Happy 95th Birthday Dr. Bowen

Yes, Dr. Bowen, if he were alive, would have been 95 on January 31, 2008.  Since his video tapes and his writings are still available, one can consider him to still be  an “living” influence. I am one of many who can easily say that my life has been affected by his thinking. People read or learn the theory and then live it out and practice it in many different ways. Since Dr. Bowen is no longer alive to comment on how various people live theory there is a growing diversity among people who say they understand and “live” theory.   Darwin would like that.  It is neither good nor bad, its just what has happened.  Robbie Gilbert, M.D. sent me the following piece from the Chicago Tribune as an example of how theory influences and spreads in unusual ways.    Make of it what you will. Andrea 

Out of the picture

A loved one in your family has cut you off emotionally — and seemingly forever. Dare you dream of healing the rift? YES.

| Special to the Tribune

Since Rudy Giuliani stepped into the presidential race in 2006, his children, ages 17 and 21, have been noticeably absent from his campaign. Giuliani is publicly enduring a situation that millions of Americans deal with in private — a phenomenon that psychologists call an “emotional cutoff.”

Here’s the scenario: A parent, an adult child, a sibling or someone else who stars in your family constellation cuts you off. Whether gradual or sudden, it’s always a knife to the heart.Psychologist Mark Sichel, author of “Healing From Family Rifts,” describes these estrangements as being “buried alive.”

Shame and embarrassment abound among people who experience such rifts. Although few statistics are available on the incidence of family estrangement in the U.S., the Australian Institute of Family Studies reports fully 20 percent of adults are cut off from a sibling.

“I do believe that estrangement is quite common and that families feel ashamed of it because such distance flies in the face of what we think families are supposed to be about,” said Tribune advice columnist Amy Dickinson.An estrangement that develops gradually is less likely to be accompanied by a dramatic exit and slamming door. Many people simply drift away from loved ones when they are unable to reconcile their issues and sort out emotional aches of the past. Because it’s often subtle, they frequently don’t realize that if not dealt with directly, temporary distancing often becomes permanent.Divorce and its aftermath are common sources of family rifts. Giuliani’s relationship with his two children has been strained since Giuliani’s surprise announcement at a 2000 press conference that he was leaving their mother, Donna Hanover. In 2003, he married Judith Nathan, a woman he had described in 2000 as “his very good friend.”Evanston resident Amy Krause, now 37, was 7 when her parents divorced. Her dad remarried almost immediately, and Krause quickly grew to love her stepmom and the two children born into her father’s second family. Everything was going great until her father divorced again, starting yet a third family.”I was angry and hurt,” said Krause, who was largely cut off from her father for the last 20 years. Six years ago, when her father discovered he had cancer, he and Krause forged a tentative reconciliation. Her dad recovered, and his cancer went into remission. Last year, when the cancer returned, Krause traveled considerable distances on several occasions to offer love and support to her dad and his family.Fox River Grove resident John Mazurek, a therapist with a private practice in Arlington Heights, says he committed “the biggest mistake of my life” after a bitter divorce 30 years ago. He unwittingly put his daughter, Martha, into the uncomfortable position of arranging her own visits to him.”I later realized that she felt pulled between two warring parents and thought she had to make a choice between us,” said Mazurek, who has not seen his daughter in 17 years. While Martha never said, “I don’t want to see you anymore,” the cutoff eventually became a way of life.When repairing a family relationship simply isn’t feasible, an alternative that psychologist Sichel calls “the second-chance family” often satisfies the human desire for a core group of loving supporters. Peter Monaco of Batavia has experienced substantial rifts with his family of origin, but he and his wife’s family have established a lasting bond of affection.Monaco’s mother-in-law, Marlyne Olson, lives in Portland, Ore., and stays in touch with her daughter and son-in-law via regular telephone conversations.Statistics are unavailable on the number of emotional cutoffs that are eventually mended, perhaps because the process is unscientific at best.”I believe that, depending on the circumstances, families can and do find ways to heal from estrangements and bridge the gap between them,” Dickinson said. “Sometimes the birth of a grandchild or a serious illness can bring people together. In my column, I urge people to grab these opportunities to come back together — even in the smallest ways.”This much is certain: Mending a broken relationship is a journey for the tortoise, not the hare, demanding patience, hard work and forgiveness.Krause and her father have navigated the shoals successfully; the two say they are now closer than they’ve been since her childhood.”It’s by no means perfect,” Krause said. “I had to give up the dream of a ‘traditional’ father-daughter relationship.” But, after all these years, “it seems like, at last, we’ve established some common understanding of our relationship.”- – –

Out of the picture


Find a skilled therapist. Not only can a wise therapist help you work through the feelings caused by emotional cutoffs, he or she also can help you devise a strategy for trying to resolve the issue, or help you determine how to proceed if reconciliation isn’t possible or desirable (perhaps, for example, because of a situation involving abuse). Robert Noone, executive director of the Family Service Center of Glenview, Kenilworth, Northbrook and Wilmette, says that helping people explore the family dynamics that contribute to family cutoffs is almost always enlightening. Noone recommends checking out thebowencenter.org and clicking on “Bowen Theory,” then “Emotional Cutoff” for background on the subject.

Don’t play the blame game. “We live in such a blaming society,” says E. Maurlea Babb, a licensed family and marriage therapist and founder of Chrysallis, the Center for Individual and Family Therapy, in Wheaton. “Most parents do the best they can.” Babb believes reassurance, affirmation and a non-judgmental attitude can repair many relationships. “I’ve seen a lot of miracles,” she said.Forgive. Rev. Elizabeth Andrews of Chicago’s 4th Presbyterian Church recommends that the door to possibility remain open. “Allow space for grace to come in.”

Don’t let the cutoff define your life. Although one can do everything in his or her power to heal an estrangement, it’s possible to move forward and live a good life, even if a cutoff is never repaired.

– – -Books that offer help* “Difficult Conversations” (Penguin, $15) by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen and Roger Fisher offers practical guidelines on how to initiate and direct the sticky, uncomfortable conversations that are an inevitable part of life. The authors are affiliated with the Harvard Law School and the Harvard project on negotiation.* “Healing From Family Rifts: Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being Cut Off From a Family Member” (McGraw-Hill, $15.95 paper) by Mark Sichel abounds with compassion and insight from a psychologist who has experienced emotional cutoffs in his own life. He provides a 10-step program that addresses the painful experience of dealing with familial ruptures.* “I’m OK, You’re My Parents: How to Overcome Guilt, Let Go of Anger, and Create a Relationship That Works” (Henry Holt, $24) by Dale Atkins is intended for the adult child in the parent-child relationship. Rather than blaming one’s parents for everything that hasn’t worked out as one would like in life, Atkins helps the reader identify ways to work through anger to create a working relationship with one’s parents. She offers examples and strategies to move through them successfully.- – -A personal journey of reconciliationThe phenomenon of emotional cutoffs is every bit as heartbreaking as it sounds.When my then-18-year-old son, Colin, cut me out of his life six years ago, I was devastated.Colin stopped calling me, ignored my letters and chose not to walk me down the aisle when I remarried four years ago. I despaired of ever regaining a loving relationship with the tall, handsome and engaging young man whose face and sense of humor so resemble my own.Reflecting on our difficulties, recently resolved, Colin, now 24 and a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, put it this way:”Our cutoff began with my extremely poor high school performance. There was great frustration on all sides. When my mom decided at the beginning of my senior year after a particularly bad (and loud) argument that I had to go live with my dad, I blamed her for the drastic changes brought on by that move.”Initial feelings of anger and resentment eventually subsided, and in their place a feeling of emotional numbness took over.”But by the middle of my college years, I realized I missed my mom. After a slow, gradual and difficult process, we began rebuilding. Now, things are great between us.”A willingness to set aside past differences and acknowledge that we really love each other were critical factors in our reconciliation.”– Betsy Storm



    Happy New Year 2008


    Nature gives us many gifts and so do people.  Most of the time it just takes slowing down to see and appreciate the gifts around us.   Perhsp slowing down is just part of aging or perhaps it’s a bit of training. But it is a fact that as I have gotten older I am more thankful for my family and for so many friends, all of whom have helped me, in big and small ways, during this past year.     

    Two important events have started off the New Year.

    My book will be available in both Spanish and French.


    First, my friend, Maria Bustos, has organized a trip to Mexico City tomorrow, January 20th.   I will present a few ideas from my upcoming book and also interview some of the leaders there.  The longer term plan is for my book to be published in Spanish!  This is the web seminar I will be giving.



    Secondly, Maryse Bijaoui, who is living in France, has translated the book into French.She wrote the following note to explain her reasons for doing this without pay.  I developed an intense interest in Bowen Theory and so I was really zealous about translating your book, The Mindful Compass. The book offers a so very practical and accessible application of Bowen Theory. This helps people understand how systems have unusual influence over our lives.  Best regards,Maryse Bijaoui   I have yet to find a publisher for the book here in the US, but this gift to french reading people is still an amazing feat.  It will be featured on my web site soon.  If anyone is interested in a copy so they can be a reader or know of someone please let me know.   Perhaps it is predictable that people in other countries might be more intrigued by the idea that the family is an emotional system.  How a small system operates under pressure has practical suggestions about managing self in all emotional systems, even work systems.    

    Lastly, if there is one gift I could give to others it would be a few session on the Zengar neurofeedback system.  I have so enjoyed being able to relax and then see my brain and body function better.

       I will be talking my equipment to Mexico this week and introduce it to people there.  I also wrote up a short overview of the history of the development of neurofeedback, which is below.  I have been involved in biofeedback since 1977 and neurofeedback since 1993. During this time I have seen giant leaps in the use of faster and faster computers to aid in the brain’s ability to benefit from seeing and feeling its own electrical energy states.    In general people have used neurofeedback instruments to measure changes in the brain.

    Neurofeedback as a field spans the spectrum from treatment, using cause and effect models, to training to enhance flexibility.

       My interest is in allowing the brain to receive feedback on its own state and to seek greater synchronicity and coherence. I use the software and hardware developed by Val Brown, who is the developer of the Zengar software, www.zengar.com   

     Early History

    Luigi Galvani in 1791 gave us evidence of the electrical nature of the nervous system. His research was done on the leg nerves of frogs. From his work we found that skin conductivity could be measured.

    The GSR, named after Galvani, is used to measure the reactivity of the skin when exposed to various stimuli.

    Carl Jung was the first to recognize that this instrument could be used to measures subjects response to emotionally loaded words in his famous word association experiments. 

     The measurement of the electrical energy in the brain had to wait until 1924 when Hans Buerger named the first brain waves he measured as ALPHA (8-12).

    The next range he discovered was beta. (12-42 Hz) Later he showed that delta 0-4 was associated with deep trauma and sleep.  And then theta (4-8 Hz) was associated with emotional recall and or hypnotic trance states.

    In 1943 Gibbs and Knott studied the growth and development of EEG through the life cycle showing how each stage differed in function. 

    In the 1960s researchers showed that brain wave states are correlated with states of consciousness. Joe Kamaya showed that subjects could identify brain wave states, and then in the late 1960’ Basmajian discovered that people could learn to control neuron firing without knowing how they did it.

     Barbara Brown spelled this out in her book Stress and the Art of Biofeedback. 

    During this time Elmer and Alyce Green at the Menninger Institute, found that people could enter theta states and recover childhood memories, or have deep spiritual or creative experiences. They noted the corresponding improvements in the immune system. 

    In 1969 Karl Pigram s wrote an article for Scientific American that demonstrated that the storage of memory was not restricted to specific localities but that the brain was “holographic.”

     The holographic brain theory, originated by psychologist Karl Pribram and initially developed in collaboration with physicist David Bohm, is a model for human cognition that is drastically different from conventionally accepted ideas: Pribram and Bohm posit a model of cognitive function as being guided by a matrix of neurological wave interference patterns situated temporally between holographic Gestalt perception and discrete, affective, quantum vectors derived from reward anticipation potentials.Pribram was originally struck by the similarity of the hologram idea and Bohm’s idea of the implicate order in physics, and contacted him for collaboration. In particular, the fact that information about an image point is distributed throughout the hologram, such that each piece of the hologram contains some information about the entire image, seemed suggestive to Pribram about how the brain could encode memories. (Pribram, 1987). Pribram was encouraged in this line of speculation by the fact that DeValois and DeValois (1980) had found that “the spatial frequency encoding displayed by cells of the visual cortex was best described as a Fourier transform of the input pattern.” (Pribram, 1987) This holographic idea leads to the coining of the term “holonomic” to describe the idea in wider contexts than just holograms. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holonomic_brain_theory Thomas Budzynski, using the technique of Joseph Wolphe, found ways to decondition phobias and anxiety problems.  He and John Picchiottino developed the first alpha training tool.  He went on to develop Twilight learning tools enabling people to accept positive ideas during theta states. http://www.hypnopage.com/theta/happier.html 

    The first research went in the direction of “unconscious states” or the lower brain waves ranges. 

    Next, was the research into the higher range that are used in mental alertness and problem solving.

    One of the originators of the field Barry Sternum, Val Brown notes, should have been awarded a Nobel Prize for his original contribution noting that increasing the sensory motor rhythm (SMR-15 hertz) would inhibit seizures.

     SMR/beta biofeedback developed from operant conditioning of cats’ EEG. Barry Sterman of UCLA serendipitously discovered that when cats were exposed to toxic chemicals that usually induce epileptic seizures, those who had been trained in the middle to high frequency range (12-20 Hz) from a previous unrelated experiment had greater latency to seizure onset, and a higher threshold for seizure onset, than untrained cats. These results were replicated in monkeys and humans. The results with humans were subsequently replicated in some twelve research centers, comprising some twenty studies. http://www.eegspectrum.com/HealthProfFAQ/  A student of Barry Sternum was Margaret Ayers. In 1976 she founded the first clinic specializing in EEG biofeedback.  She developed her won technology and had extraordinary results for patients with closed head injury. Her focus was on lowering theta and increasing SMR.  (12-15 Hz) http://www.neuropathways.com/publications/eegneuro.html Siegfried and Susan Othmer (read Jim Robinsons A Symphony in the Brain) found that beta training at C3, the central part of the left hemisphere had a positive effect on mental energy and concentration. http://www.brianothmerfoundation.org/siegfriedcv.htm  Joel Lubar and others presented very convincing evidence on how to modulate learning disorders by enhancing SMR. There is a great deal of research on ADD and ADHD by Lubar. http://www.eegfeedback.org/Southeastern Biofeedback Institute was established in 1979 by Joel F. Lubar Ph.D., BCIA-EEG Senior Fellow. Judith O. Lubar MA., MS., LCSW-BCD., BCIA-EEG Senior Fellow. 

    Then, Gene Peneston, in 1988 presented his work on using an alpha theta protocol to enable end of the line alcoholic veterans, to recover brain functioning and kick the habit. A majority of these alcoholics were able give up abusing alcohol after one month of training. The mainstream press mostly ignored these research efforts.

    Additional methods have been reasonably successful with many disorders besides ADD and other attention issues. But it still takes about 40 sessions for most people to get the brain to shift over and function at a more attentive level, using the models now available to treat ADDS

    Please see The Healing Power of Neurofeedback by Stephen Larsen, PhD. for more details.

     The Five-Phase Model

    The new system (NCP), which Val Brown developed, combined the best of the protocols into his five-phase model. The advantage was to move beyond individual diagnosis and turn more towards a fault tolerant system that could be used more as information for the central nervous system.

     Training is the descriptive world. It is not treatment for mental or physical health. Optimal states can be discovered without falling back on the medical model. We have seen a slow shift away from specific usage for specific problems to more generalized use by coaches and teachers for optimal functioning using the NCP training systems.

    Now we have the evidence that the brain and the central nervous system work together to produce stability.

     Earlier as a student, Val learned about non-linear control dynamics, and the work of Karl Pribram and Dennis Gabor.

    My interpretation of Val’s work is that information in the brain is time sensitive, and goes through phase transitions. The question was how to highlight the firing of those parts of the brain that have transformative potential.

     The brain is a self-referencing and self-organizing system that operates through chaos.

    The goal of the central nervous system is to detect differences and to minimize discomfort.

    This kind of renormalizing of the brain can be done if information is presented to the CNS in a form that the brain finds both effective and pleasing. If the brain can understand this information about the state of the brain, then the brain can renormalize.

    The goal of NCP as I hear Val Brown’s viewpoint, is to simply increase resilience and flexibility.

     Here is a useful explanation from Val Brown in 2007Other systems and approaches rely on training
    the client’s CNS to move to or away from some particular pattern(s) of brainwave activity.

    Whether the guiding principle concerns “too much” alpha, “too little” alpha, “too much”
    coherence, “too little” coherence or whatever, the fundamental organizing principle is that
    there is some “optimal” state and various “non-optimal” or “pathological” states and that
    the training needs to target the later so as to achieve the former.
    We don’t do that or anything like that. I do not find that it is really useful in the end to try
    to shove, push, lead, nudge or provoke the CNS to go to — or away from — any particular
    profile or pattern. Actually it’s all far, far simpler.
    The brain is a self-organizing, non-linear, dynamical system. It has its own intrinsic
    healthy chaos. What we choose to call “disorder” etc is best understood as being some
    form of constraint on the intrinsic self-organizing capabilities of the CNS. If we simply
    interrupt it — when it is perturbing itself — then it will release back into the present and,
    in doing so, will release that process of perturbing and unbalancing itself.
    The “waves” in the brain settle by themselves when not perturbed just like the surface of
    the lake settles when it’s not perturbed by the wind or things being thrown into it.
    Now it’s really not optimal to think of brain activity as coming in “waves”. What others call  “brain waves” are really brain phasors and so sine waves and simple sinusoids are not the best model for their actual way of working, but that’s a different matter for a different
    email. The fundamental idea here is really that the overall process of neurofeedback can
    be really simple — if you use NeuroCARE and if you use it in our default recommended
    way of working.

    Family Emotional Process and the Big Picture

    November 30, 2007

    Victoria Harrison has been a colleague of mine since 1977. She has made a serious effort to bring the ideas based in Bowen Theory to the world. Houston, now her home town, has become one of the important centers for the expansion of Bowen theory.


    Victoria has followed the developing story of the adventures with my younger brother, Drew.  She saw the family organism undergo an incredible change and asked me to write up an article about the remarkable recovery Drew had from a manic depressive episode.  

    Her journal, Family Systems Forum, is a well regarded quarterly publication in its 9th year of publication. Here you will find articles addressing various applications of Bowen theory, from the scientific to the personal, by a wide variety of authors.   

    People can get more information about the kind of articles it includes on the Archives. Here they will also find a subscription form you can download.   Following is Victoria’s summery of my article.  I have included the theoretical part, but left out the personal story, as one way to entice people to subscribe to the newsletter. Enjoy….

    Andrea Schara describes “Family Emotional Process and the Big Picture” in an article published in Family Systems Forum, Fall 2007

    This is a powerful personal report of her family’s experience with serious psychiatric symptoms and the recovery, that using Bowen theory makes possible.   This family story has important implications for a society that has come to rely on medication and hospitalization as the only known methods for dealing with the disruption of psychiatric symptoms.   

    The author brings over 30 years of wide ranging scholarship, study in neuroscience, neurofeedback practice and work with Bowen theory to approach the challenges in her own family.   The principles described in this account of how she and the family were able to contribute toward her brother’s recovery from psychiatric hospitalization and deterioration, have broad applications.   

    Andrea Schara describes the difference it can make when one family member can both see the forest and know each tree well enough to find their way. She illustrates how Bowen theory, a theoretical map of the family forest, was essential in guiding her way. You can subscribe to Family Systems Forum and receive the current issue at WWW.CSNSF.ORG

    A one year subscription is $25.    

    Family Emotional Process and the Big Picture

    Andrea M. Schara, LCSWA 

    Reprinted from Family Systems Forum, a publication of the Center for the Study of Natural Systems and the Family, Volume 9, Number 3, Fall 2007 

    It is one thing to consider a broad picture of mental health.  It is an entirely different matter when a close family member is diagnosed with a mental illness.  When the latter happens, the pressure is on for action: What am I going to do now?   

    What can you do if you cannot see both the forest and the tree?  Seeing the forest but not knowing the tree is a broad view but partially blind.  Seeing the tree without knowing the forest lacks perspective.  One without the other does not make for a systems view.  This paper will present both a broad and a personal look at a bipolar diagnosis in one family. 

    Mental Illness Oversimplified 

    Mental illness can be over-simplified as the inability of one person to “fit in” with a family or a society’s expectation of normal behavior.  Animals, including pets, can behave in strange ways.  “Diagnosing” pets or people is said to lead to proper treatment.  After all, we need to know what to do about the “condition.”  Here we see the pressure exerted by the forest for trees to grow properly.  A tree must bend to the conventional wisdom. But what if diagnosing people adds to the problem? 

    Diagnosing in itself suggests that one is the sick tree, and the other not-so-sick trees need to help the sick one.  The family is split, as is society.  Mental illness is not a small problem when 27% of the population is said to have a mental illness or an addiction problem. More than two million Americans have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  (U.S. Surgeon General)

    Despite research and costly drug treatments, many questions remain as to the long-term efficacy of all treatments.  While diagnosis of bipolar illness has increased tremendously, especially in children, the prognosis remains very guarded. (Archives of General Psychiatry)  

    If we consider what benefit this kind of illness might bestow on families or society, we are taking a different position and opening different possibilities.  Bipolar people often have a very creative streak and are contributors to society.  In a family, with rules and regulations for proper and acceptable behavior, there may not be enough room for a person to be creative without being somehow too different. A person who is different can draw negative attention. 

    The research of John Gottman and others shows that too much negativity destroys relationships.   That one person in a family or a social group often draws more negative attention is just the way nature organized us.  We have testimony from Jack Calhoun’s mice that scapegoating comes naturally.  One or two absorb the problem-focus, while the others are freer to go about their more ordinary lives. One person’s absorbing more of the problems may benefit the larger group.

    Researchers like Dalton Conley elaborate on the dynamics of differentials in family functioning. Families appear to have an automatic away of “knowing” how much to invest in which of their children. Wealthier families seem able to mitigate some the effect of this general tendency to treat children differently.  Looking at the big picture, we can see that many forces operate out of awareness to put more negative pressure on some children. 

    The child can, of course, adapt to the pressure.  Some do so in most interesting ways.

    Let’s take hallucinations, as these are often the challenge that leads people to put their loved ones into hospitals, often as part of a manic episode. 


    Research suggests that at some distant time hallucinations were useful for society.  Researchers, including Julian Jaynes and Al Sheflen, have discovered both brain functions and historical reasons for their presence.  Jaynes notes the presence in very early written materials of the word “we” and the length of time it took for the word “I” to develop.

    In prehistoric tribal society, there was no “I” statement. There is no record of the use of the word “I” until Homer’s Odyssey (c. 800-600 BC).  One possible explanation, Jaynes hypothesizes, is that disruption in the chain of command was a threat to society. 

    In those early eons, humans may have been more socially organized, like ants.  Jaynes postulates that early societies were very oriented to command and control.  This operating posture left traces in the brain.  When deaths or loss occurred, when times were tight, as happens during war, families and societies were required to operate more as a “we.”

    When geographical disruptions, deaths or separations occurred, hallucinations became more evident in the population. They provided a way to imagine staying connected to the needed voice of authority.  People could “imagine” what needed to be done.  T

    he well being of society was facilitated by the ability to “imagine” how the “other” would direct one when the “other” was gone. 

    We currently see that the occurrence of schizophrenia increases when children leave home and try to function independently.  Jaynes offers evidence that more democratic societies and families are far more capable of promoting the emergence of the “I.”  

    Families with more anxiety and uncertainty would have more difficulty allowing for the development of a more separate individual.  One might be able to imagine how, in our own time, the disturbance generated by the death of a family leader could set off a very old pattern in a social group and in the brain.

    This is not to rule out other social and viral disruptions that may be part of a cascade leading to “mental illness” in one person in a family. My focus is that disturbance in relationships can also lead to regression. One could say that the brain and behavior of persons are disrupted, and they “act” as people did in earlier times. 

    Hallucinations may be one way to adapt to the loss of meaningful relationships. 

    A Personal Story

    Explanations are soothing, but do they help when someone close to you has a mental break down? 

    ………………………………………… Please subscribe to this issues to read all of the story. 


    After-Care Plan

    Finally, we were able to develop a plan to get Drew out of the state hospital.  Margie wrote a letter, which I helped her compose, to the hospital director, detailing Drew’s lack of progress and our concern about his regression, drug treatment and fear of dying as his father had.

    We also drew up a plan for a two-week after-care program at my cousin Liz’s home. 

    We hired people to be with Drew, as he could fall and hurt himself. He was to see a local MD to rule out Parkinson’s disease and see a local therapist, untrained in Bowen theory but a friend of my cousins. He was also to have polarity therapy (a combination of massage and acupuncture using the energy centers of the body), breathing and yoga classes. 

    After his reaction to the anti-psychotic drugs and his fear at being in the hospital, Drew’s shaking made it difficult for him to sit and relax. 

    For the first two days, he was a shadow of his former self. Unable to hold his head up and make eye contact, he just shook.  Over two weeks, he radically altered his functioning for the better. 

    My goals were to: 

    ·        Diminish my own fear and figure out how to relate to him to make him smile.

    ·        Keep the group surrounding Drew focused on not knowing and observing. 

    I bought a journal to write down observations of all our interactions with Drew. I asked each person to write down what seemed to work, as none of us knew which of the things we were going to try might make a difference. 

    I used the idea of three A’s to monitor how he was doing in regard to his affect, loose associations and his ambivalence.  

    The first day I put him on WWW.ZENGAR.COM  neurofeedback equipment, he had a moment when he stopped shaking for the first time in four months.

    I immediately went out and bought a video camera to tape this process and learn more of what was happening.  In the first five days after his release from the hospital, Drew did seven neurofeedback sessions, building on sessions he had had once a month from May to August. 

    Initially, he could manage only ten minutes on the equipment.  We also kept asking Drew if he could stop the shaking.  This gave him the idea that he had the ability to focus and take charge of his life little by little. 

    I used humor and paradox to bring up such fearful issues as dying in the state hospital.  Then we would relax with neurofeedback.  Finally, Drew realized he could gain control over his fear and shaking. 

    Drew was surrounded by family and friends on a beautiful farm, but we also set limits.  He had to take a shower every day.  We encouraged him to walk, draw, rest and take vitamins with a protein shake. His wife also did neurofeedback each day and was able to alter her way of telling Drew what to do. 

    Liz had set up appointments to offer Drew other kinds of help. One of her friends did a forty-minute session of polarity therapy with him.  During the time on the table, he did not shake. Another woman came with a guitar, and they sang.  A

    ll in all, we had fun and it paid off.

    Changes in Extended Family

    Many people in my father’s family were able to visit and support Drew.  This was a major change in family patterns.  Five family members offered money to help support Drew until he got on disability. People who had been afraid of persons in a manic episode began to have confidence and make better contact with Drew.

    I think that my work over years to be a calmer individual and in better contact with people in my family helped to create an environment in which change could occur.  Changes happened both in the family and in Drew, for which I am grateful and amazed. 

     What made the difference? 

    ·        Being with his family, undoubtedly the biggest factor.

    ·        Reorganizing his brain using neurofeedback  training.

    ·        Setting limits and working with him to restore his cognitive and affective functioning. 


    We have been deep into the forest to see how one tree makes it through a lightning storm.  Every forest is slightly different – the songs that are sung, the food, the dance, the fights, the silliness.  There are many variations of the struggle to relate to others as well as possible.  Coming into “good enough emotional contact” is an adventure.   

    There is no answer in command and control. 

    There is some answer in telling your story about life as you see it. People will make what they will of the neurofeedback and the family, but few can argue how amazing it is when the impossible becomes possible.  

    This story is one of hope and possibility which lives in any social group. It is in relationships that the possibility for transformation exists.  


    Archives of General Psychiatry,  February 2006.

    Bowen, Murray.  Family Therapy in Clinical Practice (Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1985).

    Calhoun, John.  “Population Density and Social Pathology.”  Scientific American, 1962.

    Conley, Dalton.  The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why.  New York: Knopf, 2005.

    Gottman, John.  gottman.com/research/.

    Jaynes, Julian.  The Origins of Consciousness in the Bicameral Mind.  New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

    Sheflin, Al.  Levels of Schizophrenia.  1981.

    U.S. Surgeon General. surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter2/sec7.html 

    INTO THE WILD- Movies and the Human Condition


      Into the Wild is an undomesticated movie of psychological brilliance and rare beauty. (If only books could open with such soul-stirring music and be so saturated with the vivid coolness of nature!) Alex, our perplexing hero (played by Emile Hirsch), carefully carves his thoughts into wood; his daily life is recorded in his journal. But it is the absences of words that deliver the movie’s main message. There are no words for the confusion that is lived when parents and children are blind to their actions and reactions. This movie (based on a true story) shows an ordinary life that becomes a Shakespearian tragedy. In the opening scene we peek in to see the family crucible all fired up. There they are: the suffering, blind parents. The mother wakes up, sure she is hearing her son’s voice. Where is he? He is somewhere far, far away doing his job. He is willing to die to make a point, but what is it? For an answer we must guess, because there are no words to integrate his family life with his mission. He leaves his family with the heaviness of silence.

    But we, the observers, can interpret or notice how the family changes. Without the son, the father’s job has altered. Now the father can and does console the mother. The sister’s voice tells us that, “These are not the same people who raised us.” Could it be that the son has brought these two together through the pain of loss, as his youngest sister suggests? The voice of the innocent sister tells us how deep the hurt has become for her over time. The family has changed from a conflict-oriented group to an organism that slides into sadness.

    But we do not have to linger over the relationship confusion and pain. We can forget for a moment the human cost of misguided relationships, because these momentary human tragedies pale in comparison to the raw beauty of nature. One without the other would not make for such a spectacular movie. The beauty of the movie is felt in part because of this tension between the confusion of the family relationships and our handsome, driven son/brother/lover’s love and celebration of nature.

    It is worth the price of admission to see the way director Sean Penn approaches man and nature. He is a genius at highlighting the quiet struggle of an idealistic young man whose idealism becomes imperiled in a one-sided drive for freedom—but he never lets us forget the power of nature to celebrate life.

    Alex, our hero, does not have enough knowledge to live with nature, just as he lacks the knowledge to live well with his family. Nature is there to love and to console us. But how do we live with nature? That is the question. Yes, Alex can train himself to be physically fit, but he has to be given boots to keep the soles of his feet dry as he marches into the wild. This moment highlights the innocence and ignorance of a man driven to an encounter in order to make some deeper point.

    Alex tries to learn a bit about living in the wild. He finds an outdoors man who tells him how to cure meat. He takes notes. I wish he had practiced curing meat with his new-found friend. Perhaps then he could have passed the test that came during the bleak weeks in the magic bus that was his home in wilderness Alaska.

    Alex kills the moose but can not cure the beast before the flies arrive. This is an intense symbol foreshadowing his ending.

    Alex quotes Thoreau.[1] But instead of trying to improve society, he dismisses it and seeks freedom in nature. Perhaps society and his family are not worth the effort to save. Or perhaps dying makes the better point.

    We can see that nature does correspond with family life. People get trapped in both places.

     The Family Lies
    Perhaps Alex might have learned more from quoting Shakespeare. Could he have avoided Hamlet’s fate if only he had known of the twisted feeling states that are lived out in the family lie?

    Probably it is way more complicated.

    We have to guess that Alex is hurt by the lie his father lived with his mother. Alex learns the facts after his senior year in high school during a visit with distant family members out West. When he returns he says nothing to his parents, only to his sister, whom he swears to secrecy.

    Here is another sad decision, at least for his sister.

    The way the sister tells it, Alex discovered that their father had another marriage and another son. This meant that their mother was their father’s mistress. Shocking, yes. But did it have to be the end of the words between people?

    This discovery becomes just one more reason to leave. It is only the topping on the psychic intensity of ongoing negative conflict between people who live an illusion and call it family.

    Our man, whom we assume is hurt by the lack of truth, never tells his own truth to those he meets and loves along the way. They do not know his name or his story. In a real sense he avoids these people as his father and mother did him. He becomes a new man, Alexander Supertramp. Yes, he enjoys and brings carefree love to the people he meets. Many of these people seem likely to fill a hoped-for role for family feelings, but none of it takes. And none of these relationships changes his relentless drive to be alone with nature.

    As Alex, Hirsch highlights the love of nature and the celebration of innocent freedom, and seamlessly weaves in the hurt and the lack of forgiveness that directly or indirectly lead to a talented man’s demise. Some might say there is some solace in his dying in the arms of nature. Some might say, “Who cares if his parents and sister continue to suffer?

    I would have preferred that he spend the 25 cents to call his sister and relive her suffering with his voice.

    Yes, I know—finding forgiveness is not cheap for any of us. But always there is my simple wish for understanding. If only he could have crossed the river and separated himself from his anger at his parents. But instead he dies with the anger unresolved.

    Throughout the movie the sister’s voice reminds us of her own and her parents’ suffering. We are never far from the relentless nature of the beauty of tragedy.

    What would have happened if Alex had quoted Hamlet? If Hamlet were watching, he might also celebrate our man’s run into idealism and the search for truth. Would Hamlet say, “Far better to enjoy the search than to stay stuck in the anger and disappointment of the horrid relationships in the family crucible”?

    Perhaps Hamlet would admit that it is all the same: Each of us lives out some degree of the family anger, innocent or not.[2]

    Sean Penn has an amazing ability to tell a story that is deep and lovely. He touches on many important themes in today’s confused world. Hirsch’s incredible performance as Alex allows us to feels the physical and psychological toll of one man’s journey. And for each of us, by being a part of this story, we build our family knowledge to some degree.

     [1] Thoreau was a philosopher of nature and its relation to the human condition. In his early years he followed Transcendentalism, a loose and eclectic idealist philosophy advocated by Emerson, Fuller and Alcott. They held that an ideal spiritual state transcends, or goes beyond, the physical and empirical, and that one achieves that insight via personal intuition rather than religious doctrine. In their view, Nature is the outward sign of inward spirit, expressing the “radical correspondence of visible things and human thoughts,” as Emerson wrote in Nature (1836).

    Thoreau’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance influenced the political thoughts and actions of such later figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Some anarchists claim Thoreau as an inspiration, though civil disobedience calls for improving rather than abolishing government.

    David Henry Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts, to John Thoreau and Cynthia Dunbar. His paternal grandfather was of French origin and born in Jersey. His maternal grandfather, Asa Dunbar, was known for leading Harvard’s 1766 student Bread and Butter Rebellion, the first recorded student protest in the United States.

    [2] From Chapter 2: The Mindful Compass
    One of the world’s greatest storytellers, William Shakespeare, captured the essence of relationship dilemmas when he had Hamlet say, “To be, or not to be.” Shakespeare also noted the ongoing confusion that humans experience when thinking about their values: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

    A great observer of the human condition, Shakespeare knew that there are all sorts of forces that leaders must contend with. One relates to how we manage our selves with others, and another involves how we understand the consequences of our thinking.

    Written in 1601 or 1602, Hamlet takes us into the tragedy of Hamlet losing his self. The play makes the point that it is difficult to remain a separate self and think clearly in the face of pressure from those we love or even the ghost of someone we love. Many say that it is a brilliant depiction of a hero’s struggle with two opposing forces: moral integrity (sought after by anyone working to become a stronger, more separate self) and the need to avenge a murder (experienced when the self is lost as a consequence of absorbing the feelings, needs and wants of the other as though they were one’s own). Through this play, Shakespeare symbolically chides us to evaluate our weaknesses, our blindness, and the possible choices before us. A psychologically profound writer, he shows us how valuable stories can be in teaching us about our vulnerabilities.

     Andrea Maloney Schara
    203 274 1069

    Bowen Theory: A One Page Summery


    Beginning in the 1950’s, Murray Bowen (1913-1990) developed a new theory of human functioning. 

    Bowen family systems theory is a theory of human behavior that views the family as an emotional unit and uses systems thinking to describe the complex interactions in the unit.  

    Bowen believed that the emotional systems that govern human relationships had evolved over millions of years. He postulated that differentiation (level of emotional maturity) among family members produced variation as individuals became more of less mature from one generation to the next.

    In cases where multi-generational transmission, differentiation among family members becomes progressively lower, this can also generate clinical symptoms.

    The goal of “Extended Family Systems Therapy” is to increase individual family members level of differentiation by those who are capable of being in better emotional contact with those in the nuclear and extended family. This requires knowledge of the emotional system and how to mange self in relationships.

    The cornerstone of Bowen theory is the 8 interlocking concepts that influence the counterbalance between togetherness and individuality. No one concept can be explained by another concept.  No one concept can be eliminated or isolated from Bowen theory.  Symptoms and maturity are the outcome of the interactions of these 8 variables.

    Emotional, biological and environmental influences are considered as the individual adapts within the family unit over the generations.

    The 8 basic concepts of Bowen’s family systems theory are:

    1.      Levels of differentiation of self Families and social groups affect how people think, feel, and act, but individuals vary in their susceptibility to “group think”. Also, groups vary in the amount of pressure they exert for conformity. The less developed a person’s “self,” the more impact others have on his functioning and the more he tries to control the functioning of others. Bowen developed a scale to measure differentiation of self.

    2.      The nuclear family This concept describes 4 relationship patterns that manage anxiety:(marital conflict, dysfunction in one spouse,  impairment of one or more children, emotional distance) that govern where problems develop in a family. 

    3.      Family projection process This concept describes the way parents transmit their emotional problems to a child. Some parents have great trouble seperating from the child. They imagine hows the child is rather than having a realistic appraisl of the child.  Relationship problems that most negatively affect a child’s life are a heightened need for attention and approval, difficulty dealing with expectations, the tendency to blame oneself or others, feeling responsible for other’s happiness, and acting impulsively to relieve the anxiety of the moment, rather than tolerating anxiety and acting thoughtfully. 

    4.      Multigenerational transmission process This concept describes how small differences in the levels of differentiation between parents and their offspring lead over many generations to marked differences in differentiation among the members of a multigenerational family. The way people relate to one another creates differences which are transmitted across generations. People are sensitive and react to the absence or presence of relationships, to information about this moment, the future and or the past, and this, along with our basic genetic inheritance, interacts to shape an individual’s “self.” 

    5.      Sibling position Bowen theory incorporates psychologist Walter Toman’s work relating to sibling position. People who grow up in the same sibling position have important common characteristics. For example, oldest children tend to gravitate to leadership positions and youngest children often prefer to be followers, unless they were disappointed by the parents.  Toman’s research showed that spouses’ sibling positions when mismatched often affect the chance of divorcing. 

    6.      Triangles A triangle is a three-person relationship system. It is considered the “molecule” of a larger emotional systems as it is the smallest stable relationship system. A triangle can manage more tension than a 2-person relationship as tension shifts among the three. Triangles can exert social control by putting one on the outside or bring in an outsider when tension escelates between two. Spreading tension can also be stabilized by increasing the number of traingles. Marital therapy uses the triangel to provide a neutral third party capable of relating well to both sides of a conflict. 

     7.      Emotional cut off People sometimes manage their unresolved emotional issues with parents, siblings, and other family members by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact with them. This resolves nothing and risks making  new relationships too important.

    8.      Societal emotional process This concept describes how the emotional system governs behavior on a societal level, similar to that within a family, which promotes both progressive and regressive periods in a society. 

    Who was Murray Bowen, M.D.?Following medical training, Murray Bowen served five years of active duty with the Army during World War II, 1941-1946. He served in the United States and Europe, rising from the rank of Lieutenant to Major. He had been accepted for a fellowship in surgery at the Mayo Clinic to begin after military service, but Bowen’s wartime experiences resulted in a change of interest from surgery to psychiatry. During his study of psychiatry at The Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas from 1946-1954, Bowen read extensively in biology and the study of evolution.  His changing view of human functioning led to development of a research project at the National Institute of Mental Health in which 18 families with a schizophrenic member were studied over a five-year period. Later he went to Georgetown University where he developed Bowen Family Systems Theory.

    This summery was written by Laura Martin with a few ideas by Andrea Schara 

    Going to the Emotional Gym

    Dear Andrea,I came across you website and wanted some help with this situation:

    What ideas do you have about reentering a cutoff part of my family? (I have cutoff from this side of the family for around 10 years).

    What are the pit-falls to be on the look out for?

    How do I do it and maintain my self?

    Is there a healthy way knowing that I have changed, but the reasons for my leaving the system are really still there?

    Has such a chapter has been written by any one yet in the field of family systems. Many thanks,“x”

    Hi there glad to give you a few ideas.First, there is a book on cut off.My favorite chapter is by Priscilla Friesen. Emotional Cutoff: Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives (Haworth Marriage and the Family) (Haworth Marriage and the Family) by Peter Titelman Yes, it is $62 dollars..

    Also you may think about getting some to coach you. I will give you more information if you decide to go in this direction.

    I can only give you general ideas as I am not able to coach people on e mail whom I do not know.

    A recently story on bridging cut off and the impact on functioning is about Justine Henin who just won the US OPEN. She had to wait for her brother to be in a near fatal car accident for the path way to open to reconnect with her family.


    In general cut offs are indicators of generations of side taking and deep beliefs in right and wrong, and it all unfolds as someone will be blamed.

    People get isolated to protect self from harm or energy going in the wrong direction. It all can make rational sense but emotionally too much of avoiding the difficult people makes us weak.

    At the extreme differences are not at all tolerated. Cut off leads to serious problems. At a milder level cut off functions to give people space to be “different.”

    You can hear people rationalize cutting off when someone say things like: P People in my family are jerks. It is easier to talk to the people I sit next to on the bus.

    Marriages make for a new drawing of loyalty lines. This is often the time when people cut off from the family of origin.

    Again, it can seem rational but it goes in the direction of decreasing your flexibility. If you are willing to take on the slings and arrows of stillness from others then you are ready to reenter your family.

    The main thing is you need to have a realistic plan and to get in and get out of a negative emotional system without trying to achieve too much. Think of going to an emotional gym.

    You get a coach, find out how much to lift agree to keep practicing and then you go home and relax.

    If you do begin by trying to relate to some of the more difficult people in your family on the phone, then you might say something that sets an immediate limit. I have five minutes to talk.

    If the call gets negative or too intense then just say I will call back later when I am calmer.

    Take responsibility for your part in getting out and let the person know you will be back. You never say negative things like: you, you, you are the reason I have to hang up leave etc..

    You just let the people know in some way, I will be back because I will always be working on my relationship with you as I care deeply, even when we disagree.

    I usually go back to reconnect with family members, with the intention to build my emotional backbone.Often my goal is to get to know more about someone in the family I have heard about but know little about at a personal level.

    Often the history of relationships is stuck in the past. For example, my great aunt was upset with me as my great grandmother was not positive about her daughter.

    It can take years of relate at a low key level before you can establish a more genuine relationship. When it happens you will know you are no longer seen as a shadow of the past family relationships.

    But to get there you have to be aware of the past prejudices and take nothing personal.

    It is hard to recover from taking on the verbal projections that people put on anyone who tries to reconnect. When anyone reconnects others can and do get upset. The pattern has been broken and people are dealing with the unexpected.

    My question is- How do you keep from not reacting to others and relate at a more genuine level? Hope that helps..


    The Impact of Focusing Your Life Energy


    June 28, 2007 In The Universe in a Single Atom, his holiness the Dalai Lama, has put forth his personal journey describing the need for the convergence of science and spirituality. The core approaches of Buddhist psychology are: meditative contemplation, observations of motivation, manifested by emotion, and thought patterns and behaviors, all of which are subject to critical philosophical analysis.

    The goal is to overcome suffering, especially psychological and emotional sufferings. Psychiatry in particular and the mental heath field in general, have both long shared this goal.

    Only since the advent of fast computers, beginning in the seventies, has mental health been able to investigate the usefulness of various types of Neurofeedback and EEG readings in general, to learn more about the advantages of four thousand plus years of meditative states.

    As those of you who have explored my site know, Neurofeedback has long been of interest. You can find two interesting articles at https://ideastoaction.wordpress.com/consulting/neurofeedback-for-leaders/

    Or my current view


    Or one version of the history of Neurofeedback


    It is possible that this western technological advance will be a way to introduce the benefits of being present, to the western mind. Technology may enable building a knowledge bridge with the Buddhist focus on healthy practices to alter suffering in our everyday lives. Two questions the Dali Lama poses are; how do we know what is useful, and has our capacity for moral reasoning kept pace with knowledge? Clearly humanity in general is in need of what he describes as a moral compass, to preserve our human sensitivity, and to retain in our minds our fundamental human values. He urges us to hold compassion as the key motivation for all our endeavors. Loving kindness is the key to compassionate interactions with others but it is often blocked by emotional reactive states which are often laid down in the uterus on or even in past lives. One way to look at the impact of loving kindness is in our relationship with people, the other is our relationship with the earth and even with the food we consume. In a world attuned to scientific facts we need to understand in a rational way the long term consequences of our actions. The methods of science can enable us to measure the impact of loving kindness on the earth and its inhabitants. Since my years of experience are in the filed of mental heath I can only give my perspective on the struggle metal heath has had in find ways to speak with those who represent the more spiritual worlds. These separated knowledge compartments can only be opened by the correct attitude towards all.

    Freud took a position that all religions were based on the delusion of a promise of salvation. Therefore he considered religions as a drug, especially when used as a way to avoid the ordinariness of life and the challenges of knowing the darker side of one’s actions. His ideas set up a polarization. Needed or not this polarity still exists and can be summed up by saying if you can not prove it then it’s a belief and belongs in the unscientific camp. Psychiatry has long had ways of understanding man’s attempts to struggle with his dark side and to enhance his or her functioning in relationships. At its base psychiatry has as long of a way to go as religions in making the pathways towards more mature functioning a knowable and scientific fact. Murray Bowen, the originator of Family Systems Theory, thought there was a way to see how beliefs of all kinds functioned as gateways to change one’s life. There is no way to put a belief, be it in Jesus, God or emptiness, to a rational fact based test. But as the Dali Lama noted we can look at the behaviors generated by the energy of these beliefs. The fact that life energy may be transmitted in interpersonal relationships may be harder to measure than when this energy is transmitted into a substance like food. There are so many factors that can impact on one’s relationships that they are harder to measure. We may know and or believe that motivation and perception are the keys to being able to experience and to stay in a state of loving kindness, but how do we measure this? Humans and the human brain are non linear systems, which refuse to be controlled by the laws of cause and effect. Francisco J. Varela, Ethical Know-How: Action Wisdom and Cognition, was one of the early founders of the Mind Life Institute. He was also one of the earliest neurobiologist to gives us profound evidence of the lack of causal relationships in network driven closed loop systems. There is no A in and B out in the perceptual system. Humans are also not A in and B out systems. We are non linear systems. Changes occur in very unpredictable ways. The end result of altering behavior can still be measured as a flow towards more maturity or better heath or more acceptances of what is. It is the central nervous system which regulates our ability to pay attention and to self regulate. In the book Personal Transformation: An Executive’s Experience of Grief, Loss and Renewal by Kiril Sokoloff describes how both the relationship with the Dali Lama and the grounded ideas of Buddhism enabled a complete transformation and relief from suffering in one man’s life. This family story is a perfect example of emotional blindness in family dynamics. My heart went out to him, as he described not knowing how fusion between two people works in intense relationships. People do things out of love that ends up with one person becoming erased or divorced. Clearly we are a network of interconnected beings and when we get over controlled, confused or cut off, troubles magnify in the brain and in our lives. The inability to separate out a self when someone we “love” makes an incredulous demand on us, leads to a dark and confused road. To see this and know what to do, I think is one of the ways Bowen Family System Theory connects with Buddhism.

    There is a beautiful piece on Swarm behavior in July 2007’s National Geographic. http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0707/feature5/

    How do we explain, then, the success of Earth’s 12,000 or so known ant species? They must have learned something in 140 million years.

    “Ants aren’t smart,” Gordon says. “Ant colonies are.” A colony can solve problems unthinkable for individual ants, such as finding the shortest path to the best food source, allocating workers to different tasks, or defending a territory from neighbors. As individuals, ants might be tiny dummies, but as colonies they respond quickly and effectively to their environment. They do it with something called swarm intelligence.

    The authors depict how easy it is to get caught up in signals from local interactions. It is a beautiful adaptation for bees, birds and even locust when they are really hungry. But in some case becoming part of the swarm is very dangerous to our heath.

    A group won’t be smart if its members imitate one another, slavishly follow fads, or wait for someone to tell them what to do. When a group is being intelligent, whether it’s made up of ants or attorneys, it relies on its members to do their own part. For those of us who sometimes wonder if it’s really worth recycling that extra bottle to lighten our impact on the planet, the bottom line is that our actions matter, even if we don’t see how. The Lemmings are good example of how local signals build and result in destruction, as are stock market crashes. When one person can separate out and be different, then the love and even the wisdom of the crowd are much likely to predominate. We also know that mediation and prayers have enabled people to be focused on organizing their mental energy to be more autonomous and responsible and that this has a tremendous impact on one’s health. Those who are able to self regulate live in a world with less anxiety and blame. Some people have describe feeling great compassion or profound love, which has enabled them to find a deep way to connect with others as who they are, and to stand apart from the confusing signals of others.

    There are many new ways of knowing that science has brought into awareness, which deeply connect with ancient Buddhist texts.

    There are also many areas of investigation which can enable people to use a compass that guides the individual to a healthy road. One is the use of Neurofeedback to increase the ability to both pay attention and to become profoundly relaxed.

    More of this kind of technological inventiveness will be coming your way. I think scientific research will enable us to find many roads which can enhance our strengths and alerts us to our human weakness.

    Here is a short summery of my overly brief and somewhat humorous thoughts on the field of mental heath. The Four States of Revolution within Mental Health and Hopes for the Future 1- Freud unearthed the feeling system. There is not much left of repression, after the internet and the media in general. People are still addicted to keeping secrets and unaware of forces impinging on them in all groups. People still learn from dreams. (12 years to do a psychoanalytic stint or a life time.) 2 – The interpersonal family interactions over the generations, Bowen family theory, has used the intellect and cognitive reframing if you will, to enable people to function better, make more authentic contact with others by being less cut off over the generations. People talk biology but are still blind to the deeper process in the hive or the swarms or the group. (6 to 9 years for serious students of the family as a system or a life time.) 3 – Drugs have been the answer to serious symptoms for almost sixty years. Food has been ignored as way to alter one’s health status. Talking and altering relationships has not been able to address problems deep in the CNS. 4 – Hope for the future take mental heath back to contemplative practice:The useful direction of metal energy can be enhanced by 1) greater ability to be present in life and 2) the ability to see the consequences of what we do, be it eating or relating.

    Neurofeedback and mediation offer transformational possibilities as they both alter the functioning of the central nervous system. The discipline of training enables the CNS to reorganize. Specific types of Neurofeedback such as www.zengar.com

    target the process of giving the brain itself adequate feedback on the current state of the brain. Any new product that offers greater ability to be aware will run up against the automatic resistance in the brain. Clearly the group process in society can enhance or inhibit awareness. All each of can do is move in the direction of compassion. It begins with the self, radiates out to the family, to the community and then to the planet and is always in the empty universe.

    Facts and Fun

    fall-and-puppy-005.jpgWeblog Weblog 62 Facts and Fun May 3, 2007

    “How did I come to know what I know about the world and myself? What ought I to know? What would I like to know that I don’t know? If I want to know about this or that, where can I get the clearest, best and latest information? And where did these other people about me get their ideas about things, which are sometimes so different from mine?” H.G. Wells

    I found this quote on one of favorite paces to go for ideas and opinions. At the EDGE, John Brockman and company go for the deep and thoughtful questions and ideas which bother some of the better thinkers of our age. http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge208.html In this piece, WHO SAYS WE KNOW: On the New Politics of Knowledge, Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia, considers the ins and outs of our ability to acquire useful and truthful knowledge. Sanger raises the personal question of how each of us knows who we are and in addition who are those around us? Then there are more questions about facts. Like how do we find and rate content? How do we find out about products, places, and people? The big one has to be how do we know about ourselves and decide how to use this information. These are not easy questions to answer but ones that have deep implications for our future. It is easy to pick up ideas as truth. My grandchildren often tell me phantasmagoric things that they truly believe. We can see the confusion between facts and different slices of fantasy everywhere. I use to believe everything I read and now I belive everything I click on. Most of it may be gossip but its exciting and therefore its carried around as facts. I do it because I am human, and sometimes I forget about the rigor of logic and putting facts in the well researched only pile.

    At http://www.wikipedia.org/alone there are millions of articles. How do any of us weed out the facts? Test any of the articles and look for facts. If you come up short you can go through the challenging process of submitting edit corrections on all the subjective content. I noted that the piece on Dr. Bowen has more than one error but who among us has the time to fix them? Well, after complaining to others ( which is immature) I made one attempt. See- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Bowen#History I did not want to argue with all of the ideas, so I noted that Dr. Bowen wrote down the facts of his life as he saw them. I also said that there are many papers and audio plus video tapes available at the National Library of Medicine and at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. Will it do any good? Perhaps! It was well worth the effort. People will have various interpretations of Dr. Bowen’s life and motives. My effort can not alter that fact. It is still worth while to let Dr. Bowen speak for himself. His vita was written in 1990 about ten months before he died. You can find it under Dr. Bowen on this site.

    People know, our brains love subjectivity and find facts dull. Now knowing this we can begin any effort to “know” with great respect for facts and a great respect for the difficulty of communicating ideas.

    One personal exercise in this area is to write up your own story. It is good to do it before someone else does it for you. I have just finished redoing my effort see About Andrea


    Hope you too are having fun being factual.



    Weblog 61 April 6, 2007


    The book is done! The book is done! Yes, I am happy but not celebrating until it is sold. Next will be the excitement of the chase—how to find a publisher. No matter the outcome, all in all I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to think and write. Deb Schwab, my editor, has to go over all 400 pages one more time. Brave woman! I am grateful to her and to Judy Ball. They are two thoughtful women willing and able to help edit all the ideas I have into a readable book.

    In the last four months the three of us have been working on the last chapter, part of which you will find below. Called “The Forest and the Trees,” this chapter introduces you to an Organizational Compass. Click [here] If you want to read more.

    Before I introduce you to my last chapter I would like to say that it was written as I thought about and prepared for the impending death of Jacques Mauboussin, my son in law’s father, who died on March 11th. I first met Jacques in 1989 when he was the father of the groom. Even then I was struck by how genuinely kind and thoughtful he was, both to his wife and to his family. I knew my daughter was fortunate to be marrying into such a family. I enjoyed talking to him about what new car I should buy. (He owned an extremely well organized car dealership). When I traded in my old car for a new one, he sold my old one to a person who worked for him. Over time Jacques would let me know how my old van was doing. I love that kind of respect for past affiliations.

    Overall the feeling that I got from his family and friends was that he made a difference in people’s lives just by his way of being there consistently for each person. Jacques had the rare ability to let important people be mostly free so that each could find his or her own way.

    I had fun trying to ask him about his life without bugging him. Eventually he and his wife recorded their story, which is a fabulous gift for the next generations. When he died there was no big emotional upheaval but rather a great respect for a profound transition. Jacques seemed very happy to have lived his life the way he had, and was pleased to tell his view of things, but he did not impose his views on others. How fortunate for him and for us. He will be missed and be an inspiration.

    Welcome to IdeasToAction Blog!

    Welcome to this new and updatable site.

    This site provides a beginning road map to theory as I understand it. Family Systems Theory developed by Murray Bowen, M.D., has been a guide to understanding human behavior and of course my own functioning.

    I think theory gives us a common sense look at our families and other organizations. In addition it can enable motivated individuals to alter their functioning in these emotional and very social systems.

    In the early 1950’s Dr. Murray Bowen, a psychiatrist, developed Family Systems Theory as an outgrowth of his research at the National Institutes of Health.

    I am one of the “second generation family researchers” who has benefited from his ideas and I now offer an introduction to a few theory-derived principles.

    First time visitors may wish to read these links:

    Other links can be found using the menu to the left. Please contact me at arms711@aol.com with any thoughts and questions!

    – Andrea Maloney-Schara, LCSWA