I have been coming out to Laura Havstad’s conference near San Francisco on Family System Theory every other year for the past twenty years.  This year was one of the best. I enjoyed hearing the update from Deborah Gordon on her research on ants and listing to some of the current work in social psychology by Andrew Ward, who was standing in for Lee Ross.  

You can order copies of the DVD’S by contacting Lona Hardy at (707 694-5379)

The following is an outline of the talk I gave in Oakland, California.

I hope to have time soon to write this conference up, as it was special!!




How One Person Can Make a Difference in a Family Crisis

Programs in Bowen Theory

Emeryville, California

6/ 21,22 /08


What does it mean to say the family is a unit?

Anxiety goes up


Interactions become fearful and negative


One person develops serious problems


If they are seriously emotional, one part of the family becomes seriously ‘crazy’ trying to ‘control’ the scary individual who has “emotional regulations” problems.


The “crazy” person has lost the ability to solve “reality” problems. The serious family members move in and try to solve the problem for the weaker individual.


The weaker can get weaker. The serious ones become more serious, leading to more problems.


Increasing awareness, of the impact of relationships on functioning, can enable one person to define a “different” position in relationship to the automatic process in the family unit.


Seeing the Forest and the Tree

What can be learned from your own or other’s personal experience?

What was I up against 1974:

         The tunnel thinking of diagnosis by professionals

         Lack of strategies for dealing with the family turmoil and the medical profession

Then I Met Murray Bowen- 1976


One Tree – Murray Bowen, M.D.

Quotes from various videotapes:

I think about things that make theoretical sense and I stake my future on them.

(Own family, saw people I knew socially, opened records to patients, video taped clients, all based on theory.)

We have to continue to try new things but the group gets in the way.

I found myself caved in, in an encircled area by the group at the Family Center.

When you go in a direction that is positive the negative side arises.



                Another Options: 
Take a Stand in your Family/Group

You can’t control a whole damn family,

but you can control you,

and anytime you can control you,

the family is a healthier organism.


        That is a reason to become a self.

The more you can become a self,

the more to your advantage, and the families.

Murray Bowen, M.D.





        Overview of Manic Depressive Diagnosis in my Family


Diagnosis can be correlated with the serious illness or deaths of significant family members.

1972-74 Maternal grandmother and mother died and I was divorced.

         Both brothers had manic-depressive diagnosis.


         Cut off from extended family,

         Increasing anxiety in nuclear family,

          Limited knowledge about family emotional process


        When the Family is Confused 
 Institutions Provide Answers

Serious problems appear

         Some families give up

         Turn the problems over to professionals


People are unable to be know who is responsible for what.



One Small Forest- Family as a Unit

      The Maloney- Maher Family Diagram



The Big Picture – Societies Difficulty in Seeing New Ways of Thinking


The Paradigm Forest: Loss Aversion and the Consistency Trap-

         Eugene Dubois- The Man who found the Missing Link –

                  Limited standing in the academic community

                  Facts belittled and ignored.

         Charles Dawson – The Piltdown Hoax

                  Great standing academically the hoax is bought



One Book That Shows Us the Facts of Our Vulnerability to Being Influenced


   Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior


We are wired to:

         Retain our opinions


         Make diagnosis based on a few clues


         NOT see how people’s opinions and expectations influence us


        To be influenced by authority, both psychologically and physiologically

                  in ways no one imagines.



                                        The Forces in the Forests-                                                            Exponential Increase in the Diagnosing of Manic Depressive Disorder and use of Drugs


The number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder increased 40-fold from 94 – 03 (NYT9/04/07)


Incentives for this increase:

         David Healy M.D. The clash of interest between academic freedom and the commercial interests of pharmaceutical companies “The Antidepressant Era.”



Back to the Trees- A Family Crisis

2005 Paternal Uncle Jimmy Maloney dies


Was this episode triggered by anniversary reaction to my uncle’s death or just random?


April 2006 Uncle Jimmy’s birthday,

Drew becomes manic


Family wants to turn him over to psychiatry



Maloney Family had many early deaths leaving Jimmy as the head of the family from 1978 until 2005

Father d. 67, Marie d.58, and Leo d. 76 Betty d.78



Strategy to deal with my brothers acting out of the family fears around a loss.

After the initial manic episode I contacted family members to see who was willing to help.


Two first cousins volunteered to help. Drew was hospitalized in May 2006. 

Charles Crone was in Williamsburg and believed in the medical model.  He took responsibility to enable Drew to get to physicians. 


Liz Eitt offered her family farms as a meeting place to provide nurturing care for Drew his wife and me.



The Zen Farm Model

Weekends with family members

 Three generational patterns

 Emotional tone observed during interactions

Ongoing issues addressed-


Neurofeedback for everyone

        Reduce anxiety, cognitive restructuring, be more in the moment and aware.



Communication Patterns

Researchers characterize the communication patterns of strong families

Stinnett and DeFrain, 1985; Lewis, 1979; Epstein, 1983; Olson, 1986


Open and honest-

Letting others know what you think/feel and claiming responsibility for your interpretations 


How does one learn this skill?



Distinguishing Characteristics-

Humor, Delight, Liking and Warmth



Being a more emotionally separate individual while still being connected

Bowen plus Buddhist Philosophy

 Getting detached from the upset in self and other


Reorganizing the brain



Contract with Drew


I accept the possibility that my brother might die.

I offered my brother neurofeedback and time with me and his extended family.

I offered he and his wife financial help if they took some difficult action.

Principle:  50/50 – You do something for me  and I will do something for you.


Neurofeedback training concerns breaking up chaotic patterns in the brain.

The feedback enables the brain to see its own functioning. 

The brain makes an association between chaos or non-awareness and a moment of awareness.

Observer Participant after the Three Hospitalizations

My brother had two Neurofeedback sessions per day while others had one. 


I videotaped the interactions to provide evidence of what happened.


People surrounding my brother, including me, first had to learned to act as if we were not afraid Drew.

Neurofeedback Training

Less Fear of Symptoms in Self and Others

Interrupts slow brain frequencies associated with threat



Stage One -11 sessions in 4 months.

5/16 06, 5/17, 5/24, 5/25, 6/19, 6/20, 6/25, 7/14, 7/15, 8/15, 8/16:

After first hospitalization he was put on various drugs.

He started shaking when they added Seroquel in June.

Eastern State Hospital from late August till Oct 10, shaking unable to walk or talk and had lost twenty pounds.

Stage two -14 sessions over three months.


10/12, 10/13,10/13 ( 2nd session) 10/14,10/15, 10/24, 10/25, 11/4, 11/4 (2nd) 11/5, 11/5, ( 2nd) 11/20, 11/21, 12/9:

Drew stopped shaking for a moment involuntarily after the 10/12 sessions.

This was a profound turning point.


Stage three – 22 sessions, one year and 3 months

Minor problems and consistent follow up.

 1/12/07, 1/13, 2/8, 2/8 (2nd) 2/9, 3/22, 3/23, 4/23, 5/17, 5/17 (2nd) 6/19, 6/20, 7/12, 7/13, 9/17, 9/18, 12/9, 12/10, 2/11, 2/12, 3/11, 3/12,

Total sessions: 47 sessions total to date.

AMS Neurofeedback Sessions:


2005- 16 sessions – ten sessions before purchasing the equipment in August 2005 and 6 sessions on my equipment.

2006 -11 sessions

2007 – 18 sessions 7 sessions on my equipment and ten on others.

2008 – 6 sessions

Total – 35 sessions


Motivation to Change and Findings

I was willing to take many unpopular stands based on my experience and my interpretation of theory.


Neurofeedback seem to enable people to interact more calmly with Drew. 

People reported being able to see his/her part in increasing or decreasing anxiety in the relationships.

The Early Worry or Projection 

After war parental collapse


Insiders and Outsiders         

Mom, Dad and Drew

Two are Close and One is on the Outside – Status Quo Preserved

Big Sister and Big Brother

Female Dominant or the See Saw?

Imagine the triangles…

Altering the dynamic

Shifting for a Moment or Two

AMS and Margie vs. The Brothers




Evidence of Change 

As Drew became more functional his wife developed physical problems.

She has had a hysterectomy in April and knee replacement surgery in May.

They have essentially remained free of emotional problems.

Drew remains on Deprocote, Lithium and Synthroid for a thyroid disorder


Shifting Expectations in the Triangle

Drew’s brother “Butch” gave Drew and his wife his T-shirt business to run at the Williamsburg Pottery, reversing years of negative projection.


Butch was also able to shift his negative position towards Margie. This decreases the need for greater fusion between Drew and Margie.


 Pretending to be the “enemy” and/or siding with the “enemy” sometimes works.


Socially – Drugs Continue to Win

Authorities tell us that intense anxiety responds to drugs far faster than we can dampen anxiety by using relationships.


Sway may be the main reason drug treatment has made such headway over families in the past fifty years.

Alfred North Whitehead


Without adventure, (and differentiation)

      Civilization is in full decay.

                                                                        AMS and ANW

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