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video previews what you'll read in this article.
The video says the number of relationships in any family is
N (the number or members) x (N-1) divided by 10. It should
be "divided by 2: N x (N-1) / 2.
This is one of a series of articles on evolving and
families (Lesson 5). The series exists because the wide
range of current social problems suggests that
most families don't
fill the primary needs of (nurture) their members very well.That suggests the epidemic
effects of the lethal [wounds + unawareness]
proposed in this nonprofit Web site.
This article offers...
why most people should
read this article
overview of family
how to use
family-systems concepts to assess family
purpose - every
family exists for several reasons:
The core reason is to
nurture, i.e. to fill the current and
long-term needs of each family members. A
secondary reason is to contribute to the larger society
as a consumer and participant;
people - living and
dead kids, adults, and fetuses; living together or
spread out across the globe; and another system element is...
the people: genetic or legal, weak to strong (bonds), chaotic to stable, nurturing to depleting,
platonic to sexual, one-way to mutual, and minor to
A key aspect of any human relationship is the
effectiveness of communication.
And another element is...
family roles and role-titles
- father / mother / daughter / son / sibling / uncle /
aunt / cousin / grandparent / sister / brother /
in-'law, etc. Each role-title stands for a set of
responsibilities and "normal" behaviors - e.g. "a mother"
traditionally bears and raises
children and manages the home; and a "father"
co-creates children, makes money, and "works around
the house." Family roles are responsibilities,
not people. They can be assumed or stated, and usually occur in pairs: parent-child,
husband-wife, brother-sister, cousin-cousin, etc.
More elements of
every family system:
family rules define how each
role-holder is "supposed to" act in various situations.
Family rules are implied or declared shoulds, musts,
have-to's, will (nots), ought-to's, can'ts, etc. Family rules can be
unspoken or spoken, clear to vague; rigid to flexible; helpful to stressful,
consistent to inconsistent, accepted to conflictual, and
effective to ineffective.
have little value unless there are clear, realistic consequences for breaking them.
Each family role usually comes with implied or stated
rules - e.g. "This is how teen-aged nephews in our
family are 'supposed to' behave with other members at holiday
implemented rules promote family order, security, and harmony.
tangible and invisible things that separate one person,
subsystem, or family from another. Boundaries
can be spoken, assumed, or implied; weak or strong; rigid or flexible; open
closed; stable or unstable; and helpful to toxic.
most family systems have...
- groups of members with their own special roles, rules,
boundaries, and alliances, Typical subsystems include
living and dead grandparents, parenting adults;
siblings,; relatives, and inlaws. Subsystems can be
detached or bonded, harmonious to conflictual, and
dominant to dominated. And a final element is...
e.g. family names, values, identity, priorities, human
and physical assets, developmental stage, communication
styles, ethnicity, religion, history, nurturance level,
location, type (rural / suburban / urban), and status (growing, stuck, or
Every family system affects - and is affected by - larger
environmental and social systems. These
(systems of systems) can nourish or stress any family
system - like yours.
A growing number of mental-health professionals propose that
are like an internal-family system of dynamic
"subselves" or "parts." They have the same elements as physical
families, and range from functional (fulfilling their
group purposes) to dysfunctional.
Have you ever thought of your family as a dynamic set of
elements like these? Do you agree that most adults and all
kids are unaware of this mosaic and how to use it to
get their needs met? Here are some options for doing that:
How to Use Family-system Concepts
Like your family, vehicles are complex systems of subsystems. When
all subsystems function the way they were designed to, your vehicle
"works" (provides safe, dependable transportation). When your
vehicle "doesn't work," you take it to a mechanic who understands...
all the subsystems (he engine, electrical, lubrication,
fuel, exhaust, drive
train, brakes, diagnostic subsystems, etc. And vehicle mechanics understand...
subsystems function and
interact. Sometimes a subsystem malfunctions, sometimes they interact poorly, and sometimes both.
Family-systems therapists work the same way. They collect diagnostic
information from initial interviews with family members to identify
which family elements and subsystems (above) aren't "working right" Then through
strategic interventions (suggestions, education, confrontations, and referrals), therapists seek to restore impaired family subsystems
to healthy functioning so the whole family system "works"
(consistently nourishes, protects, and supports all members).
Note that family-life educators (CFLEs),
marital and individual counselors, and life-coaches provide
information and encouragement, but usually aren't trained to provide
corrective systemic interventions.
36 years' experience as a family-systems therapist, here is a
framework you can use to identify family-system problems - within limits. You can also use this
framework with a professional therapist, like a road map.
The goal here is
toidentify system elements (above) that aren't "working
well." Use steps
like theseafter studying this
to see if your
your first priority. Otherwise, expect ineffective results
from these options. Recall: underlined links
will take you to another page, so wait to click them until
you're done reading this article.
2) Refresh yourself on...
including the traits of high-nurturance families, and...
family subsystem (e.g. spouses,
siblings, parents-kids, grandparent-grown child, etc),
several related homes - part or all of someone's
4) Define which
people and pets are included on this
system. Note the option of including any distant, unborn, inactive (passive), and dead family members, and key supporters, who
influence your members "significantly." Option - make a
visual map ("genogram") of the
members of this system.
the leader/s of this system are - i.e. the
people who most influence the other members'
wholistic health. They may influence by being the
most needy or the most assertive or aggressive. Be
wounded adults who have abdicated
household or family leadership to a child, relative,
whether the system leader/s are significantly
wounded, and if so, whether they're in
If not, see this
when you finish.
assess whether the leader/s are each
If not, invite them to invest time and effort
in this self-improvement
for the sake of the family - specially any minor
kids. If the leader/s are knowledgeable, are
they motivating other members to learn at least
Lessons 1 thru 6 or 7?
Note - most
(or all?) family-system problems are caused by wounded, uniformed leader/s,
and perhaps incomplete grief.
Any other problems are probably symptoms of these.
Consider making a structural map
of the family system as a visual reference tool for the
Define the main responsibilities (roles)
of each person in
this system, according to (a) society (traditionally,
'mothers' are supposed to...") and (b) the members of
this system. Interview members to evaluate
whether there is any significant role confusion or conflict.
See this for options
after you finish here.
6) Evaluate the relationships between each pair of
family members. Study these Q&A items
and then use these factors:
the degree of
bonding: _ none > weak > moderate > strong; and _ one-way
relationship quality for each person: nurturing > neutral
> stressful (toxic);
of communication between each pair in calm and
conflictual times: consistently effective to
consistently ineffective. (Lesson 2 shows how to
members make the key rules and consequences that affect this family system
(or don't) - e.g. rules about priorities, food, shelter, asset
management, responsibilities (roles), debts, health,
membership, problem-solving, grieving, worship, time
boundaries, activities, conflict resolution, socializing, etc.
whether family members
understand the main rules, and accept how and when
the rules are made (e.g. democratically, dictated,
implied, before or after the fact, etc.) And
how this family system
resolves disputes about rules and consequences -
effectively or not, promptly or not?
around this system, and (b) between people and subselves within the
no boundaries (e.g. no
appropriate marital or personal privacy);
("Unbelievers are not welcome in our home!")
boundary conflicts ("I have
the right to close my door!" "No you don't!"),
boundary violations ("I'm
gonna read your email whether you like it or not!")
ineffective or inappropriate
consequences of boundary violations.
significant family-system boundary problems are
sure symptoms of family-adult wounds and unawareness
(#1 above). For options on resolving such problems,
see this after you
9) Nurturance level - Based on these 8
factors, estimate the nurturance level of this family system
- Low > medium > high, or 1 to 10. For perspective, review
these traits of a functional
family or group.
+ + +
Pause, breathe, and reflect: we've just summarized
nine broad ways of using family-systems concepts to help
identify "problems" in and between your family members
and homes. One reason
(some) stressed people hire professional counselors is
because they aren't aware of these basic systemic concepts or how to use
them, Recall that these concepts can apply to one person (internal
family systems of
subselves), two people (mates, parent-child, sib-sib,
etc), or all people in a nuclear or extended family. The can
also apply to other human groups.
These broad options are not exhaustive. Professional
family-system therapists have other options and
techniques not included above. See these
relationship-assessment options to amplify those above.
you identify systemic problems (i.e. with roles,
rules, boundaries, communication, values, relationships,
and/or membership), follow the underlined links above, and use
these options to
reduce or resolve the problems one or two at a time. Help
everyone learn and stay aware of the difference between
surface, intermediate, and primary
Solve the latter or the symptoms will return.
Take stock of
where you stand with these family-system concepts: A = "I agree,"
D = "I disagree," and ? = "I'm not sure" or "It depends on ___
I can answer most of the
items on these
quizzes now. (A D ?)
partner (if any) and I each can now describe how to use these
family-system concepts to help us diagnose any
problems that occurs in or between our
(A D ?)
I want to invite our other family adults
and older kids to learn _ these
family-system ideas and _ how to use them to help us resolve our
inevitable role and relationship problems. (A D ?)
proposes that average adults
can use family-systems principles to help manage their
families. It describes...
the components of any system:
elements + rules + boundaries + properties.
the elements and some properties of
systems - including "inner-family" systems of personality subselves, and
average family adults and supporters can use family-system concepts and
terms to help break complex family role and relationship problems into smaller, more
Learning to do this together can help family members reduce the
unawareness that stresses most persons, families and relationships.
Teaching kids how to use systems concepts is a priceless life-long