Mind Matters: Change reaction

Family systems psychiatrist Murray Bowen noted years ago the phenomenon of change back/push back in a family system when an individual in the system starts to shake up the status quo. This shift is in the service of higher integration and greater awareness. However, our tribal primal inclinations of the family want to keep the individual in check and not be so “different.”

In my first encounters as a family therapist, I remember a case where the father had been an alcoholic and very depressed. When he went into recovery, stopped drinking, and was no longer depressed, his family did not like the change. They clearly stated in a session how they liked their father/husband better the “old way.”

Was their desire to go back to the previous status quo that rendered this man dysfunctional a healthy choice? Of course not. There is a proverb: the familiar devil is more acceptable than the unfamiliar angel. We balk at change even though it is for the better.

Part of the digging our heals in is about fear, fear that we too will have to change. Certainly, in the family I saw so many years ago, it was clear that as one member became sober there would be other issues that were now in the open, no longer hidden by alcohol. Husband and wife would have to face the emotional rift between them; children would have to consider their father as an authority figure again, a responsibility he had abdicated with alcohol. So, yes, change pushes us out of our comfort zones, as dysfunctional as they may be.

Fear of change occurs in nations and in the world, too. Unfortunately, this fear can be exploited so that even when change is good for us, not only as individuals but also for the common good, we may be led to believe otherwise. And so, whenever a shift to a more expansive or inclusive consciousness occurs, there is a pushback, the drive backward to change back into rigidity and old ways of thinking.

When Galileo declared that the earth revolved around the sun at a time when all believed the earth was the center of the universe, there was a great outcry. Science upset the common view of the world and there was great push back. Truth in the end prevailed.

So it is, if we take the long view of civilization, we see that no matter the pull to change back to the “bad ol’ days,” the impulse for the higher good continues relentlessly.

For example, consider that even though there is still abhorrent human trafficking, the concept of slavery is now understood as morally reprehensible.

Misogyny and racism and all forms of bigotry still abound, but the fact that we can openly face these issues and the fact that many of us are appalled by discrimination indicate we are moving forward despite the loud bullying push to change back to our basest selves, we cannot be pulled down as long as we continue to seek the higher ground.

Murray Bowen observed society as much as he did families. He would want us not to be led into a societal repression because we could not face our fears about change necessary for the common good of all.

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section, or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to editor@chaddsfordlive.com

 

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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