Updated: Dec 15, 2021
We live in Austin. At least in the greater Austin area. It seems like the word “organic” is everywhere these days! So what on earth do I mean by organic families?
Here’s an “organic” way of thinking about families: We are made of the same stuff with which God created the rest of the universe. The same stuff that our blue-boat-home is made of as it circles the sun, and the same stuff that forms the ecosystems of which we are each intimately a part, is the same stuff we are made of as human beings. Like those other systems, the family is an organic system. (1)
Dr. Murray Bowen had an original idea, which is actually pretty hard to come by in the field of science. This original idea was that the family is a natural system, with much in common with all other natural systems that exist. What does that mean concretely? As an individual I cannot be understood outside the context of my family. Just like it doesn’t make sense to talk about the movements of the sun and the moon without talking about the gravitational pull of the other planets in our solar system, and just as it doesn’t make sense to talk about one animal in an ecosystem without considering its food source, its habitat, its predator, the seasons, etc., so too each individual human person is most accurately understood in the context of their family (both the family they came from and the family they create as an adult). In Bowen’s original research, he said, “On one level each family member is an individual. But on a deeper level the central family group is as one.” (2)
What does that mean concretely? It means that for an individual to be healthy, happy - and I would add, holy - an individual must be understood in the context of their families. Thus the pathway for him or her to reach a place of health, happiness and holiness is precisely a pathway that includes the family.
And what else does this mean concretely? It means that the way we conceptualize problems, the way we conceptualize solutions, and how we get from the problem to options for moving forward is all incredibly different if I don’t see the individual as inherently related to the natural system of the family. An organic approach to families respects this natural framework, and knows that the better I can understand this framework, the more accurate my description of the problem, and then the more accurate and effective my problem-solving work toward solutions.
Have you ever found yourself feeling lost in your family? Is there so much static electricity between you and your family members that you are having trouble thinking clearly about what to do next? Or perhaps the thought of family and relationships is overwhelming, so much so that being on your own is more comfortable? If you’re interested in any of that, please feel free to give me a call.
Rachel Elisa Gardner, LPC
512-238-1700 ext. 310
(1). Of course, as Christians we believe we are also more than natural matter. That may be a different blog post!
(2). Dr Murray Bowen, The Origins of Family Psychotherapy, page 109