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The book is divided into four sections. Section one deals with Family
theory, specifically how it differs from the individual model of therapy
which takes a linear, cause-effect approach. Section two explores the
families within the congregation covering marital bonds, when parent becomes
child and looks at a family approach to life-cycle ceremonies. In section
three, his focus turns to the Congregation as a Family System where he
covers organizational issues, leadership and the self, and beginning and
terminating congregational relationships. Finally Friedman goes into the
personal families of the Clergy focusing on the conflicts and traps of
the immediate family and the potential for salvation within the extended
All that he talks about can be applied to a systemic
look at issues of leadership within a corporation as well. Friedman points
out that, "Family Therapy suggests that leadership is itself a therapeutic
modality. What is vital to changing any kind of family in not knowledge
of technique or pathology, but rather the capacity of the family leader
to define his or her own goals and values, while trying to maintain a
non-anxious presence within the system." (p. 2-3) In my experience
as an organizational development trainer and consultant, one of the biggest
problems I see inside corporate structures is the overemphasis on task
("getting the job done") with little regard to process. Too
often, there is a systems approach to the manufacturing processes, but
a linear, cause-effect approach to the human equation. That, Friedman
would say is the first issue to be addressed when problems surface. Another
issue I have observed is top managers, who create a highly "anxious
presence" amongst their staff rather than a "non-anxious"
one and the enormous negative ramifications of that alone on the system.
Family Systems Theory consists of five core basic concepts
which distinguish the family model from the individual model. They are:
- The identified patient: according to family systems,
the "identified patient is not "sick" but simply the
one in whom the family's stress or pathology has surfaced. (p.
19) Crises are thought of as opportunities to bring change to the whole
emotional system so that everyone benefits and grows personally.
- The concept of homeostasis (balance): "Homeostasis
is the tendency of any set of relationships to strive perpetually, in
self-corrective ways, to preserve the organizing principles of its existence.
The concept of homeostasis brings out the resistance families have to
change. It guides in the creation of strategies for change. And it helps
develop criteria for distinguishing real change from the recycling of
a symptom. (p. 23)
In work systems, the stabilizing effect of an identified patient and
the resistance from the togetherness at all costs help explain why even
the most ruthless corporations often will tolerate and adapt to trouble-making
complainers and downright incompetents, whereas the creative thinker
who disturbs the balance of things will be ignored, if not let go. Such
homeostatically induced sabotage is a major obstacle to change in any
emotional system, family or congregation." (p. 25)
- Differentiation of self: "Differentiation means
the capacity of a family member to define his or her own life's
goals and values apart from surrounding pressures, to say "I"
when others are demanding "you" and "we". It
includes the capacity to maintain a (relatively) non-anxious presence
in the midst of anxious systems, to take maximum responsibility for
one's own destiny and emotional being. It can be measured somewhat
by one's ability to respond when confronted with crisis. According
to Murray Bowen from Georgetown Medical School, a key variable in the
degree to which any family can change fundamentally is the amount of
self-differentiation that existed in previous generations in the extended
families of both partners.
The meaning of the book title, Generation to Generation, for
Friedman is captured in this concept. There is a scale of differentiation
which develops. Children of each generation tend to be a bit less mature
than the previous generation and tend to marry partners with similar
maturity levels. Families with individuals toward the bottom of the
scale would be far less equipped to deal with crisis, and would respond
more quickly to redress the balance if the homeostasis of the family
were disturbed, particularly if the disturbance were caused by another
member to achieve a higher level of differentiation (maturity). (p.
I have a clear memory of taking a stand when I was 17 years old with
my mother and sister who used to be able to control me with a look.
One day, I decided I would not be their puppet anymore. A few weeks
later, strongly holding my own, my mother and sister said to me one
day, "You're changing, Cathy, and we don't like it."
I replied, "That's most interesting because I feel happier
than I can ever remember feeling and have no intentions of going back
to the "old me" so get used to the "new me".
I have also experienced both the challenges of homeostasis and differentiation
in my marriage and in my professional work.
- Extended family field: Extended family includes our
family of origin, our original nuclear family (parents and siblings)
plus our other relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)
"Gaining a better understanding of the emotional processes still
at work with regard to our family of origin, and modifying our response
to them, can aid significantly in the resolution of emotional problems
in our immediate family or of leadership problems..." (p.
31) A problem with one part of the machine will impact all other parts.
Sometimes by focusing on the apparent problem ("identified patient"),
we miss out on finding the key. Edgar Schein, Peter Senge and the Learning
Organization theorists suggest asking a repetitive series of questions
that are focused on "Why?" or "Then what..."
to get at the source of problems or to bring out key patterns in a situation
that need attention. Answering one question brings up another until
finally patterns begin to emerge and the "REAL" not "Perceived"
- Emotional triangles: An emotional triangle is formed
by any three persons or issues. The basic law of emotional triangles
is that when any two parts of a system become uncomfortable with one
another, they will "triangle in" or focus upon a third person,
or issue, as a way of stabilizing their own relationship with one another.
Typical emotional triangles found in families are mother-father-child;
a parent and any two children; a parent, his or her child, and his or
her own parents. A work system triangle is any position of responsibility,
someone you oversee, and the person who oversees you. (p. 39) This covers
the five components of family systems theory.
I want to bring this review to a close by summarizing
some of the key points Friedman makes in chapter 9 on "Leadership
and Self in a Congregational Family". Friedman says that, "The
key to successful spiritual leadership... with success understood
not only as moving people toward a goal, but also in terms of the survival
of a family (and its leader), has to do more with the leader's capacity
for self-definition than with the ability to motivate others. (p. 221)
He goes on to say that "Leadership through self-differentiation
has a significantly different effect on the paradox of resistance than
do the models of leadership through charisma or consensus. It eliminates
the leverage of the dependent; it reduces conflict of wills; and it accomplishes
these without increasing the potential for cloning." (p. 231) The
ultimate goal is for all to become self-differentiated.
"Leaders who keep on working on their own self-differentiation,
"...automatically challenge their followers to do the same and,
thus, maximize the process of self-differentiation throughout the entire
family. (p. 233)
I strive in my daily life as a leader, as a wife, as
a member of my extended family to become more self-differentiated everyday
and in doing so, hopefully help to change "history" by taking
a new fork on this generation's journey that will hopefully lead
us all to become healthy, productive, holistic self-differentiated humans!
It is a lifetime process, or perhaps several lifetimes!