(This week’s post is the slightly edited text of a class presentation that I made this week at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. where I just completed my first year in their Post-Graduate Training Program.)
According to what it says on my business card, I’m a “Family Legacy Advisor”.
My beliefs, which I’ll share with you today, are very much about how I see that work, and how I’m becoming inextricably tied to it.
More and more, it’s becoming who I am, and not simply what I do.
Here are three of my foundational beliefs:
- I believe that Family Harmony holds the Key to a Family’s Legacy
- I believe it’s always worth making the effort to improve family harmony
- I believe working on family harmony is a lot of work, and, it all starts with working on self
How did I get to this point?
I had my calling 4 years ago, doing the course work in a program called Family Enterprise Advisor.
There, we learned the three-circle model, Business, Family, and Ownership, with each circle representing a system.
It dawned on me that for the first 4-plus decades of my life, I’d been led to believe that the Business circle was the only one that mattered.
As my studies progressed, I soon began to understand that the Family circle was more important, and it was often neglected, and that I was naturally more attuned to the important work that often needs to be done in the family circle.
So, I began working on myself, with coaching training, mediation courses, and facilitation programs, including an entire suite of courses in a program called Third Party Neutral.
And of course I began training in Bowen Family SystemsTheory.
How has my Bowen work contributed?
Well, starting with two years in Vermont, in their program, and this year here in DC, my Bowen Theory work has helped me in a number of ways.
- Sharpened my focus on the effort involved
- Emphasized the work on self,
- And continuously reminded me that this work is a never-ending pursuit
My calling came along with a desire to “help” people and families to deal with issues that I myself had dealt with in my family.
My mistakes, my parents’ mistakes, and the ones that I discovered when I married into another business family, were all there as experience that I wanted to transfer into wisdom to be shared.
But as WE all understand, telling people what they should do doesn’t work so well, so transforming myself into someone who “does Bowen” was an idea that I thought would be useful.
Bowen Family Systems Theory
I’ve since discovered that you can’t just “do” Bowen, you actually have to sort of “be” Bowen. Not Dr. Bowen, but maybe be a “Bowenite”.
Learning a new way to “be” so that you can lead people, and model behavior for people, takes time, practice, and effort.
One huge challenge that I’m just now starting to comprehend is the difference between HELPING people and being a RESOURCE for people.
The difference sounds subtle, but it’s actually quite stark.
You can’t help people who don’t want to be helped, and trying to help them is quite often counter-productive.
My way forward is to become a resource to people who want to improve their family harmony, and in order for me to “be” that resource, I need to continue to make the effort to understand myself.
My Bowen training has helped me understand many things in a new and improved way, and I feel like I’m miles ahead of where I was just a few short years ago.
But, my understanding of self, and my work on differentiation, feels like it has so much further to go.
Understanding Self and Others
As I understand myself better, I understand others better as well.
These efforts are worth it, for me, for my family, and for whichever families seek me out as a resource for their own work on harmony, as part of their desire to preserve their legacy.
And so I added one more belief:
I believe that I can actually help more families by acting as a resource to them, instead of trying to help them.