Re: Science Saturday: Valentine's Day Edition (John Horgan & George Johnson)
A fascinating vlog! And the posts are fascinating as well. Where to start?
"Love Vs. Strife" Bowen theory has described this as the struggle between emotional closeness and distance. Knowing that John is currently struggling with divorce, it is poignant that his discussion of Valentine's Day is so emotionally charged. His effort to understand this emotionally charged day by triangling with ancient philosophers, and George's eager response to these memory challenging pursuits serve to help steer the conversation away from talking too much or too deeply about the intense feelings this day must be holding for his friend. Thinking and feeling are words that are often used almost interchangeably. When these words are (con)fused, it often leads to irrational and deeply held beliefs and "faith" in those cherished beliefs. People will often fight to the death over their fused thinking/feeling beliefs.
Anxiety is the response of the organism to stress. It is the anxiety reaction to stress that gives people problems and symptoms. People can be terribly stressed and not too anxious or, conversely, mildly stressed and quite anxious. People in relationship systems are different when they're anxious than when they're calm. Anxiety can flood the brain and keep it from working efficiently, biasing one's observations of self and others. It is also infectious. As people pick up another person's anxiety, they quickly respond anxiously and feed back anxiety through the system, so that it quickly floods all the other members of the system.
Murray Bowen has described the reactive behaviors or "anxiety-binding mechanisms" which come into play as ways of managing the anxiety which builds up within and between members of the system. One is emotional distance, the avoidance of persons, situations, topics, and issues which are perceived as threatening. Another is conflict, which surfaces as anxious people become more critical of one another, more reactive to differences, and put more pressure on one another to change. A third mechanism is overfunctioning/underfunctioning reciprocity, a mutually reinforcing process which develops as people adapt to stress in opposite ways, some by pouring more energy into their social roles and assuming tasks and responsibilities beyond their scope and others by retreating and doing less. The fourth mechanism is triangling, the spreading of tensions and problems between two people to involve a third person; one triangle begets another and anxiety spreads through a network of interlocking triangles. These four adaptive , anxiety-binding patterns are universal in all human systems, family, work, and community alike. They are natural and automatic ways for people to behave, but when driven to extremes by intense anxiety, these behaviors lead to breakdowns in individual functioning (physical, social, and psychological).
Progress comes when a person can think more objectively about his/her situation, can understand how it evolved over time to become what it is, and can see the process which produces problems and malfunctions.
FAMILY EVALUATION by Michael Kerr MD