As we approach the new year, I am cleaning out my old day planner and starting a new one (yes, I am old school!) and found a sheet of paper from some notes I took at one of my Bowen family systems consultation groups this past year. The note is short, but sweet, and contains the gist of Bowen’s ideas on cultivating healthy relationships, and I thought I would share them here:
1. Do not attack
2. Do not withdraw
3. Do not defend
4. Stay connected
5. Take responsibility
All of these are easier said than done, of course. One good way to begin to begin to cultivate these abilities is to practice noticing your own signs of emotional reactivity, the reactions that lead you to attack, withdraw, or defend in relationships. What are the signs that you are shutting down or beginning to move into self-protection mode? It is usually easier to notice how it feels to shut down first, and then try not to do that, than it is to try and stay open. However, with practice, eventually you can begin to understand how it feels to remain open – to stay connected, to be present, and to take responsibility for your self, your actions, your values, etc.
See if you can use the experiences in your intimate relationships as opportunities to observe yourself, and to begin to cultivate these skills.
Thanks for reading! Happy New Year!