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Family Conflict: Nothing to see here …

By Family Conflict ResolutionJuly, 2023March 18th, 20242 min read

Murray Bowen, pioneer of family systems theory, viewed the family unit as a complex social system where family members interact to influence each other’s behaviour. Rather than being a collection of individuals, it is better viewed as a whole.

On that basis, we can consider the physical and emotional ‘health’ of a family as both the health of each individual family member and also the health of the interactions and relationships between them.

Conflict is inevitable in family systems, and it comes in various forms. Where there is open communication and trust, conflict could be better described as healthy debate, and is essential to avoid stagnation and to bridge intergenerational gaps.

Too often, conflict is a proxy: family members might argue over a business decision, but in fact they are playing out deep-seated family issues like jealousy and favouritism. That can be addressed by providing the appropriate setting to deal with the family issues, separately from the business.

The worst kind of conflict is the “move along; nothing to see here” type – where family members pretend everything is fine (either to keep up appearances, or because the issues are too hard to confront). No communication is far worse than angry confrontation. In that case, resentment festers like a sore and ultimately explodes.

Consider This: How would you rate the health of relationships within your family? How does your family deal with conflict (the response “we don’t have conflict” is unacceptable)?

Further reading:

Here is more on reading on family conflict resolution.

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