ABOUT THE CONFERENCE
Murray Bowen saw the human need for belonging and for group acceptance as having its origins deep in the evolution of the social species where individuals depend on each other in family-like units with emotional attachments. “Togetherness” is the term Bowen used to refer to this fundamental and, he believed, instinctive “force” of nature. Counterbalancing this drive is the instinctive force for individuality or differentiation. The process of differentiation counters group emotional pressures that compromise individuals. In the long term, this process benefits everyone in the family.
For Self and For Family will focus on the family system as an emotional system that influences the individual adaptiveness of its members. Using presentations from research, clinical practice, and long term efforts in “one’s own family,” this conference will highlight current thinking about the family system and look at the process of differentiation and its implications for improving survival, rearing of young, and success for self and for family in life.
Welcome and Introduction
The Differentiation-Togetherness Concept of Counterbalancing Life Forces - Michael E. Kerr, MD
People increase their basic levels of self in incremental steps over many years. As Murray Bowen said, “Differentiation is a way of thinking that translates into a way of being.” It is changing the way of thinking that takes time, persistence, and discipline.
Bowen’s Efforts to Differentiate a Self in His Family, Profession, and Work Systems - Peter Titelman, PhD
This presentation describes how Murray Bowen lived his concept of differentiation of self in his family, his profession, and his work systems. This was an intentional process that included defining himself in those three spheres.
Perspectives on Variation in Grief Reactions: Differentiation of Self in the Process of Death and Dying - Anne S. McKnight, EdD
Individual thinkers who have studied grief such as Freud, Panksepp, and Bonanno have recognized a variation in grief responses with some individuals never recovering from their loss. Their observations are contrasted to Bowen in which an individual’s grief reaction is seen as the outcome of emotional functioning of the family over generations.
Nonhuman Primate Models of Family Systems - Charles T. Snowdon, PhD
Cooperatively breeding primates where fathers and other family members collaborate in rearing offspring provide an excellent nonhuman model of family systems. Over 35 years of research with marmosets and tamarins stresses the importance of a strong relationship between mates as a foundation of paternal care, how other group members are recruited and rewarded for helping to care for infants, the physiological changes that develop in nonmaternal caregivers to promote good parenting and the benefits to infants from cooperative childcare. This work is relevant to those engaged in improving human family life.
Symbiosis and Differentiation of Self - Robert J. Noone, PhD
New knowledge developing in neuroscience and epigenetics sheds light on how the differentiation of the intellectual system might be shaped by the family emotional system over the course of development and over multiple generations.
Changes in Physiology and Functioning Associated with Working on Differentiation in One’s Family - Victoria Harrison, MA
This report on a two-year study of changes in physiological reactivity and functioning that accompany steps toward differentiation of self for volunteers from the Bowen Center Postgraduate Program illustrate differences in degrees of change, examine factors that constrain change, and describe efforts to “beat the dealer.”
Differentiation of Self in Regressing Systems - Stephanie J. Ferrera, MSW
Thinking independently and acting on principle becomes more difficult as togetherness pressure increases with emotional regression. Despite the difficulties, there are always some individuals with the courage and conviction to speak and act for more responsible courses of action.
Understanding Autonomic Physiology and Relationship Processes in High-Risk Families - Elizabeth A. Skowron, PhD
Bowen theory-informed research seeks to understand patterns of autonomic physiological responding that support mature parenting and healthy self-regulation in children. Given that impairments in self-regulation are a significant contributing factor for problems in family system functioning, our research has sought to clarify the nature of self-regulatory deficits associated with maladaptive parenting that may inform effective family interventions.
Estimating Levels of Differentiation - Randall T. Frost, MDiv
The scale of differentiation uses a composite of variables to profile variation in lifestyle at different levels of differentiation. The variation in lifestyle reflects variation in the degree of unresolved emotional attachment to families of origin.
Differentiation and Remarriage - Anthony Wilgus, MA, MSW
Bowen theory affords another way to conceptualize the success or failure of marriage after death or divorce. It is the thesis of this presentation that a long-term effort toward differentiating a self in the family relationship system can have a beneficial impact on remarriage.
Territorial Behavior: “I Always Thought I Was Mom’s Favorite Child” - Edward W. Beal, MD
Territorial behavior can be an effective measurement for understanding the family emotional system. The presentation demonstrates the ideas of multigenerational emotional process and differentiation of self as observed and measured through territorial behavior of family members reacting to events and as a part of theory.
Presentation of the Caskie Research Award
In Search of Self - Daniel V. Papero, PhD, MSSW
This talk will describe my efforts to bring some knowledge and order to the question of how differentiation of self develops within the individual and the relationship conditions that foster such development. By inference, consequently, it is possible to discuss relationship contexts that foster or block the development of a differentiated self.
Differentiation of Self for the Coach During Long-Term Work with a Client - Katharine G. Baker, PhD
This paper describes the coach’s work on differentiation of self during a long-term coaching process in which there were many areas of experiential overlap between her and her client.
A Continuum of Child Focus in the Parents after Their Adolescent’s Mental Health Treatment - Jennifer A. Brown, MSW, PhD Candidate
This paper explores possible indicators of improvement in functional differentiation of self for parents who have had an adolescent in a mental health treatment program in Sydney, Australia.