The first book in the Trilogy is now being published. Families are Forever: Communication is being published in EBook format by AuthorHouse, a division of Penguin Books on 19 July 2013. To order your copy for $4.95, go to http://www.AuthorHouse.com/Bookstore.
The paperback version will be out by 1 August 2013. One way to order it is via www.theFamilyForever.com, my main website.
Various parts of this first book will be shared here on this blog in the weeks to come. sign up to have all the chapters automatically sent to your email address.
We start with the very excellent Foreword by Dr. Hal Gillespie, psychiatrist from Spokane, Washington.
News alerts of the Boston Marathon bombings jolted my concentration as I started to write this Foreword. With relief, I learned of the safety of Dr. Cogswell’s daughter and son-in-law, who had crossed the finish line, only a few lifesaving minutes prior to the blast. The bombers were identified quite quickly but it was much later that cable television news mentioned the possibility of radical Muslim involvement (although it was known the family emigrated from Chechnya, which is primarily Muslim influenced). The press also delayed posing questions about the family, their dynamics and how these brothers were being supported in a wealthy community. Eventually both issues were addressed and it became obvious that the immediate family of origin had values that were divergent from our culture and had failed to assimilate. It is concerning that the media could speculate endlessly about possible motives without focusing on the importance of family and values, particularly if they involved religion, whether Christian or Muslim. Could the media’s stance be explained by political correctness and contemporary cultural beliefs that values do not matter and one belief system is just as valid as another? Do we not as parents need to examine and test our beliefs and then thoroughly and clearly communicate them to our children and grandchildren, while still supporting their differentiation? Should we not be able to defend our chosen forms of Christianity and Islam in intellectual and moral perspectives? Dr. Cogswell does dare to address the issues of values and family communication in the second volume of this series.
Families are forever . . . or are they? The statement may be “true” in the sense that our primary family experiences determine our subjective experiences throughout our lives. We may live out our lives on opposite sides of the world from our families of origin, but the family is still within us even if we are engaged rebelliously against it. Dr. Murray Bowen, a pioneer family therapist, stated: “Maturation is the process of disentangling oneself emotionally from the craziness of one’s family of origin without giving up the family.” He defined “craziness” as anything that doesn’t work for you and your life. But, is this taken too literally in our modern world? Has differentiation become a process of rejection and alienation as children become more influenced by social networking and communication technology? Are parents failing to impart values, respect and discipline? A common experience is to see a family eating dinner in a restaurant in silence, as each member is preoccupied with I pads, cell phones or game boys. Even couples can be noted texting or play electronic games on their smart phones during public concerts and plays. Dr. Cogswell does acknowledge that social media and networking may distort or even prevent family interactions and complicate the process of differentiation. It is hard to differentiate from someone when you don’t know who they are. It is not clear how to develop effective communication under these circumstances. The answers may come from someone who grows up in the “wired generation”, who understands the phenomenon from their experience. Regardless of how it evolves, communication remains essential to individualization and differentiation.
Families may be forever, but family forms or structure may not be forever. Other pioneering family therapists, such as Salvador Minuchin and Carl Whitaker taught that children are most likely to imitate the behaviors of their parents. Is that observation less valid for the twenty first century? With increasing longevity, more families consist of three generations. The traditional, two parent, married heterosexual households are much less common. With the advent of numerous new constant stimuli for children are they more likely to choose behaviors and values from outside the family? If so, the first challenge for the behavioral sciences is to discover how to enable parents to communicate with their children in ways that teach important positive values. Dr. Cogswell outlines current approaches developed in recent decades to help traditional families. This is a good place to begin the discussion. The resulting question is how traditional approaches will need to be modified for our time. Another challenge, for all of us, is to identify and delineate values that are generally approved across our culture and then encourage their expression in the media, entertainment industry, and newer technological advances.
Utopia may be unattainable; families have always encountered problems and will continue to face problems. In one of civilization’s oldest historical accounts, the book of Genesis, there is recorded jealousies, deceptions, betrayals, conflicts, and even fratricide in families. Perhaps these ancient myths also contain principles and wisdom that still apply to families today. It has been said that as Adam and Eve were leaving the Garden of Eden, one said to the other: “My dear, we are living in troubled and changing times.”
When we examine our experiences of life, it appears that the only reality is our subjective one. We live in a world where our sensory experiences are projected onto the screens of our minds through filters of cultural beliefs, values we are taught and the influence of life events and relationships. This seems to determine one’s own reality. With this basic condition, we tend to project this personal vision onto others. Only through communication can the family and the individual members correct these distortions.
No family is perfect. No parent, spouse or child is completely who we want them to be. A major developmental task for each of us is to recognize our own projected neediness and to forgive family members for not being everything we want them to be. In this process we come to love them for being who they are. Perhaps this is the best opportunity in life to imitate God; it’s the godliness within us.
In these books, Dr. Cogswell shares his experience and knowledge derived from decades of teaching and working with families. His efforts are applauded as he takes on the challenge of translating theory into everyday language and experience for the nonprofessional reader. He is a beloved friend and colleague and to use the well-worn cliché: he is like a brother to me. It was a privilege to write this Forward. I certainly do not agree with everything that he says or with all the ways he may approach an issue. In the end, however, we remain engaged in active and respectful dialogue and in close relationship. Is that not what “families are forever”’ all about?
Dr. Hal Gillespie. M.D.
© Dr. D.’s Domains 2013