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By Laura M. Benton, toMulticultural Family Institute.
triangles in families
According to family therapist Murray Bowen, the basic unit of any emotional system is the relationship between two people. However, the two-person system is an unstable system, as under stress it tends to call on a third party to stabilize itself, creating a three-person system where two against one or two help one. When anxiety gets high enough in one triangle, it spreads to other triangles, spreading further and further throughout the family system. Thus, triangles form when discomfort in a two-person relationship builds and spills over into other relationships in the family, keeping family members together in a series of repetitive interactions and roles. These interactions can become problematic behaviors between the unfamiliar triangle participants. When there is discord between two people, they usually try to ease the discomfort by forming a triangle with a third person. Families repeat. According to Monica McGoldrick in the upcoming third edition of her book on genograms (W.W.Norton, 2007), what happens in one generation will often be repeated in the next; That is, the same problems are often reproduced from generation to generation, although actual behavior can take different forms. [e] Patterns of relationships in previous generations can provide implicit models for family functioning in the next generation. In the genogram, we study functional, relational, and structural patterns that continue or alternate from one generation to the next.
Using a genogram allows us to obtain information about strong family relationships and, given the family's structure and position in the life cycle, to hypothesize about important relationships and boundary patterns in that family. Understanding the triangle patterns in which two family members team up against a third is crucial to understanding family relationships. Detriangulation is an important process by which family members can break free from rigid triangle patterns. (Genograms, 3rd ed., Ch. 1) The presence of relationship triangles can be seen in the Bush family, where family members seem to unconsciously follow the triangulation patterns of previous generations as they form their own families.
Bush Family Triangles
George Herbert Walker Bush and his wife, Barbara, had three young children (George W., 6, Robin, 3, and Jeb, a newborn) whom the family named Robin at the time their middle daughter, Pauline Robinson Bush , was diagnosed. Robin is named after Barbara's mother, who died in a car accident (in which her husband was driving) just three months before Robin was born. The parents never told George that she was sick, although they advised him to stop playing with her, his main playmate, because she was getting more and more fragile. During Robin's illness, both parents spent a lot of time away from home in Midland, Texas, taking her to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York, where George's uncle was a doctor. Robin was treated there and her parents stayed at her uncle's apartment. Tragically, despite intensive treatment, Robin died two months short of her fourth birthday. During his illness, George W. and Jeb, as brothers often do when a parent is caring for a very sick child, stayed at home to be cared for by neighbors and relatives (Kelley, 131).
George and Barbara decided not to hold a funeral for their daughter and reportedly spent the day after her death at the Greenwich, CT golf course. Robin's paternal grandmother Dorothy Bush and George's close friend Lud Ashley arranged for and buried Robin on the family estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. George and Barbara did not attend the funeral, just as Barbara did not attend her own mother's funeral three months before Robin was born. In fact, they didn't even talk to young George about his illness and death, which made him feel betrayed as he was mourning his sister, who he felt very close to. His relatives remember that he was very upset after her death, having nightmares and tears (Kelley, 142). Interestingly, in 2000, when George W. Bush was 54 years old, his sister was moved to the same place where they planned to bury their parents in Texas.
paulina robinson robin busch
After Robin's death, Barbara reportedly broke down, crying, isolating herself, grinding her teeth at night, and smoking excessively. Her relationship with her husband was polite but distant. He was away much of the time, traveling extensively for weeks at a time to build his business ventures and promote his political connections. Having only distant relationships with her siblings and other relatives, she was isolated without family support, leaving young George W. with the responsibility of caring for her in this condition. He allegedly tried to make his mother happy by becoming a clown to lure and cheer her up. Feeling lonely and overwhelmed, especially after becoming pregnant again just six months after Robin's death, she kept young George with her. He remembers feeling that he was being smothered by her and isolated from his peers because of the time he spent with her. Because of Barbara's estranged relationship with her husband and her grief over the loss of her daughter, she and her eldest son, George, formed a special and intense bond.
It has been suggested that this early loss and the bond with his mother, which formed part of several interlocking triangles (with her missing daughter, mother and estranged husband), influenced George W.'s behavior as his life became a party. . , full of humor, driven by chance, with a touch of fatalism and apparently delayed his childhood and youth until he left home for boarding school and university. There he became known for his rowdy socializing, partying and substance abuse. She was said to be careful to continue her learned role of entertaining and involving others, as there was a small party everywhere she went (Kelley, 256).
The Bush family 6 months after Robinson's death
While this relationship triangle can be viewed as an isolated development, as we look at the intergenerational relationships in the Bush family, we begin to see repeating patterns. For example, Bush wives appear to serve the cause of their husbands' careers, regardless of the cost to their marriages and family relationships, while developing strong bonds with their children. Like George W., George Herbert Walker is said to have had an extremely close relationship with his mother, described by some as the closest of his life (Kelley, 330), and he also had a distant but loving relationship with his father Prescott. Sheldon Bush, who was an alcoholic, was occasionally verbally aggressive towards his wife and a physically aggressive disciplinarian towards his children. He pursued his political career with fervor and was considered temperamental.
Interestingly, George W. also suffered from the effects of alcoholism, was reportedly verbally aggressive towards his wife Laura during this period, and developed the same political drive as his paternal grandfather. It is not surprising that they share such similarities, as George W. and his grandfather, Prescott, were the eldest children in families where the second brother died at the age of three and where the parents traveled extensively for work.
Bowen on Triangles March 1974 Workshop transcribed and edited by Ken Terkelsen, M.D. p.46-47.
McGoldrick, M., Gerson, R., Petri, S. Genograms, 3rd edition (in press, 2007), New York: W.W. Norton.
Frank, Justin (2004).Bush on the Couch: In the Head of a President.
Kelley, K. (2004).The Family: The True Story of the Bush Dynasty.Nova York: Doubleday.
Minutaglio, B. (2001).First Child: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty.Nova York: Three Rivers Press.
Phillips, K. (2004).American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deception in the House of Bush.New York: Wikinger.
You can download theBushTriangles.gnoFile containing all genograms shown in this article.
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