For this reason, behaviors which promote harmony in one family may be more likely to exacerbate dysfunction in another. Monica McGoldrick, one of the few American therapists with a serious approach to ethnic patterns, says of Irish families in America,
"Children in Irish American families are generally raised to be polite, respectable, obedient, and well behaved. Typical familial injunctions would be: ·”What will the neighbors think?" "Don't make a scene"; "That's a sin"; or "You'll go to hell." Children rarely are praised by their parents, and they are not usually fussed over or made the center of attention for fear of spoiling them or giving them a "swelled head" (Barrabee & von Mering, 1953).
When asked by the therapist if she praised her children, one Irish American mother characteristically replied, "Why yes, all the time. Why Kevin here, he's not so bad" (Pearce, 1980). This strict and restrained attitude toward children may be very hard for a therapist from a more permissive or expressive culture to understand, just as it may be difficult for the Irish to understand the strong focus on, and permissiveness toward children, encouraged by many groups in the United States.”
Comparable professional observations shed light on other ethnically based family traditions in the United States. They point to frequently seen patterns and will prove useful points of reference if more generally known and considered by the profession. Further, the fields of family therapy and counseling will benefit from a systematized understanding of how these cultural traditions were economically, politically, and socially formed and how they continue to color the felt, spoken, and behavioral presentations which family practitioners often encounter. Such a study should address the historical, macroeconomic, industrial, and geopolitical patterns implicated in current family life.
Are there rules as Dr. Bowen believed , that apply to the patterns and functions of all families? Yes, of course, but can we distinguish these if we can't delineate the differences between families and their repetitive patterns?
As an example of the reciprocating parallels between family therapy and society functioning we offer the following extended quote from a professional family therapy article written in 1975. (Click here for reference)
Might we see this as a description of the confusion that resides in us when different points on the tribalist – individualist dimension meet in one individual?
"It is a basic assumption of systems theory that all people want closeness. They want to belong somewhere, to fit in, to be cared about, to be accepted, even with their faults. Two people move toward each other, not realizing that closeness must be worked at, and that it is an inconstant state, here and then gone. Such intensity often leads to fusion followed by distance. One moves toward the other, and the other distances. The closer one gets to loving the other, the greater are his expectations, the desire for completion, the great hope of fulfillment. As closeness increases, fusion becomes more likely. One tends to become the distancer and the other the pursuer. In this fashion, the twosome continues to exist but the distance between them remains fixed.
There are few alternatives. If one is to avoid the nothingness inside self, he must pursue to fill self from others. Otherwise he feels that he would die inside. If one is to protect his space from the intrusions of others, he must distance and live with his loneliness. "
At the level of macroeconomics and "politics"
Europe’s current economic crisis demonstrates the impact of individualistic vs. fusionist thought and behavior at the popular level -- on national and international policy. The capitalist, non-colonialized histories of Northern and Western Europe support strongly individualistic, post-industrial values of restraint, prudence, precision, self-management, trust, and cooperation. They inform popular acceptance of authority and valorization of lawful, predictable and reliable behavior, economic and otherwise. By and large, people pay their taxes and often proudly. They show up for work even when inconvenient and place high value on independently chosen commitments. Trust, reliability prudence, precision and respect for the rules is internalized and not overly dependent on immediate consequences (emotional object constancy).
The Mediterranean and Balkan nations, with their less industrialized histories and centuries of imperial domination by Mongols, Tartars, Magyars, Arabs, Turks, Normans, Moors, Germans, Russians Austrians and others, have tended to preserve a rural, pre-industrial, peasant-based, fusionist attachment to tribal, in-group ideals and practices linked to the culturally defensive behavioral norms mentioned: denial, evasiveness, defiance, bargaining, pack organized violence and deception, etc.
Below is an article by a respected member of the European Central Bank (ECB). He is addressing a macroeconomic crisis of the Eurozone countries. Please note his focus on political and historical factors that he considers relevant to the causes as well as the potential solutions to the probable economic disaster that would follow a Greek exit from the European Union. It is an article devoid of numbers with no strictly economic terms. So far so good. And yet it addresses a purely economic and financial dilemma; the potential bankruptcy of the Greek state in which it will be unable to borrow or issue Treasury bonds and will be removed from the eco-political entity called the European Union.
It is a clear acknowledgement that macroeconomics cannot be considered outside of history, governance and the cultural background. What it does not address is an articulated, theoretically sound framework as to the why's and how's of these connections.
Perhaps this missing link between the historical-cultural and the macroeconomic and political is an understanding of the parallel lines of structure and functioning of family systems within these larger systems. What are the chances that Dr. Stark has taken a course in Family Systems Theory or that in his macroeconomic journeys he would have come across references to "multi-generation transmission process" or "nonlinear reciprocal systemic reinforcement"?
What are the chances that he would use a vocabulary that would facilitate an understanding of the reciprocal and mutually reinforcing family-institution-civic concentric circular patterns of these separate areas of human activity? Although Dr. Stark is clearly aware of the relation of culture to macroeconomics he reveals the inadequacy of current vocabulary and intellectual foundation to specify that connection.
I have underlined key phrases that are mentioned, but have no integration or framework in relating to each other in an organized multi-discipline approach.
FT.com, Feb. 11, 2015
"The historical and cultural differences that divide Europe's union” by Jurgen Stark
"Are the Germans economic-policy illiterates? Do they not recognize the growing political and economic danger for Europe and thus Germany itself? Why, when others suggest a substantial monetary and fiscal boost (printing more euros and bailing out Greece) to the European economy, are they such notorious naysayers? Are the Germans bad Europeans, irresponsibly and treacherously dictating austerity