Scott Rampy's Archive

Emotional Cutoff

30 Commentsby   |  10.05.09  |  Uncategorized

            Consider the following individuals with respect to their families of origin. Person A is a highly differentiated person while Person B is largely undifferentiated. Which is more likely to demonstrate emotional cutoff from their family? A brief etymological analysis would seem to indicate the differentiated person is more likely. Both of the words “different” and “cutoff” indicate separation. Right? Wrong! In actuality, the undifferentiated individual is more likely to experience emotional cutoff from one’s family of origin. An explanation of this follows. More »

Scott Rampy's Comment Archive

  1. Scott Rampy on Process
    12:11 am, 12.11.09

    I tend to agree with Kevin that we do pick up more process than we may initially give credit for. As communication theorists say, only 10% of communication is verbal. It does seem to come to us in an “intuitive flash”. However, to slow down and thoughtfully consider what we are absorbing is, I believe, where the difficulty enters. Consciously and conscientiously taking note of the function statements have in the conversation, issues of power and hierarchy, subliminal issues being discussed, unspoken emotional reactions and cognitive assumptions, etc. is more difficult to achieve.

  2. 1) Money and religion. Especially considering events on the global scale, these two items seem to hold ENORMOUS sway and influence. And, whoever holds the reins of one or both has the power to affect the lives of others for better or worse. Charisma, compassion, or fear seem to be only characteristics of those who exert the influence of these two items(again, for better or worse).

    2) Constantine’s combination of the Christian religion with the power and wealth of aristocracy and empire was, in my opinion, the worst thing that could have ever happened to the Christian faith.

  3. Scott Rampy on Resistance
    11:17 pm, 12.06.09

    Perhaps I’m going to confuse the issue further in an attempt to answer the question. (I can see your eyes rolling now but bear with me) :)

    It seems to be that, whether purposefully or not, resistance is an action taken by the client when faced with the occasion of a (Note: not “the”) therapist-client relationship.

    Some points I would like to make about that statement. A client is only resistant if there is something to resist in the first place. If the client does not perceive a challenge, what is there to resist? The very occasion of “A” trying to help “B” may imply to B that B has a problem and A can fix it. Put yourself in B’s shoes. Perhaps A’s very attempt at helping causes B to feel inferior or incapable, especially when faced with A’s apparent capability. This type of dynamic takes place not only in the therapy room but also between friends, parents/children, church members, etc. It isn’t hard to think of a scenario in which we’ve seen this take place.

    Perhaps a better answer is that the action of a client’s resistance rests in the occasion of therapy, exacerbated or diminished by the therapist-client relationship: the client’s perceptions of the therapist, the client’s perceptions of the therapist’s perceptions of the client, the therapist’s perception of the client, and the therapist’s perception of the client’s perception of the therapist. There, was that clear?

    I mentioned above the client’s perception of a challenge – without which resistance is meaningless. Perhaps this is the clinical location where the split between directive and non-directive therapy emerged? Based on this proposition, it would seem that the directive therapist would encounter much more resistance than the collaborative, non-directive therapist.

  4. Scott Rampy on Microsystem
    12:39 am, 11.14.09

    Most models of therapy we’ve been learning about so far deal exclusively with the microsystem (read, family). This is fitting since after all, they are models of family therapy. Structural and Strategic therapies specifically come to mind. However, with the recent reading of Nichols and Schwartz’s IFS models, we are called back to being mindful of the individual (what would be a word for “smaller-than-micro system?). They are right to point out that this sub-microsystem must change if systemic interactions have any chance of changing.

    On the other hand, what about systemic change on the exo- and macrosystemic levels? Obviously systemic principles can be seen to be at work here with dysfunctional societal conditions filtering down to produce dysfunctional families. A change of this nature could possibly be characterized as third order change. As was pointed out early on, the higher the order of change sought, the harder it is to achieve.

    Should high difficulty be enough of a deterrent for us to focus our energy only on micro-or-lower systems? Should societal change be left to the arena of political policy makers bent on taking whatever stance is necessary to maintain political stature? Are there any organizations already in place driven by pro-family agendas uncompromised to left- or right-wing politcal leanings?

  5. Scott Rampy on Emotional Cutoff
    10:26 pm, 10.23.09

    Amie, thanks for humoring me :) Although I must say, one could make the case that you are correct, partially correct, and wrong all at the same time. Ponder that for a second…

  6. Scott Rampy on Emotional Cutoff
    10:24 pm, 10.23.09

    If I understand how Kerr and Bowen mean emotional objectivity, especially in a discussion of cutoff, Kerr and Bowen may respond as follows. I believe they would agree that emotions will be a part of any system of human interaction. Objectivity refers to the ability to make rational decisions despite bias towards one action or another. Therefore, emotional objectivity would be the ability to make a rational decision regardless of emotional stimulus.

    This is also not the same as indifference. Emotional indifference indicates disregard for emotions. On the other hand, emotional objectivity recognizes and notes emotions, however is not ruled by them.

    Emotional objectivity occurs every time one’s emotions tell him to react in one way and the individual decides to behave the opposite way of their emotions. For example, there are two kids on the playground. One of them is a bully picking on the other one. If the victim is completely ruled by his emotions a fight may ensue. On the other hand, if he is emotionally objective, the victim of the bullying may decide to walk away despite the intense urge to punch the bully in the mouth.

    In regard to the family system and cutoff, an individual who is not emotionally objective may cutoff from their family given enough incentive to distance from them. On the other hand, one who is emotionally objective notes his feelings and decides, despite the difficulty and unpleasantness, to remain in contact with them. This one aspect which characterizes one who has become differentiated – connected emotionally though objective enough to not be controlled by his emotions toward his family. T

    his is made easier by the second part of the sentence – to recognize the workings of the system. This also takes objectivity. To view the system one must be able to take on an outsider’s perspective of the system and view it as a whole from a different angle – noting the process of others’ interactions with each other and also one’s own interactions with the members of the system. This is only possible when one can separate his thinking from his feeling.

  7. Scott Rampy on Emotional Cutoff
    11:57 pm, 10.18.09

    Question 2 is generating the most discussion: “When or how is cutoff healthy? Do you agree with the assertion that it is neither good nor bad?”

    This is the question with which I have the most difficulty. I am caught between two positions. One which Jackie, Tara, and Amie each seem to share is that given specific circumstances, emotional cutoff may be healthy and therefore, neither inherently good nor bad. Considering they have Bowen’s own personal backing on this position (Kerr and Bowen, 1988), it is hard to argue with them.

    I would like to press the issue further however. Although conscientious of the probability of error when making broad generalizations, I have the tendency to see emotional cutoff as inherently dysfunctional, or “bad”. Yes, even in cases where “neglect, incest, or physical abuse is prevalent”. Perhaps this sounds cruel or absurd but lend a patient ear (or eye for this format).

    If one is emotionally cut off in situations such as these, that would tend to indicate that they have detached from these stressors in such a way as to leave them unresolved, undealt with, “bottled up”, or buried in the back closet of one’s emotional psyche. When considered in this way, does this sound healthy? In my experience, as much as one tries to distance themself from wounds such as these, they ultimately cannot keep from being affected by them until dealt with on a likely painful level. The function of cutoff is to prevent one from having to deal with hurts in such a manner. Yes, this is unpleasant and unfair for the victim, yet that is part of the reason why the offense is so heinous to begin with. It was inflicted upon an innocent, undeserving person and leaves lasting injury upon the victim. If this were to be discussed in terms of differentiation, one with a higher level of differentiation would be able to recognize and consider the hurts that have been caused while achieving a level of being emotionally unreactive to them. This is the opposite of emotional cutoff from painful injuries.

    A complicating factor in this discussion, as Amie pointed out, is when cutoff is considered in terms of a personal relationship. This discussion begins to encroach on forgiveness theory. Perhaps a mediating view between the trio of responses above and my own response is that while cutoff from the event and ensuing emotions is (always?) unhealthy, that does not mean that the interpersonal relationship with the perpetrator can or should go back to its original state as if nothing ever happened. Perhaps in this way cutoff in terms of interpersonal distancing is in fact healthy to the effect of limiting potential for further injury.

    Regarding question #4,I must say I am disappointed that nobody has taken the bait of attempting to answer the riddle. Any takers?

  8. Scott Rampy on Enmeshment
    5:23 pm, 10.04.09

    This is likely not the appropriate forum for discussion of faith topics. However, I will take that risk in hopes of clarifying the MFT term under discussion.

    If I understand the definition of enmeshment correctly, enmeshment is not the same thing as intimate relationship. My understanding is that enmeshment discourages and limits autonomy and actively inhibits members from distinguishing themselves from the unit.

    If this is an accurate description of enmeshment, it is not an accurate descriptor of one’s relationship with God. While true that “In him we live, move, and have our being” (Acts 17:8), we are left free to choose to live apart from or in relationship with God. The Eden narrative is one example of this. Rather than coercing followership or forcing adherence, the sovereign, relational God yields power to his creation to choose for him or against him. He even brings pain onto himself that the possibility of reunion would be available, while allowing freedom of choice and possibility of future hurt to remain (“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Rom 5:8).

    Thus, if the definitions are correct, enmeshment is not a descriptor of God’s desired relationship with humanity. Perhaps some clarity to the definition would be helpful. Let’s call in the pro. Dr. Goff?

  9. Scott Rampy on Enmeshment
    10:36 pm, 10.02.09

    Perhaps one of the ways that churches display elements of enmeshment is in regard to doubting faith or questioning fundamental truths. Doubting and questioning are a necessary part of an individual’s process towards faith differentiation. That is to say that it is a necessary step in deciding what one does believe about himself/herself in relation to the world around him or her. Such a journey is a necessary for developing an autonomous faith sometimes described as “owned.” Questioning and doubt hopefully lead to searching and investigating.

    Elements of enmeshment comes into play when the faith community in which the individual begins to fear that questioning and doubt will ultimately lead to the wrong answer. Thus they may seek to stifle one’s faith journey. It may be noted that fear is a primary motivator for enmeshment. Fear is especially involved when the “eternal consequence” element is on the conscience of church members. Furthermore, Christians may believe that it is their responsibility to “save souls”, leaving them responsible if one of their own becomes lost. It is easy to see why a religious group would fall prey to a desire to stifle questioning and doubt.

    Perhaps a more faith-reflecting view would hold that:
    1. This differentiating journey is a necessary part of determining one’s faith.
    2. If God’s invisible qualities really are on display and God’s spirit is at work in the world, one will come into contact with Him and make a decision.
    3. It is the responsibility of those holding faith to be a resource and guide. The individual is responsible for his or her own actions. (Nonpossessive warmth anybody?)
    4. This faith journey, though perhaps difficult for outsiders to watch, will lead to a stronger faith than simply an inherited faith, if indeed faith is ultimately chosen.

    One final note about faith in brought up by Ashley and Emily’s dialogue. I’ve never been quite comfortable with accepting “blind faith.” I accept that there is an element of “blind faith” necessary though I believe it tends to be overemphasized. Faith comes by…hearing – a mode of observation. Further, Romans 2:20 mentioned above indicates that God reveals himself to us. Perhaps “blind faith” overlooks reassuring evidences of God to us?

    Sorry for the length! You got me rolling Em!