f. Reality: Trial and Error Learning

Whatever reality is, it is managed by internal feedback loops in your brain that tell you what the outside world is like. To be able to “see” the outside world takes more than visualization. It is a sense of knowing that is based on the ability to know how to put all that you see and do not see into a perceptual whole. Your brain is mostly composed of internal self-reference loops and to the extent that you are successful at interpreting your reality, you are good at putting the puzzle together. And just like putting the right pieces in place, you must be able to guess. Usually if you are a good at guessing you are also successful at adapting to the challenges in life. To the extent that your internal loops are locked out of your awareness they will be giving you poor feedback about the outside world. And to the extent you are getting poor feedback you will miss connecting with others or making good decisions.

Life is a guessing game. One reason for this is that you inherit many family system issues that persist from one generation into the next generations. It almost makes you feel as if your life is predestined or predetermined. Your family of birth, the state of society when you are coming of age, all of these conditions, influences you in an almost deterministic way.

Despite these factors, free will or the power of choice can be your greatest ally. There are opportunities to alter your way of going. You can choose to make the effort to be more thoughtful about the way in which you decide to take action. It is possible to know the hallmarks of an emotional system and to know how to manage being separate but connected to important others. Why? If you give in to people or if you run away from people its difficult to stay productive.

By now, after attempting to advance your ideas or visions forward into your relationship system, you have figured out what went wrong with at least one or two of the best thought out plans. If your memory does not bring any examples to mind, sit for a moment and reflect. What happened? Plans and the necessary strategies to change are often formed on the basis of information that you collect. You never have enough information to keep from making mistakes. Learning from mistakes is part of reality.

If there are problems in changing then the best question is what is my part in it? It easy to believe that the others are the source of all of those real problems, that they are the bad ones. Perhaps they really are the cause of all the trouble. If they are the problem, then you must be the victim. But if half of the problem is you and the other half them, there is an opportunity for you to change something so as not to be a victim. The most difficult challenge is not taking others or yourself too seriously. Being afraid of others is a sure road to a feeling that you cannot change. When you change in a neutral way it makes it possible for the others to change, but in their own good time.

Dr. Bowen recommended that people who wanted to learn how to take on really difficult problems take on schizophrenia. Schizophrenia allows you to learn about fear and failure as a system’s phenomena. Using schizophrenia allows you to see how easy it is not to want to learn and to say “they” or the other person is the problem.

Among other things, a schizophrenic’s way of seeing the world can be a fresh perspective. Schizophrenics have very primitive emotions and these intense emotions can be frightening or intriguing. What do you do if people want to fail? What do you do if there are road blocks in your system and well out of the domain of awareness? Learning to deal with and learn from people mental instability is the ultimate challenge.

How do you learn from schizophrenia if you are serious? If you are serious you will be scared to death of crazy people. To take the craziness in and not split it off into “it is them not me,” can be a challenge and fun. Once you begin to see the possibility, you might be able to see there is a bit of a schizophrenic in yourself. It might increase your ability to love and enjoy life more. If you can figure out what your part is in anything, then there is something that you can do to change your self. You are free. You are no longer a victim of “the other’s” craziness and your seriousness.

Much of this web site is dedicated to ways that Bowen Theory suggests you can change yourself. Trial and error learning makes it possible to enter into a nonjudgmental state. Blame and shame are two emotions that can stop learning cold. Praise can also shut down the brain. You can learn to do something to get the reward from the other rather than learning something for self.

How do you sustain the motivation to keep learning for self? You choose to do this for many different reasons. The overall effort is to know more about self and how to manage the forces in the emotional systems. If people are interested it makes life a bit more of a challenge. There are no guarantees. Bowen theory gives anyone who is interested an opportunity to see the forces of nature. This perspective can make it an interesting adventure to observe the stream of life and your part in it.