More Thoughts on Bowen Theory

More Thoughts
About Bowen Theory

Anxious Squirrel 889x622Bowen theory assumes that the individual’s basic level of differentiation can be changed.  How much is a frequent question. Dr. Bowen used to talk in terms of a couple of points in a lifetime. What is involved in changing one’s basic level of differentiation?

There is a common confusion about this in that such work is often heard as trying to be less reactive emotionally.  That if people can be less reactive, then they are working toward differentiation.  That can really fool people.  You can fool yourself and you can fool others if all you are doing is just trying to be less emotionally reactive.

The most important part of this work, of course, is the ability to think differently about the nature of one’s own functioning in relationship to others and the nature of a system.  When being less reactive becomes a goal in itself, it becomes counter-productive because emotionally reactiveresponses are not good or bad per se.  They do occur in a context.  They are a signal for something that is operating in oneself and/or in a system.

When people get too focused on the reactivity, they tend to lose sight of the relationship process that is involved in it.  Obviously it is not unimportant to try and work on one’s reactivity, but it shouldn’t be but a small part of the overall effort to work toward a different way of thinking.  Theoretical thinking is the main element in working toward change in one’s basic level. 

The basic level tends to be promoted when that theoretical thinking can
be converted into action.  When people can convert it into action, the reactivity, to a great extent takes care of itself, but not totally.  When people are thinking theoretically, they are less reactive almost automatically… based on the ability to think systems about human behavior.

**The Bowen Family Center

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