When working with families we look to Murray Bowen's eight concepts of emotional interdependence when working with families. Helping a family learn how their emotional system can create havoc in their work, social, and family systems.
Intergenerational Family sessions can begin with a current client wanting to work through issues with immediate family members, and then working outward to extended family members to resolve patterns of abuse, mental health issues, and substance abuse. Sessions usually begin with the genogram of the family history as a visual for the family to remain focused on the issues and not blame each other for the patterns.
A few of the concepts we find in most families are Triangulation, Differentiation of Self, Emotional Projection, and Emotional Cutoff.
Triangulation happens when there is an emotional relationship with 3 people. Triangles usually have two sides in harmony and one side in conflict. Once there is a change of emotion, the sides may rotate, thus a person may feel rejected, when prior to the rotation they were in harmony.
Differentiation of Self is the process of freeing yourself from your family system to define yourself. Which means having your own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and values from your family, and yet still be emotionally connected to them. It also means to be able to calmly reflect on conflict, take responsibility for your role, and create a different response for next time.
Emotional Projection happens when family members take their emotions, thoughts, or feelings, and project them onto the other family members. This can impair functioning and increase vulnerability to clinical symptoms.
Emotional cut-off describes people who have cut themselves out of family relationships in order to not have to deal with the emotions associated with family issues.