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Current Issue
Volume 14, Number 1


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FROM THE EDITOR
Robert J. Noone, PhD


ARTICLES
Journal articles reflect natural systems thinking or are relevant to it. These may include concept papers as well as research studies.

Collective Behavior in Natural Systems
LeAnn Howard, MSW, MA

Over the past twenty years, researchers in many branches of biology have been engaged in the study of collective behavior. The idea that interaction networks are fundamental to all levels of life process and across a broad array of species has been explored in many disciplines.

Research include studies of microbial systems, cell decision making, neural circuits, metabolism, perception, animal behavior, and developmental processes. These studies commonly ask, What is the relationship between the individual and the group? Observational research of the family collective—the emotional system of the family—has not yet gained formal acceptance as a discipline of the natural sciences. This article will cite research on collective behavior from cells to families and explore the potential for a more integrated theory of life processes with the inclusion of Bowen theory. This brief paper will seek to be speculative and explorative in order to further the conversation regarding diverse collective systems across all of life.

The Social Hierarchy: Biology, History, and Emotional Process
Stephanie Ferrera, MSW

On the premise that hierarchical behavior is instinctual in many species, including the human, the author explores the biological roots of the social hierarchy, the contexts in which it has evolved, the reciprocal nature of dominant-subordinate relations, and the range of variation from despotic societies to more egalitarian societies. Turning to the human case, a brief summary of history traces a trajectory from early forager societies, who discouraged “upstartism,” to the more stratified way of life that emerged with agriculture. As economies grew larger and more specialized, it became possible for a small minority, mostly men, to gain control over resources and governance of the majority of people, including women. Changes in the world in the past two centuries include discovery and use of fossil fuels as a main source of energy, the industrial revolution, accelerated population, and economic growth. This has brought social, economic, and political movement toward equality and human rights, along with strong resistance to such changes.

Bowen theory offers a unique way of understanding hierarchical behavior. As part of the emotional system in the family and in society, this behavior is guided by a balance of instinct and reason. The concept of differentiation of self can be taken as a guide for maximizing the adaptive value of hierarchy by observing and managing one’s own instincts and behavior.

BRIEF REPORT
Brief Reports present important ideas in development and promising research in early stages.

Defining a Self As a Therapist
Fran Ackerman, MSW

Defining a self, which is fundamental to the process of differentiation, can be addressed in many contexts. Defining oneself as a therapist requires observing one’s feelings and behavior and clarifying one’s thinking regarding one’s clients as well as the therapeutic process. Optimally, a clinician’s relationship to clients combines emotional neutrality and a sense of limited connection. However, given the fact that humans may automatically respond emotionally to one another, maintaining neutrality consistently can be challenging. Using the subjective data provided by self-report, the author uses her own clinical cases to understand the variation in her reactivity and to work at defining herself as a therapist.

INTERNATIONAL REPORT
Report On The 2nd International Conference on Bowen Family Systems Theory: Process, Organization, and Efforts to be Guided by Bowen Theory
Peggy Chan, MEd, RSW
Introduction by: Anne S. McKnight, MSW, EdD

Participants new to Bowen theory, as well as life-long learners, gathered at Hong Kong Polytechnic University from May 17-19, 2018 for the 2nd International Conference on Bowen Theory. They heard keynote speakers, theory presentations, and talks on the application of Bowen theory to clinical work, faith communities, businesses, and organizations. A large number of social service agencies as well as business groups in Hong Kong supported and attended the conference.

This conference was a historic meeting for those interested in Bowen theory from around the world for a number of reasons. The first international conference based in Asia, it stimulated interest and engagement with theory by many participants who had not previously had the opportunity to hear Bowen theory presented and discussed. Many of the lectures and discussions were led by the leaders of Bowen centers in the United States and Canada who made it a special priority to come to the conference to give basic lectures on Bowen theory, workshops on the application of family systems ideas, and more in-depth theoretical programs.


FACULTY CASE CONFERENCE
Presentation of a faculty clinical case and discussion with faculty of the Bowen Center.

Work on Differentiation of Self in the Family of Origin and Its Impact on Leadership Effectiveness
Stan Proffitt, BS

Working toward increased awareness of emotional and relationship patterns that regulate anxiety and tension in one’s family of origin, combined with an effort to be a more defined self in the family, can produce shifts in leadership functioning that focusing on leadership alone cannot produce. Increased awareness of how the patterns in one’s family of origin influence one’s behavior in leadership roles brings one’s own contribution to a leader’s most pressing challenges into greater focus.

This case presentation explores the ways in which family patterns of distance, marked by a strong orientation toward secrecy and privacy, have influenced a high-level executive’s behavior at work. Operating out of a “privacy mindset” at work, the executive was often frustrated by the apparent lack of understanding others on his team had regarding his thinking, direction, and expectations. Gaining insight into his own family history helped the executive reduce blame and judgment of others and take greater responsibility for defining self to others in both his family and the organization which he leads.

BOOK REVIEW
Reviews on books relevant to Bowen theory and its many applications.

Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind
by Kevin N. Leland
Reviewed by: Katharine Gratwick Baker, PhD

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