Dissertation Introduction On Love And Family Therapy
Family therapy is a distinct psychotherapeutic practice that only actually emerged in the early 1960s. The clinical and conceptual influences that informed its development, however, may be traced to many years before. In its formative years, family therapy emphasized considerably on the mechanics of communication and ignored higher levels of abstraction such as emotion, intuition, sensory perception as well as love. These higher levels of abstraction, according to Bateson (1972, 1979; 1991), contribute to the higher-order change. In this same vein, Bateson (1972; 1974) calls for a shift from the authoritative approach to interaction and sees power as a deterrent to productive interaction between people. He acknowledges that most people exist within “the myth of power” (494). He states that power is potentially toxic to human experience. It results in power games that lead to mistrust within the family setting. As a professional practice, family therapy is a type of therapy in which the counselor considers the entire primary family rather than the individual members. It is a systemic approach (Gehart, 2014). Systems theory approaches such as cybernetics and communication theory have been incorporated into family therapy.
Systems theory approaches first emerged in theory in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The work of Gregory Bateson, John Weakland, Jay Haley and Don Jackson, along with others was crucial to family therapy practice. It recognized family therapy as a practice that could be supported by systems theory, information theory, ecology, cybernetics, and communications theory. They rejected Freudian preconceptions by valuing relational rather than individual factors. They were informed by a multidisciplinary pool of concepts from biology, sociology and anthropology (Keeney & Keeney, 2012). These theories are consistent with Bertalanffy’s (1968) statement that all living things are open systems that are connected with and embedded in other systems. Keeney & Keeney (2012) explore the systemic nature of family therapy, also known as systemic therapy. They argue in favor of the merits having the therapist become an “interactive performer” in the therapeutic interaction rather than an outside narrator and interpreter. The therapist thus becomes part of the here-and-now of a therapy session (Keeney & Keeney, 2012).
The Theory of cybernetics involves analysis of the message, the circuit and the feedback as ideas that bear significance in family therapy (Wakefield, 1996a). Cybernetics is crucial to the development of family therapy because it sparked-off the exploration of many social systems including families (Wakefield, 1996a). Norbert Wiener (1961), referred to cybernetics as “the science of communication and control.” It involves feedback cycles in machines as well as human affairs. In its general form, cybernetics is the study of systems regardless of whether they are electrical, physical, social, mechanical, psychological or biological (Nichols & Schwartz, 1998). An important element of cybernetics is feedback. Feedback may be defined as the output that affects the same action in future, causing it to change (positive feedback) or maintain its status (negative feedback) (Bowen, 1978; Foerster, 1981; Nichols & Schwartz, 1998). The concept of system feedback is further explored by (Piercy, et al., 1996). Piercy et al., (1996) focus on defective cycles of interaction that are often kick-started by misguided attempts at solving problems. They indicate that attempts by a family to solve a problem could keep the problem unchanged or worsen it. A problem behavior in an individual is just a single point in a repetitive pattern. For example, if a child misbehaves (deviation from the norm) as a result of being jealous of a new sibling and the father acts by punishing the child, the situation worsens. The child continues to believe that they are loved less, and his/her behavior may worsen. According to (Piercy, et al., 1996), the best approach is to change the pattern of interacting with the child to demonstrate that the child is not loved less.
In the context of family therapy, cybernetics was employed to express family therapy as a homeostatic cycle on which a family was based (Hoffman, 1993). Hoffman (1993) further states that a therapist was described as a professional who had the skills to break down the cycle and enable the family gets to a different place in terms of their relationships and interactions. Bateson (1972) explored the relational system between the individual and the environment as being the subject matter of feelings. These feelings include love, hate, anxiety, hostility, fear, confidence, etc. Bateson’s ideas on family therapy emerged from his work with patients of hysterical symptoms labeled schizophrenia. He applied communication theory to the mental disorder of schizophrenia and concluded that the fault did not lie with the individual patient but the interactions within the individual’s family network (Keeney & Keeney, 2012). He attributed the schizophrenic condition to a double bind resulting from the communication pathways of the family. In his concept of the double bind, Bateson (1972) writes that the usual communication codes become scrambled and do not reach their intended recipient. For example, a parent who says the words “I love you” to their child may do so in a tone of voice and non-verbal mannerisms that contradict these words. In such a situation, the child becomes confused because they cannot reconcile the two conflicts. Such a child suffers from this breakdown in communication pathways and may collapse into schizophrenic behavior. Bateson (1972) underlines the importance of love while using a systematic approach to family therapy. In his work with schizophrenia patients, he indicates that children should be exposed to interactions with showings of love. Love should be shown in a whole-hearted manner with no contradictions in non-verbal mannerisms or other body language elements. Within the context of this study, Bateson’s work points to the relational component of love as being crucial to therapeutic practice. Love is important in the development of trust between the individual and the people around him/her. Surprisingly, despite the demonstrated merit of incorporating love in family therapy approaches, current practice does not reflect this idea.
The idea of incorporating love into cybernetic approaches to family therapy is consistent with the works of Maturana (1989, 1997, 2002; 2008; 1987; 2008) and Varela (1987; 1992). Their work is highlighted by their theory of autopoiesis, which includes the autonomy, social coordination, cognition, language, ethics, and the evolution of societies. The theory is a basis for examining human interaction where an individual feels comfortable to open up to another person and lets them exist alongside themselves. Maturana and Varela describe this situation as love and label it “the biological foundation of social phenomena” (Maturana & Varela, 1992, p. 246). These authors subsequently incorporated their ideas from the biology of love into philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience.
Love is a relational competence. It is also expressed as the responsibility for one’s subjectivity. Human beings are social animals who can create worlds together through language and coordinating social actions. Maturana and Varela (1987) believe that the development of language and coordination of complex social roles in ancient times involved a biology of love that was made possible by the need for family members to look out for each other (Maturana, 1989, 1997, 2002; 2008; 1987; 2008). Maturana and Varela also believe that the human biology of love can be nurtured to bring forth betters worlds.
This paper underlines the significance of the concept of love within the systems approach to family therapy. Love has transformative as well as healing experiences that may be approached using system-based strategies of family therapy which aim at transforming the pattern of interaction. In this regard, the author proposes that a therapist should be accountable to the subjective experience required. The importance of exploring family therapy in this manner is that this approach may transform the practice from an intervention activity to subject-object relationship. The desired relationship in the context of the love-based systems approach to family therapy is one that exists in a circular and reflexive relationship (Hoffman, 2007). According to Anderson & Gehart (2009), such a relationship should be more participatory and mutual and less dualistic and hierarchical. This study could also shift the way systemic therapists conduct their practice to accelerate change. By employing multiple examples of therapy sessions, theories, and anecdotal evidence, this study has great significance in psychology. Hopefully, it will provide practical inspiration as well as the practical tools for supervisors and practitioners in reinvigorate therapy through love.
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