfully engaged rather than anxiously Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, p. It is not just the marriage that prays together, but also the marriage that plays together that stays together.
The more self-aware we are, the more observant we become regarding what escalates marital anxiety and when this anxiety increases. We need to be careful observers of the patterns of anxiety, looking for marital triggers, such as negative stimuli, mannerisms, gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice. By addressing the triggers, there will be a significant reduction in anxious withdrawal and marital cutoff.
Bowen Theory pays particular attention to the intensity and duration of anxiety. Our marriages have built-in mechanisms for reasonably adapting to acute anxiety. Chronic marital anxiety rather than acute marital anxiety is most significant in determining the self-differentiation in a marriage. Pastoral coaches can choose to become transformers who reduce the marital anxiety level rather than increase it.
Weddings and marital togetherness are not a quick-fix for our own personal Gilbert, The Cornerstone Concept, p. Marriage in no way guarantees emotional maturity. It is a mark of maturity to know what pleases our spouse and to make the special effort to do what pleases him or her. Immaturity with high anxiety is a difficult combination for married couples. Maturity is helping with a problem without becoming responsible for the problem.
Bowen taught about the two contrasting dichotomies of having both a mature and immature side. Our immature side is synonymous with infantile striving for dependent security. Our mature side, rather than our coach, is meant to be the responsible keeper of the immature.
As pastoral coaches, we are to encourage married couples to speak maturely about their immaturity. Overinvolvement and reactive attachments come from our immaturity. Acknowledging our personal and marital immaturity is an important step in reducing marital cutoff.
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