Functioning UP in 2024

By January 25, 2024Uncategorized
Functioning up thinking

Get serious, sensible and self-ish

You’ve had time to get going on your resolutions. Resolutions are about what I call “functioning up”. For one to function up, you need to get serious, sensible, and self-ish.

What do I mean by function up? Dr. Bowen believed individuals weren’t actually broken, but that they functioned “as is” they were broken. After all, individuals don’t start out as dysfunctional. What Dr. Bowen observed was over time, some individuals would lower their functioning and or develop symptoms. This resulted from the emotional forces of the family and the multigenerational process amount other things. This could eventually lead to a serious impairment like schizophrenia. The entire family system could become “functionally” helpless, thinking that only doctors and experts could help them. Bowen observed that families could help themselves, given the proper support, and begin to function up.

Individuals function along a continuum

We all function better or worse in many areas of life. The overall goal is to work on functioning better. Especially in relationships, since that affects so many areas of life. A resolution is really a declaration that I want to function better, or “function up” in a particular area. I believe the systems concept of functioning is a useful way to think about resolutions.

How I function implies that I have a range of functioning from worse to better. So I have should have room to improve! I’m not stuck where I am. This is where being sensible comes in. Am I being objective about my current level of functioning? How realistic am I about where I want my functioning to be? Is this an important area of my overall functioning? Do understand how I can improve my functioning?

(It’s beyond this post, but I encourage you to read about SMART goals and leading indicators. These concepts are very useful when setting goals.)

Self-ish functioning is the only functioning

A direct idea from systems thinking is that I can only change the part I play in my systems. I can only work on my functioning. If I change my functioning the system can change, but that is NOT the point. It is very important to remember to NOT work my functioning so somebody else changes. People don’t change unless they want to or decide, for themselves, to change. I can’t fool the system by pretending to change myself while trying to manipulate the system.

So the focus is on SELF. My resolution is to change MY functioning because I want to be different for ME. It’s self-ish. A good kind, an effective kind, of self-ish. When I work on myself, because I want to be a different me, I’m much more likely to stick with the effort it’s going to take to follow through on my resolution.

This is serious work

When I say serious, I really mean that one needs conviction. This is also an idea from systems thinking. If one is really working to be different, then the system will notice. Often the system will push back. One has to make choices about where to spend their time and efforts in order to affect change in themself. The system may challenge this. If I don’t have conviction, if I’m not serious, about what how I want to change, then I’ll give up. With resolutions, less is more, but it has to be a “determined” less. One resolution that you really have conviction for gives you the best chance for success. You can always add more later!

Resolutions are a way of defining self in an area that one wants to improve in. Defining self is something to do all the time, but January is better than never! 🙂

Thank you for your interest in family systems.

Dave Galloway

Learn more about Bowen family systems theory here.

Watch this video on Bowen Theory in Everyday Life