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The Learning Space Blog

Posts by Andrea
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What Does It Take To Observe Self In Your Own Family

Do you find yourself wondering what makes you avoid family relationships? Do you wonder, what is going on, why is so and so upset or picking fight or will not return phone calls, etc.?  What are people trying to tell you?  What must you do to figure out relationship issues? How can I see who is influencing me and how am I influencing them?  How do any of us become more self-defined? ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Training Animals is Simple but My Family is Falling Apart

 How is it that families fall apart but dogs can be well trained?  What does the founder of 'clicker' training, an observation- based approach to shaping animal behavior using positivie reinformcement, have to say about human relationships?  Read more.     Read More

Filed under Family

The Wei of Triangles

Would it be useful to see how dominance behavior emerges in a triangle?  It is easy to see the two person social system, as above, and far more challenging to see the family as a unit where the two against one triangle emerges. Can it be that triangles are an automatic “whatchamacallit” scapegoating thing?  Read more.   Read More

Bullies, Worries – Mindsets and the Family Projection Process

Can understanding how family projection works in society and in the mental health field give us any advantage? Remember, this knowledge has been around for almost sixty years now and doesn’t seem to have been influential on the societal level. In family systems theory, each individual in the system has a mind set which in some way can inhibit or reinforce the bully’s mindset and behavior. In a ...   Read More

Navigating in Social Systems: The use of social interactions around illness and death

Adaptation and other Relationships Shifts The death or the illness of a family member are the most obvious times when families are required to change and adapt to the coming and going of its members. How the ongoing social group interacts during these periods can be subtle or dramatic. Some families pull together and can function at high levels while others fall into chaos. What is the difference ...   Read More

Societal Reaction to the Killing of Nine People in Charleston SC: Are We Blindsided by the Emotional System?

These ideas were generated by the first summer session for Navigating Systems and Murray Bowen’s Concept of Societal Regression. Each day we are bombarded by the difficulties we as a society face: random violence, wars, mass migrations, acts of terrorism, senseless murders, posturing politicians, our decreasing attention span, increases in autism, breakdowns in relationships and many other ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

If You Open Your Mind CanYou Open the Door?

A tragedy of ignorance unfolds as more evidence comes to light about the relationship between a vulnerable person and society. How much do we know about how a seemingly relatively well functioning person can become psychotic / suicidal and crash a plane into the French Alps killing150 people? How much do we see him in isolation? What are the chances that when the pilot yelled “OPEN THE DOOR!” this ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Social Pressure and Differentiation of Self

How hard is it to be who you want to be? How much do you conform to what others need or want you to be? How challenging is it to see and act when relationship pressures are intense to go along or to avoid issues? The effort to define one’s self to important others is usually a tension filled danger zone. Our near and dear can act as part of a system and resist self-definition by anyone. We are often ...   Read More

The Nuclear Family and the Rabbi

As the nuclear family begins to form, love itself makes it hard to see “reality.” One wants to spend time with the other warm and fuzzy person. It is so hard to see the beginning of the world of compromise. Hard to see how “wanting” to be with the other could be a part of impinging. Relationship pressure can be as silent as a wink, a smile, or even a sad look. We can be beaten, get sick or just make ...   Read More

What are the Costs and Benefits of Leadership Along the Border with Mexico?

Louise Rauseo & Andrea Schara

October 10, 2014, I presented at a conference in El Paso, Texas, honoring Louise Rauseo’s retirement. I have known Louse and admired her work since 1976. Her team asked me to present on my new book, Your Mindful Compass, and talk about the cost and benefits of becoming a leader in your family and in your community... Louise has a life long fascination with families who have endured emotional cut ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Decisions, Decisions - From Ants to Humans

In this blog I have tried to demonstrate one way that scientific research can enable us to consider how our families and other social system function. Traveling along the road of life even ants know when it pays to make decisions as an individual, and when it pays to follow the signals from the group. Read more.     Read More

Decoding the Family Emotional System

Learning to be a more neutral observer gives us tools to decode the family emotional system as it marches through time, encroaching on one and all. At its most pressured the family system “uses” one or two people to automatically absorb anxiety. At its best the family system allows for courageous leaders to transform the system. People CAN learn about the automatic nature of the system. In this blog ...   Read More

Is the family social system an ancient emotional system directing, influencing and or governing our behavior?

“Know Thyself” turns out to be a very difficult thing to do. A lot of pretending goes on about how we think we are and how “they” are. But truth be told, often we are floating in a sea of interactions that are hard to comprehend. Read more.   Read More

One Way of Consulting to Families: A Possible Model for Training Families to See and Think Systems

After writing several blogs about families with very serious problems, (such as the families involved in the Sandy Hook killings and the Boston bombing incident) I was challenged by readers to discuss how families, in the middle of serious problems, can be educated about family systems theory. After all many people do not want to go the normal mental health route or do not find useful treatment models ...   Read More

It's the Family Stupid

Violence appears to be on the rise. People are asking for explanations. We are faced with a cluster of events – Sandy Hook, the Boston Bombings, the California killings, a California man arrested for a possible bombing attempt, followed by a rogue shooter in Norfolk Va., who did not even make the national news as he killed “only” two people.[1] People turn on social media to hear mental health ...   Read More

Filed under Family, Bowen family systems theory

What can the Ft. Hood Shootings and Boston bombing incident tell us?

When children are shot, Boston is bombed, and seemingly “crazy” soldiers shoot at fellow soldiers; we look to psychiatry to explain what happened. The answers are empty labels and more empty promises to get the bottom of these incidents. Society pressures us to accept these labels? But are they simply indicators that the ancient family emotional process is behind our inability and or reluctance to ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

A Booksigning and Fundraising Event

Lee Kelly hosted a book singing for Andrea Schara as a fundraising event for two non profits: The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family and Leaders for Tomorrow: The Murray Bowen Archives. Anne Jones, Bill Dwyer, Rob Felton, Priscilla Friesen, Kathy Wiseman, Kent Webb, Laura Havstad and Margie Hottel helped organize the event. Andrea Schara gave a brief overview as to the importance of writing ...   Read More

Family Stuck Togetherness: What Makes it so Hard to See the Emotional System?

What would it be like if one morning we woke up and there was no more diagnosing people with mental illness? Instead there would be a focus on the family as a unit, and what might be done to improve the functioning of individuals within the system. Considering the family unit as a social system influencing the behavior of its members requires a totally new way of thinking and new method of ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

The Mindful Compass

At long last after four years, Your Mindful Compass: Breakthrough Strategies for Navigating Life / Work Relationshps in Any Social Jungle is available on Amazon. Your Mindful Compass takes us behind the emotional curtain to see the mechanisms which regulate individuals in social systems. It is hard to see that we become anxious, stressed out and even recognize that we are difficult to deal with. ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

My family is not my problem....or is it?

We can understand a great deal about nature from observing but what about our relationships with those we most care about, our family members? Between the shootings at Sandy Hook and the Boston Bombing, once again people are wondering how we as a society understand and deal with disturbed individuals. What can knowledge of family dynamics add to how we understand and deal with mental health issues ...   Read More

Filed under Family, Bowen family systems theory

Navigate through the Social Jungle

The public is curious – what goes on in families that give rise to amazing leaders and/or terrorists? How do relationship form and disintegrate? What does it take to “see” the “pressure” in the system and know how to mange being one’s best SELF in any social matrix. Each family has an emotional system that is both fine-tuned by evolution and “values” its survival as a whole, as much as the survival of ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Acknowledging 100 years since Murray Bowen was born

I have been working on my book Create Your Mindful Compass:Navigating through the Social Jungle, for the past several years. This is a peek into the book which starts as it should with gratitude: I am deeply grateful to Murray Bowen. He believed in me when I was struggling, gave me a hand up, accepted me into postgraduate training at the Georgetown Family Center despite my having only two years of ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory, Family

Integrating Intuition with Deep Thinking

A major concept in this systems theory is developed around the notion of fusion between the emotions and the intellect. The degree of fusion in people is variable and discernible. The greater the fusion, the more life is governed by automatic emotional forces that operate despite man’s intellectual verbalization to the contrary. The greater the fusion between the emotions and the intellect, the ...   Read More

Family Process in Mass Killings

I was in the middle of writing a blog about a Canadian PBS radio show hosted by Genevieve Chornenki, “When Families Start Talking”, that I took part in, which aired on December 12th .  The show dealt with family loss and the usefulness of families talking more openly. The next day my cousin's 31-year-old nephew committed suicide.  The following day, December 14th, there was a mass murder of ...   Read More

What Does it Take to be a Self in Any Social System

Just as no one ant can build an ant colony, no one person can create for him or herself all that is needed for survival. We are dependent on the work of others for our food, water, clothes, education and protection, among other things. By cooperating we benefit. Therefore the pressure to fit in and cooperate is enormous and can intrude on our equally deep urges to become our unique selves. Murray ...   Read More

The Influence of Dr. Bowen: An Interview with Roberta Gilbert, MD

One question of historical importance is how Dr. Bowen managed himself to influence people to be able to think differently about what is a family emotional system and how do we participate in them? I have published a few of a series of interviews with those who were influenced by Dr.Bowen. This newest interview is with Roberta Gilbert, M.D. I asked her to reflect on how her relationship with Dr. ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Small Differences that Make a Difference

Murray Bowen had a way to make people think differently about the social nature of systems, and the challenges any social systems present to self. There are people who knew Dr Bowen well and who had a great deal of contact with him, and many more who had a brief encounter. Those drawn to Bowen and his theory are often people who are fascinated by systems and believe that problems can be understood ...   Read More

Filed under Neurofeedback, Bowen family systems theory

The Family Adjustment to Death

   In the past four months, two women with whom I was close and admired have died. One was Leroy Bowen, the wife of Murray Bowen, and the other was Clotilde Mauboussin, the “other grandmother” of my daughter’s children. Since I was asked to speak at both funerals, I spent time reflecting on the importance of these two individuals in my life and the importance of speaking at funerals. ...   Read More

Observations of Change in a Family System Using NeurOptimal

Someone dear to you, someone you deeply care about, has fallen through the cracks in the mental health system. The medical system has not been able to interrupt a downward spiral in the person’s life. If you are interested in how one person in a family might respond differently in a crisis, you may be interested in this story of how an older sister learns to manage self using family systems theory and ...   Read More

Ideas about Murray Bowen and his Theory on what would have been Dr. Bowen's 99th Birthday

On this anniversary of his birthday, I wanted to acknowledge my gratitude for being able to have a relationship with Dr. Bowen for the last fourteen years of his life. I had both the opportunity to study Bowen theory and to watch and interact with Dr. Bowen. Towards the end of his life Dr. Bowen gave his theory to the world to do with as we might. The theory is a gift to us and people are free to ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Neurofeedback Training

Feedback on Two Days of Neurofeedback Training at the Western Pennsylvania Family Center As we start this New Year, I wanted to bring you some cheerful news of how neurofeedback training in the context of Bowen theory was introduced, with positive results, to several people in Pittsburgh. I was able to offer these sessions due to the interest, perseverance and work of Catherine Rakow. She was ...   Read More

Filed under Neurofeedback, Bowen family systems theory

More than Words: Thoughts on Separating a Self

How is it that a few people come to see a systems view of life fairly easily, while others struggle? More Than Words is a series of conversations exploring the impact of Bowen theory on people's lives. Bowen trained a second generation of family therapists. The conversations are an opportunity to listen to their memories. Some of the questions we will address are: What was so attractive or even ...   Read More

Filed under More than Words Series

Consulting to a Family-Owned Business

James E. Maloney (1912 – 2005) A brilliant, difficult, complex man, my (paternal) Uncle Jimmy was the inspiration that led me to understand how business leaders emerge from their families and apply their knowledge to their work. – A.M.S. My uncle Jimmy was a tall, skinny guy with glasses who never seemed to be able to wear matched socks or coordinated clothes of any kind. Who could tell he was a ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory, Family

Gathering Systems Knowledge

Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Steve Jobs I think it’s important to understand how our knowledge of human behavior has been erected stone by stone, life by life. The third point on The Mindful Compass, acquiring systems knowledge, makes us less vulnerable to life’s challenges. It is one fabulous way to steady one’s self against the ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Temptations, Incentives and Self-Regulation

On a day when the stock market falls 429 points, how many people are able to self-regulate? Last week we rallied as much as today’s market fell. But who cares about self-regulating when markets are rising? In the midst of these mood swings it helped to self-regulate. One way reading and thinking more broadly about the nature of capitalism and the complexity of the market. Some say we, who believe ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory, Brain and physiology

Observing & Learning from Stories

Experience is not what happens to a man; It is what a man does with what happens to him. Aldous Huxley Our brains are influenced by bias. We know how hard it is to see new things accurately because of our automatic “blinders.” But, as it turns out, our brains have a compensating mechanism: our brains are shaped to learn from stories. ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Casey Anthony Trial: Social Pressure and Thinking for Self in an Emotional Storm

One of the most difficult problems we humans face is how to understand complex problems and who and what to believe. The recent Casey Anthony trial is a microcosm of the fear one can encounter in standing up for self under intense pressure from others. One of the jurors is now in hiding and many others have reported being fearful for their safety. Little mention has been made of the fear that may ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Be a Self or Be Swept Away: Regulators of Behavior in Social Systems

You must admit that the genesis of a great man depends on the long series of complex influences which has produced the race in which he appears, and the social state into which that race has slowly grown...Before he can remake his society, his society must make him.        Herbert Spencer If society can make the man, the question becomes for all of us, how can ...   Read More

Follow the Leader and/or Think for Self

This issue dogs all regimes that have neither the rule of law nor public accountability: The authorities routinely fail to respect the dignity of ordinary citizens and run roughshod over their rights. There is no culture in which this sort of behavior is not strongly resented.  Wall Street Journal, 3/12/11 Is China Next? Francis Fukuyama Coach Byrnes told me I was worthwhile and good and that ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

Reactivity, Blame and Life Regulations

The pursuit of a difficult scientific problem demands a state of feeling similar to that experienced by a religious person or a lover. Albert Einstein   Can we pause to understand reactivity in the face of real or imagined threats? Would it be useful to society if we were more capable of relating differently to troubled people? Would this require us to alter some very basic responses? Can ...   Read More

Happy Haiku Holiday

Time is fleeting, yet still White snow covers the brown table. She Speaks softly to whispering trees. What a gift this year has been. More than ever I so appreciate my family and friends, as connections are life. All the fun and challenges from sailing in the islands to skiing, watching rowing competitions, soccer and hockey games, enjoying the singing of grandchildren and finally gaining my red ...   Read More

Filed under Family

Profound Problems: Band-Aids & Polarizations

Polarizations are easy to see, especially in our politically driven media—"Listen, do what I say, pick this side." When simplicity rules there are only two sides, right and wrong. It’s a little harder to see the polarization when it’s close to home because it’s more emotional when your spouse is yelling at you or your daughter is failing in school. At these times we are more driven to act ...   Read More

The Thing In the Bushes: From a Focus on the Individual to an Awareness of the Family as a System

Not until looking back did I realize how Lancelot Law Whyte’s writing (The Unconscious Before Freud) had influenced my formulation of increasing awareness as the major thrust of ...   Read More

Filed under Bowen family systems theory

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