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Reading Edwin Friedman's "A Failure of Nerve" - Elf M. Sternberg
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Reading Edwin Friedman's "A Failure of Nerve"
Edwin Friedman was a rabbi and family counselor who published a highly influential book, Generation To Generation, about family therapy. The book is little known in secular circles, but pastoral counselors and especially chaplains know his work well.

Friedman's biggest contribution to family therapy is the diagnosis of the dysfunctional family as one full of peace-makers, who, by encouraging people to swallow their own wants and needs and instead learn how to "get along," bury rage and anguish and confrontation when those qualities are actually needed. What a family needs in these situations, he writes, is a leader, someone who can stand apart from the rest and say, "This is what we are as a family. This is where we're headed. This is how we'll get there. If you're not with this, tough." The leader, Friedman writes, leads by example, and by stamina-- by never giving in to the sabotage the most codependent members of the household engage in, as they try to suck the family back into the ennui of "just getting along."

What's fascinating to me is that Friedman sounds a lot like family therapy a'la Ayn Rand. "Selfhood" and "knowing where you stand" and "unflinching attention to reality" are big mantras with Friedman. It's very heady stuff.

And yet, his watchwords are about cohesion, altruism and community. He writes about the challenge of being what we would call now "the adult in the room," the mature person who refuses to participate in drama, but remains connected sufficient to both exemplify a principled and mature life and guide those he's trying to reach toward the goal.

How Rand and Friedman, both writing at about the same time, started from the premise the the average individual fails at differentiating himself, his principles, from the drama and emotional miasma of others-- fails at becoming a mature human being-- and arrive at two wholly different conclusions, one tragic, the other humane, is one of the great mysteries of the 20th century.

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memegarden From: memegarden Date: February 16th, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
That does sound fascinating. Thanks for the pointer.
memegarden From: memegarden Date: March 11th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, I'm now halfway through _Generation to Generation_, which I got on interlibrary loan, and I've had major personal insights about my family of origin and how I can better differentiate from my mother. Which turns out to be the project I've been working on through all of my self-improvement work for the past year and some, and especially the past couple of months. So thank you very much! Could do without the nightmares, though. Probably now that some of that stuff is conscious I can dispense with them.
ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: February 17th, 2012 06:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Of course...

The strongest characters in Atlas Shrugged are the strikers, who have stopped participating in the drama and have instead chosen cohesion and community. You might think about what that means.

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