door: emotions, attachments
The role of emotions in systemic practice has been much debated. In the first phase there were clear connections with psychodynamic models in terms of the importance of unconscious emotional processes. As we saw in Chapter 1, there was a rejection of what was seen as the essentially individualistic understanding of problems in psychodynamic theories. Some practices, such as the emphasis on the importance of ‘joining’, a concept very sympathetic to the notion of the therapeutic alliance, were also central to systemic therapies. Following a lengthy separation, the two approaches are increasingly showing signs of a process of rapprochement. Importantly, this is being fuelled not only by shifts amongst systemic therapists towards a greater interest in the nature of the inner worlds and, especially, the emotional world of family members, but also by dramatic shifts in psychodynamic theorists’ narrative ideas (Larner 2000: 61; Flaskas 2002), so that therapy has come to be regarded as a more collaborative and mutually constructed process (Bion 1961, 1970; Winnicott, 1971) in contrast to the more ‘expert’ interpretative stance of earlier psychodynamic approaches. Running alongside the connections with psychodynamic approaches has been a long-standing relationship with attachment theory. Though also concerned with how internal worlds develop, attachment theory fundamentally adopts a social-interpersonal approach to examine how attachments are formed in families. In fact Bowlby (1973) argued that attachment must be seen systemically as a self-corrective process between the infant and the carer. Together they maintain a homeostatic balance of security and arousal in the relationship.
Returning to the role of emotions, in systemic practice, as we