According to Richard Charles (2001) “the effectiveness of family systems theory rests not much on empirical research but on clinical reports of positive treatment outcomes, the personal benefits experienced by the families that underwent this kind of treatment, and the elegance of Bowen’s theory” (p. 279). Bowen’s family systems theory views the family as an emotional unit and is a theory of human behavior. Systems thinking are used to describe the complex interactions in the unit. However, the client’s ability to differentiate himself/herself from the family of origin is the basis for Bowen’s family systems theory. In addition, the primary focus for growth within the emotional system is differentiation of self. Differentiation of self will be explored as well as how it relates to a church congregation.
Furthermore, “the central premise of this theory is that one must resolve all emotional issues with the family of origin, rather than reject reactively or accept passively that family, before one can become a mature and healthy individual” (Charles, 2001, p. 280). Bowen believed that the change in the self occurred through the change in relationships with others, so he encouraged the client to reconnect with the nuclear family members and resolve all emotional issues with them. This is because Bowen believed that unresolved conflicts with the family of origin would catch up with the client and affect his or her present relationships. Also, conflicts do not exist in the person, but in the family system. The necessary changes must take place in the self as well as in the larger system.
Meanwhile, Bowen described the differentiation of self as the ability of a person to separate physically and emotionally from their family of origin, as well as achieving emotional maturity and independence without losing the ability to connect emotional with others (Charles, 2011). “An individual is undifferentiated when his emotional needs and insecurity force him to give up or not develop his individuality so as to preserve or assure love and acceptance from others” (p. 281). According to Nancy Murdock and Paul Gore (2004) the capacity to handle life stress is an important aspect of differentiation of self. As a result of the well-documented associations among stress, physical health and psychological functioning this aspect of differentiation is potentially important. Likewise, a differentiated individual is free to engage in close relationships as well as to pursue meaningful goals, far more secure about goals, and more likely to achieve success in every aspect of life. Also, differentiation can be defined as the ability to separate feeling from thinking. Undifferentiated individuals can hardly distinguish feelings from thoughts. For example, they say what they feel when asked what they think. In contrast,
differentiated individuals have the ability to separate feeling from thinking by thinking things
through, making up mind about beliefs and...