Family Therapy as the Rites of Passage

© 1998 Janet S. Ishikawa, Ph. D. and Daniel W. Fullmer, Ph.D.

Reprinted with permission. First published by Pi Lambda Theta, Hawaii Chapter, in Educational Involvement, Volume VI, November 1998.

"Rites of Passage" describes how one moves from infancy to adulthood in any and all cultures. In the American complex post-industrial information society, the process requires about 20 years of formal schooling before a child becomes a fully functioning adult. Very few people complete 20 years of formal education let alone continue their education for the rest of their lives! Consequently, many people are stuck at a level of functioning that is below their potential because they are without the necessary skills, knowledge and wisdom that would make them functionally literate both in emotional and cognitive behavior. (1998 News Report says 90 million American adults are functionally illiterate). An example is someone who has information about how to manage a human group but cannot use it because she/he has not learned how to learn to work with people. She/he did not complete the culture's Rites of Passage.

Rites of Passage differ from culture to culture and are perpetuated from generation to generation. This is called intergenerational transfer of behavior. One example encountered in family therapy is the cycle of "welfare begets welfare." Another is the "blue collar" thinking process begets "blue collar" thinking process. One of the more destructive patterns in the intergenerational transfer of dysfunctional family behaviors. These disorders are created in families due to incomplete or inadequate Rites of Passage. Family therapy is the process by which the family behavior patterns are interrupted; otherwise, the patterns are perpetuated from generation to generation. It is very difficult to interrupt any behavior pattern. If you have ever tried to change one of your behaviors, you would understand. First, one must want to change; second, one must recognize which behavior needs to be changed; and third, one must be willing to persevere to make the change.

Rites of Passage are the substance of family therapy process. The cultural Rites of Passage are functionally literate. The family therapy co-therapists must lead the process through the functionally literate behaviors that rehabilitate the dysfunctional behavior in the family members.

Dysfunctional families beget dysfunctional families by a process called Object Relations. That is, you catch-on to your behavior largely out of awareness while in interaction with other persons (environment/milieu). Because one catches on to his/her behavior (it isn't taught), the person replicates whatever behavior is extant in his/her milieu. If your family is dysfunctional, you will most likely be dysfunctional. It is all because of and to what and how one is exposed to behavior. Remember, how one is exposed or comes into contact with an experience is as powerful or more powerful than the event itself. An example is: would you prefer your daughter learned about sexual intercourse by normal means or by rape? Both experience sex, but one is disabling for life, the other is life fulfilling. Family therapy frequently treats the consequences of BAD EXPOSURE.

A major contributing factor to the condition of emotional/mental dysfunction in America today is the absence of appropriate behavior, skills, knowledge, wisdom and the discipline to use them. If the person does not know a behavior to use in a situation s/he may avoid that setting. The person may use an inappropriate behavior that doesn't work and results in dysfunction for the person and for society. Almost everyone knows someone who avoids may of life's encounters because of deficits in their social skills repertoire. It is a common malady.

Interaction is the healing process in every culture. Because interaction can heal, it also has the potential for pathology. What was described previously about Rites of Passage where deviant is the social norm t hat exists, a limit to family therapy is revealed. It cannot "cure" some pathologies where a major conflict with the culture exists.What is done in those cases includes the sharing of coping skills to use to compensate for the schism one lives with in a society that does not accommodate the deviant behavior. (Parents Who Kill, Ishikawa & Fullmer, in process).

The late Gregory Bateson (1972) described a condition in parent-child relationships that can produce schizophrenia, a condition where double-bind interaction creates a pathological context. Interaction can be very powerful. The notion is: If a parent-child relationship exists in a context of mutually contradictory interaction, the resulting behavior for one or both is most likely pathological. For example, if we agree that yes means no and no means yes, we can continue to interact, in health. But if we treat yes and no as interchangeable, there is no way to decide the true meaning, we each are left with undecidable consequences (confused). When an interaction is undecidable, there can be no confirmation, only disconfirmation. If I believe what my common sense tells me, I am wrong for having ignored the other person's interaction., the consequence for me is to be unable to decide, thus I shall appear confused like any schizophrenic personality. This example requires the principal person (schizophrenic) to be locked in relationship so the interaction cannot be escaped. When locked into this context, the interaction has a pathological consequence.

An example of health giving interaction is much more common. The essence of interaction gives a clear definition of self. The impact gives definition of self. There is no confusion of signals, symbols or messages. They each mean what they appear to mean. Yes means yes and no means no. It all seems so simple. It is, when it works. When some interference or disconfirming element is inserted: i.e., a parent with a narcissistic need t control the child, consequences turns pathological. This condition is called a SYMBIOSIS.

Interaction is a cultural healing process in itself and is essence of therapeutic treatment. Interaction accumulates, whether in verbal/nonverbal or contextual experiences. Thus, it is clear how culture is acquired through accumulating interactions (Bateson, 1936, 1958). Language and other behavior are acquired through similar interaction processes. The nature of the interaction is both a cause and an effect because it is as important how one comes into new knowledge (experiences) as it is what one comes t know and do; i.e., rape.

The imprinting pattern is the baseline for all knowledge and skill. The metaphor may be a program for the brain that permits perception of blue but not green. The blind spot is the color green. To see green will required reprogramming the brain. The re-programming process is called learning-how-to-learn (imprinting). The perception of green will happen when the re-programming is complete, not before. Re-programming is done by imprinting. Subsequent to early imprinting with the linguistic pattern of a language, we are constantly exposed to possible new imprinting patterns through our life experiences but often times they are missed because one is not ready to learn. A simple way to experience the idea above is to learn a new word. Then notice how many writers have begun to use it. Genre, for instance, is one common example.

When clients are told that family therapy is about human behavior, something you always have with you, they seem unimpressed. When a comment is given that says, in effect, "Here is what you are right now" because what you perceive is all you can be. If you can see yourself talking these lines you have read and write some for others to read, then perhaps, you can see yourself, perhaps hear yourself. Self awareness and self-disclosure are first cousins of learning-how-to-learn. Family members sometimes are able to see themselves, at least in parts. It is difficult to get them not to judge what they see, and just let it be. Get acquainted with yourself before making judgments.
Learning How to Learn
In a linear thinking Western culture learning process follows a sequential paradigm. The paradigm is a context and context is the source of meaning. This is how we learn new knowledge only if it fits into one's existing paradigm or context.

Learning how to learn requires one to go beyond the limits of the existing knowledge or paradigm or context. One will need to learn how to acquire a new context. One may have to create it. The meaning of behavior is resident in a context. An example of how to learn to create a new context is found in Edwin Abbott's FLATLAND, (1884). The middle-aged Square experienced space land-a place where there are three dimensions. He could never explain this to his Flatlanders because they had no context for three dimensions. Their Flatland paradigm (context) had only two dimensions. (see Appendix A).

The Three Levels of Interaction
Families learn how to learn by experiences in the third level of interaction. There are a least three levels of interaction used in Family Therapy. The first level of interaction is the verbal content level. The verbal content level is almost useless for changing behavior. The whole family has structures and patterns of behavior. These structures become simplified because of dysfunction. To understand, the theory used goes beyond systems theory. The family is treated as a whole. The Systems Theory is too limited. The whole family is influenced by interaction with an external environment the therapists (one man and one woman) produce. In groups of families, the entire collection of persons creates the milieu. The interaction is on more than one level, all-at-once.
Summary of the Three (3) Levels of Interaction
Level One (1) is the verbal/nonverbal content interaction using the culture rules for engagement (engaging in conversation). Family therapy has rules: no sex/no violence is one rule. Each person will speak for him/herself is another rule and is enforced for each family member. Family members will bring rules of their own. We resist contrary rules. No one is to be punished in any way for what that person says in the therapy session.

Level Two (2) is the context, milieu and/or environment. There are several common references here to help understand how context is an interaction. Readiness is a common concept that one needs in order to make sense of an idea. For example, the Flatland metaphor of a two dimensional world negates understanding of a three dimensional place, see Sphere vs. Middle-aged-Square in Appendix A.

Learning how to learn is creating a context for one's self where none existed. Because meaning flows from context, understanding a three dimensional world is impossible for the Square from Flatland, a two dimensional world; until, the Sphere transforms the square into a cube, three dimensions, an experience (transformation) the Square could not forget or explain to flatlanders, etc. Contextual interaction is so profound that one misses the experience until one creates a new and appropriate context. (See, learning a new word - then notice how many writers using it!)

Level Three (3) is not directly controlled by the family therapists. However, level three interaction is a consequence of the process of making the situation more complex, confusing, stressful and chaotic. We make the situation for the family (a) worse before they can reorder the system (dissipative structure) before (b) it gets better.

Because the family is a system that is like other dissipative structures, the family in extreme chaos (disorder) will suddenly impose order from within. The family learns to change the rules to fit the changed relationships. This begins in session one because the therapists are present (The therapists are strangers in the family:.

To understand how Family Therapy changes behavior (Rites of Passage), we use ideas from more than one therapy. For example, a key concept in Systems Theory is the fact that living organisms (families) are self-organizing systems; that is, structure and function are not imposed by the environment but are established by the system by itself. This is what we call the SECOND LEVEL of interaction. The Rites of Passage at this stage in family therapy are to help the family members learn how to establish structure to support the functions they wish to create.

The third level of interaction is when a less complex system (dysfunctional family) moves from, or evolves into, a more complex system (functional family members). The theory here is of dissipative structures which states: "Order emerges because of entropy, not despite of it." Translate entropy as confusion (unusable energy) and disorder (dysfunction) in a family.
Using Theory in Practice
Dissipative structures are open systems in which a structure (family) exchanges energy with the surrounding environment. It can be a laboratory chemical solution, an amino acid, a human being in a whole family. Their form or pattern is self-organizing and is maintained by a continuous dynamic flow of interaction with the environment.

The more complex the structure is, the more energy it must dissipate (act out) in order to maintain homeostasis or equilibrium. The dysfunctional family is stymied by not being able to act out-that is to dissipate the accumulating energy from the interaction. This state of flux or increased dysfunction makes the family system highly unstable. If the family is somewhat unstable to begin with, the increased instability can create sudden changes because of the increased internal fluctuations. Family therapy intervention overloads the dysfunctional system. The increased emotional "load" creates a critical mass; i.e., a catalyst in a liquid creates a solid, all at once. The state of the system, due to the fluctuations and perturbations (intervention and interaction), reaches a critical level of distress or stress (energy). These elements are amplified by the system's (family's) many internal connections and can drive the whole system into a NEW STATE or organization, even more adequately ordered, coherent and emotionally connected (bonded) or less dysfunctional. This process takes from six months to three years and results in THE TRANSFORMATION described above.

The New State occurs as a SUDDEN SHIFT, much like a kaleidoscope shifts into a new pattern, suddenly. The shift to a new state is a non-linear event; that is, multiple factors act on each other ALL AT ONCE. The Ishikawa and Fullmer method of Family Therapy is an all at once intervention sans any agenda of any linear sequence of techniques or functions. The intervention is continuous interaction at all levels (at least three) in a dynamic context.

The theory of dissipative structures in families claims that with each new change or state, there is greater potential for more and different changes. Each new state (change) brings increased complexity. There are new rules to handle the new relationships. Ilya Prigogine claims in his theory, as Ilya puts it, there is a change in the nature of the laws of nature. For example, one can see this in a healthy family, one with little or no dysfunction. The rules change constantly to keep pace with the changes - new states of relationships within the family; i.e., when a new baby is added, everything changes - new rules are in place and the family grows. Healthy families live in constant conflict, but each conflict is resolved almost immediately. Life moves on uninterrupted using the new rules. Each conflict creates the opportunity to create new rules. Without new rules to live by, an impasse is created. Nothing can happen until the impasse is resolved. This is the state a dysfunctional family lives in forever - no resolution of conflict, no new rules, --sometimes for years at a time.

In a dysfunctional family, all the energy is made latent by the impasse. The impasse creates a crisis. The crisis escalates. The milieu is tense. All the energy of the family is trapped by the impasse. Nothing is happening in the family. Nothing can happen. The impasse condition continues as a way of life. Sometimes, persons hold even their breath! The consequence is sometimes violence - abuse of a family member or a victim in society or suicide. Hopefully, the family enters therapy before the extreme acting out happens.
Selected Research Findings
Re-program the brain so it can hear, see, feel, smell and taste the world (environment) you are in right now. The reason you do not do this simplistic perception process rests on the premise that you project from the myths you maintain to structure your world - in brief, the way you have your brain/mind programmed. We perceive only what we are expecting because it is all we have a context for in our readiness condition. One's perception is one's reality.

There is a family in the research by Ishikawa and Fullmer (in process) that has shown four (4) generations of transformed behavior patterns of functioning behavior that replaced dysfunctional behavior in a mother and four children. The mother was labeled a schizophrenic and spent time in a mental hospital for several years. She and her family participated in family therapy for four years. The dysfunctional schizophrenic behavior pattern was replaced by functional behavioral patterns she learned through family therapy and she was not schizophrenic any more. Not only was the mother not schizophrenic any more, but also, the next generation, another generation and the fourth generation were not schizophrenic any more. The schizophrenic behavior pattern was interrupted, intervened and influenced by family therapy. The transformation which occurred in the schizophrenic mother after 4 years of family therapy continued to the next generations. Once the transformation is complete, the new behavior will continue. Transformation is a one-way event. For example, from caterpillar to butterfly is a common experience of transformation. Once transformed into a butterfly, it can never become a caterpillar. In a like manner, once schizophrenic behavior is transformed, he/she will never go back to being a schizophrenic again. This is how powerful transformation is. However, when the transformation is not complete (the family stops therapy before completion of transformation), the family will regress to its original dysfunctional behavior.

The condition of dysfunction is profound in its effects upon performance behaviors within the family generations. When dysfunctional behavior patterns are transformed to functional behavior patterns, the social system benefits. If there is no transformation of dysfunctional behavior patterns, society inherits the dysfunction. Dysfunction impacts society because the expectation is for everyone to be functionally literate. Functional literacy (emotional and cognitive) usually refers to the level of mastery of those functions one must be able to perform autonomously in order to make the society work for him/her. The concept includes emotional functional literacy. Rites of Passage create functional behavior; incomplete Rites of Passage result in less than functional literacy.

Family therapy research clearly indicates how individual behavior toward self and others is primarily a function of the level of skills, knowledge and discipline at his/her command. This condition is especially true in the emotional behavior observed. The myth that children do as adults what was done to them holds true at a very disturbing frequency. One way to examine a person's level of functioning is to access his/her private personal mythology. We explore personal myths by asking each family member to write his/her personal myth. It is a story with redundant themes. The themes are the substance of the personal myth.

The private personal mythology defines the person by setting the parameters of behavior and belief. Add to this any imprinting and subsequent conditioning from past experiences and it will cover most of the baseline for emotional response repertoire in each person. (If you don't know, you can't do). The answer in family therapy is to help members learn how to learn what they need to know by first writing their myth. If you listen to each person talk, you can sort out the myth that person lives by.

Experience with life situations is the source of learning the skills and some of the knowledge and discipline needed to carry one through the here and now of life. The primary difficulty for most people studied was how to gain access to relevant life experiences where one might learn the necessary skills and knowledge. Family therapy is one way to access the necessary skills and knowledge.

Society is so successful at providing privacy that most people are isolated from others who are skilled. (This is one consequence of inadequate rites of passage). Consequently, for some families, the isolation can be pathological. Take a family that has it all--appropriate skills, vast knowledge and the necessary discipline to make life work for them. How does one get access to this resource? There is no way. Outside of family therapy, there is almost no way to access such a family. It reflects the state of the art in interpersonal skills and the myth of privacy extant in the contemporary society. Consequently, those who have, keep; those who have not, lose out because they have no access to those who have the skills and knowledge they need. This is the condition addressed in family therapy. Family therapy makes the resources available to dysfunctional families. Family therapy is one way to access the necessary skills and knowledge.
Theory and Philosophy
The theoretical basis of family therapy Ishikawa and Fullmer use comes from philosophy, psychology and theology. Jean Paul Sartre claimed in BEING AND NOTHINGNESS (1943) that humans continuously make themselves. He claims that an individual's present (here and now) being has meaning only in therms of the future context one can create. Hope is essential to mental well being. The source of hope is in the idea that one controls one's future. One of the curative factors used in family therapy is to instill hope. To accomplish this goal of instilling hope (control of one's future), family therapy treats the milieu the family has created. The milieu is everything influencing life in the family. The task is to find and correct the cause that produces the noxious effect. Family therapists create a milieu that generates a cause that produces a desirable effect. Family therapists know how to create and control their future. The demonstration is profound because the treatment family is in the process with everyone else.
Therapy Sessions
In more simple terms, the method of treatment prevents the creation of noxious symptoms (effects/behavior). The treatment system is unorthodox because it incorporates self-help. Family therapy is a form of highly specialized education. The education model helps families to learn new skills with which to produce positive consequences. The education model permits learning and learning-to-learn. The medical model does not provide education. It is a professional (top) down to patient process. This would not work in family therapy. The learning how to learn process, as discussed, is extant in every culture.

The task in family therapy is to transform behavior by helping members to become aware of the gaps in their rites of passage and learn the skills, knowledge and wisdom to fill the gaps. In some 460 plus cultures in the world (Mead and Heyman, 1965) each culture uses some form of a family group to pro-create, socialize, acculturate and thus civilize its members. All cultures use interaction over time to achieve the ends desired. As reported earlier, family therapy transforms behavior that is dysfunctional so the family can become functionally literate emotionally and cognitively.

The way family therapy helps people is to connect them with what is happening in their "here and now." The task for the family members is to prepare each one for a future she/he will create. Rites of Passage are the substance that creates the purpose. The purpose is to become functionally literate both emotionally and cognitively.

The substance consists of information, knowledge, wisdom and creative imagination. The arena is a series of family therapy sessions in which a "circle of wisdom" is created. The level of wisdom is a variable. We begin wherever the family members are. In six months to three or four years (still less than 20 years), the level of wisdom rises to a criterion set by the family members. There are few sharp rise, plenty of plateaus and some regressions.

Family therapy uses imagination, myth, ritual and creativity in living to find the necessary tools to use to create a passage from (here) where one is to where one wants to be. It takes ingenuity, time, energy and perseverance to complete the crossing from dysfunction to function. There is usually resistance to change.

The time family therapy takes varies with each person and consequently each family. Some want to change, but do not. Some say, "I do not want to change," and do change. Interaction with the family therapist over time changes nearly all persons and it happens mostly out of awareness. Family therapy takes a long time. One did no get one's behavior over night. Likewise, it will take considerable time to change it. Change sounds as if one has to stop being oneself. This is not true. Each person is capable of many behavior patterns. The larger the repertoire, the greater the creative potential is for each person.

Family therapy requires time because the interaction over time formula does not change human behavior easily. It is a fact that in almost every culture, interaction is a continuous process for every member. The quality of the interaction is what family therapy moderates to interrupt, intervene and influence family members' behavior. A quick fix is shallow and no permanent transformation is achieved. Consequently, the use of interaction over time is a long-term process used to alter, in depth, a person's way of being in this world.

Why does family therapy take so long? There is no quick fix as was mentioned previously. Family therapy takes a long time because the goal is TRANSFORMATION instead of "putting out the fire." In the transformation process clients learn new ways of behaving on their own time. They are never directed/instructed to behave in a certain way. They are never told they are wrong. They are guided into discovering "who they are" and how the choices they make are getting them the consequences they have - they are guided into looking at the consequences of their behavior. If they don't like the consequences; then, look at the choices you have made and perhaps learn to make different choices by first selecting the consequence you prefer. Family therapy helps people create their "heaven" instead of their "hell" by learning to make choices that are productive rather than destructive and by learning to think instead of reacting emotionally in a disorganized way. Family therapy is a slice of real life. Like real life, living is a process of creating options and alternatives so one may choose. Choice creates consequences. Consequences are largely irreversible. Once a choice is made, whether conscious or unconscious, the consequence is probably irreversible. Family therapy requires family members to learn that each person is responsible to take title to (own) the consequence(s). For example, some of the people you know chose to get a Ph.D. Others decided not to get a graduate degree, an undergraduate degree, or go to college. The consequences of those decisions are still with each of the persons.

Response-ability - the ability to respond appropriately to a life situation is functional literacy. Family therapy helps persons take response-ability for the life they have created. If life is absurd for a person, the person may tend to blame others or the circumstances. This behavior is called externalizing one's cause. Until a person learns to internalize one's cause in every life event (take response-ability for her/his own choices/behavior), life will continue to be more or less absurd. Family therapy helps people learn how to become more mature (internalize the cause) so they may create a life that is less absurd and hopefully works well enough.

The newer mythology in family therapy is to use less techniques based upon personality theories and to use more interventions based upon the causes of conflicts in personal relationships. Conflicts that remain unresolved in personal relationships lead toward increasingly greater dis-order in the lives of those involved. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Volume IV, calls all diagnoses "dis-orders." Dis-order has replaced the older medical concept of "dis-ease.." Instead of achieving a "cure," treatment leads toward increasing the level of order in behavior and consequently in living. The order one experiences leads toward increasing a sense of control in one's life. The more of a sense of control one has, the more a future with hope is created. Consequently, the person may exhibit fewer symptoms of dysfunction. The less of a sense of being in control of one's life, the more symptoms of dysfunction will be exhibited by that person.

Interrupt, intervene and influence are the three steps in family therapy. These steps overlap and are continuous throughout the life of a family therapy treatment process. The primary task is to interrupt the dysfunctional behavior pattern. Once the interrupting process is a success, the intervention can begin. There are multiple interventions used in family therapy on the three levels of interaction mentioned previously. The primary intervention is the process of verbally interacting with the family and its members. The interaction has qualities that come from the psychologists' personalities, skills, knowledge, wisdom and experiences. The three levels of interaction are straight forward without any exploitation. The therapy process requires the three levels of interaction to continue with integrity. Integrity is the primary characteristic the therapists must have to influence change if the therapy process is to lead to transformation.

The essence of family therapy is to learn how to see oneself as others might see her/him and then to change as you wish to be. "To see myself as others see me" is the ultimate wisdom. It is the goal of learning-how-to-learn in human behavior. Learning-how-to-learn is the imprinting pattern acquired from accumulating interactions over the earlier years of life or a given time period. The imprinting pattern is the basis of one's perception. (Imprinting is used here to be the baseline of all subsequent learning. Imprinting overlaps conditioning but the intent here is to distinguish the antecedent for conditioning, habit and rational thought). The meaning in behavior is resident in the context. Context is always physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Where I am coming from, where I am and where you are coming from, all converge to create the current context we share. If we do not share the context, the meaning may be distorted. Each person needs to learn to listen to what others are saying. One needs to make sure that what "I" heard is what you intended "me" to hear.

The family usually needs help with learning how to listen to what any other person is saying. Listening is a skill. Family therapy uses a direct system to concretize listening. It goes like this:

What did you hear "Jane" say?
What did you (second person) hear "Jane" say?, etc. etc.
Ask Jane if you heard what she meant for you to hear?
Continue to check out each message for each person.

The typical "normal" listening pattern is something like this: "I know you think you heard what I said. But I'm not sure you know what I meant. Therefore, we may not be on the same page or even in the same book."

The Process of Family Therapy
The process created in Family therapy is a systematic ritual consisting of discovering, analyzing and disclosing the intimate personal myths, folklore, and values of each individual. The process can happen in a group or in an individual context. The task for the family therapists is to analyze the intimate material that each member discloses. The personal myth cannot be accessed directly. It is implied from the "stories" each one tells. The therapists listen to the themes, especially t he repetitions of themes in the intimate personal stories. The repeated themes are the redundant themes that manage the person's perceptions (life). The themes are interpreted as myths, the bases of belief. Remember, the myths define the experience the person is having here-and-now! Each person tries to confirm her/himself during each moment of time by sharing intimate material (beliefs) so others may agree or disagree with her/his belief. The task for family therapists is to help the individual disclosing intimate material to perceive accurately what others, especially significant others, may be perceiving about her/him. The task is a constant challenge due to the paradoxical nature of introspection and self-perception. These show mystery because these conditions cannot be accessed directly. There is no magic that these authors are aware of to make the process work more quickly. However, the more honest and open one can be, the more help and insights the therapist can give.

Perhaps, it will help the reader to understand the mystery is real if the Navajo Medicine Man's method of treating schizophrenic woman is shared. (Bergman, 1978). The Navajo culture is unique and has its own methods of healing the "mind." The method used by the medicine man was a ritual of chanting, sand painting and dancing for a period of some sixty (60) hours over nine (9) nights. The process is a complicated ritual and involves massive preparation. To shorten the story, the woman treated claimed that it was during one of the shared chants were both medicine man and patient were singing the same chant, that she felt her mind come back to her. The psychiatrist who reported this case said he had treated the woman unsuccessfully at his clinic some years earlier. He said she was cured by the medicine man's culturally specific ritual and had been sane for many months. The mystery is simply that the treatment must match the cultural imprinting.

Family patterns of interaction are the primary issues in family therapy. How to get family members aware of the impact of the family patterns is a big task. Self-conscious awareness is a major goal in any successful family therapy. Family patterns of behavior are passed from generation to generation by the intergenerational transfer process discussed elsewhere in this article.

Interventions used in Family Therapy treatment strategies included, but are not limited to, the following:

Change the basic personal myth you are using to give meaning to your life experiences. Develop a new basic personal myth and change the meaning your life experiences provide. Learn to live beyond one or more of your early and subsequent imprints (limits). Learn to live beyond one or more of your early and subsequent conditioning. Use your head to change a behavior (cognitive restructuring). Accumulating interactions under controlled conditions to restructure the emotional system (create new imprint patterns). Role play simulated life experiences in the skills and knowledge needed to change behavior. Create new knowledge and skills in a context of advocates (as opposed to adversaries). Patients' perception to grow and expand to include contemporary conflict as an important part of one's current life-style (change one's context). Life can become a self-fulfilling prophecy where prevention is a control instead of a consequence. Positive addictions replace negative addictions. Create experiences that reprogram the imprint patterns of the individual. Create new conditioning friendly to contemporary needs of the individual. Select a purpose for the live "I" have.

Understand "my" control drama - whether it is a "poor me" or an "autonomous mature adult" one. Learn your family dance.

Learn to use the Family Bond Inventory (1998).

Closing Statement
The thesis in this paper has evolved from over 40 years of practicing psychology on a wide ranging sample of cases. The thesis says simply that we might more carefully attend to the imprinting happening in a person's life, if we wish to determine the cause for the behavior observed. It is common knowledge that an abused child grows up to abuse children. Alcoholics raise children who may frequently abuse alcohol and other substances. Spouse abusers have a history of having been raised in a spouse abusing environment. Why not notice the conventional wisdom about the company one keeps can cause the subsequent behavior, either positive or negative. The thesis leads to a generalization that every addiction, negative or positive, is the consequence of imprinting. For example, it is widely accepted that only abstinence can dry up an alcoholic. The chemically induced personality has an imprint pattern that is different from the dry alcoholic in the same person. One addiction is negative, the second addiction is seen as positive.

Drug abuse, spouse abuse, child abuse, smoking, obesity, anorexia, gambling, stupidity, running, nutrition, positive health, positive thinking, strong self-concept, or any other addictive behaviors are each an example of imprinting. Elaboration with conditioning and concretized by self-image, beliefs and the substance of personal myths, extends the behavior into years of experiencing validation and confirmation of one's self. If we are to change such behavior, it is imperative that we develop a delivery system that people can manage on their own with a minimum of monitoring by professional practitioners.

American culture has evolved to a point where almost everyone is addicted to the taxi-airplane mentality. That is, each person expects to be able to hire someone to get "me" from here to there. Here and there may be geographical points on a map or here/there are social conditions/relationships, and "I" can hire someone to "carry me" through the next happening. Family therapists and other "professionals" are in this genre.
APPENDIX A: FLATLAND, adapted from Edwin A. Abbott

In this fantasy FLATLAND, the inhabitants are geometric forms; i.e., circles, triangles, etc., who live in an exclusively two (2) dimensional world. The narrator of the story is a middle-aged square. He reports on a dream he had recently in which he visits a one-dimensional world, Lineland. The inhabitants are variously colored dots that can move only from point-to-point, creating a line.

The middle-aged Square becomes very frustrated trying to explain himself and his "strange" world. He tells the Linelanders that he is a line of lines (sort of learning how to learn). He is from a domain where you can move from side-to-side as well as from point-to-point. The angry Linelanders are about to attack him when he awakens.

Later that same day, the middle-aged Square is helping his grandson do his homework. The bright little Hexagon suggests to his grandfather, "There may be a third dimension"- a world of up and down as well as point-to-point and side-to-side. The Square pronounces the idea foolish because no such place can even be imagined.

That night the Square has an exciting life-altering encounter with an extraterrestrial from Spaceland, a world of three dimensions. At first the Square is merely puzzled by the Sphere, a peculiar circle who seems to change size and even disappear. The visitor explains to the Square that he is a Sphere and the experience of appearing to change in size could be logically explained. "You see, I was coming toward you through space and descending at the same time." The Square asks, "What is space?" Realizing that explanation alone was not enough, the exasperated Sphere created for the Square t he experience of depth. The Square is in shock. The Square reported his experience of depth as: a dizzy, sickening sensation of sight that was not like seeing; I saw a line that was not a line, space that was not space. I was myself and not myself (cube). When I could find my voice, I shrieked aloud in agony, "Either this is madness or it is Hell."

"It is neither," calmly replied the Sphere. "It is knowledge; it is three dimensions. Open your eyes once again and try to look steadily."

With this new insight-understanding of the third dimension's existence, the Square becomes an evangelist and attempts to convince his peers (Flatlanders) that Space is real. They see his idea as wild and unimaginable. However, he persists and insists until they lock him up. Every year thereafter the Chief Circle of Flatland comes around to see if the Square has regained his senses, but the stubborn Square continues to insist. He cannot forget it. He cannot explain it. He can only be frustrated.

Transcendent experience cannot be properly communicated, only experienced. Tao that can be described is not the Tao. The paradox exists until the targeted learner has experienced it for himself. Then there is no need to talk about it; i.e., mountain climbers, runners, martial artists, etc.

To learn how to learn one needs to create a context because meaning comes from the context. A way to experience this fact of life is to experience a new thing or process and transform your perception . It is like returning home from college and though it is the same house with the same persons, it is different. Your perception has changed.

APPENDIX B: Stages in Transformation:

1. Entry point is only known in retrospect. Until one lets go of the unknown, the new knowledge is blocked. The permission to be new and different may not come from outside the person. The person must first change priorities--giving up something is one example. At entry, one learns there are other ways of thinking.

2. The second stage is exploration. In exploration, one learns there are systems to bring about new knowing. The quest is TRANSFORMATION. Deliberately relaxing the grip on old understandings, priorities, values, etc., is necessary before change can happen.

3. The third step is integration. In integration, one learns there are other ways of being. Many old habits, ambitions, and strategies are not appropriate to the new beliefs.

4. Stage for is conspiracy. One discovers new sources of power. The power to become fully awake is the power to be in control of oneself--no more need to control others. One discovers new ways to use it (power) in service to others.

5. The fifth stage is synthesis. More fully awake, one moves in harmony with the universe. The new paradigm renders the past beliefs obsolete and creates an opportunity to learn beliefs to fit a new and different dimension in life. One needs new rules of nature to interact with the new paradigm or genre.

6. Stage six is the discovery of a new self - a self that does not compete, because the newly integrated sense of oneself as individual is linked to others as if we are one-self, perhaps as one universe.
a self that is curious like a child.
a self that is fiercely autonomous, and intimately connected to all.
a self that seeks self knowledge not gain.
a self that knows it can never probe all of its depths--its furthest reaches.

I am simply me and let you be you. The joy of the self-quest is to find the qualities we share with others and our own uniqueness. There is no need to triumph over others.

ABBOTT, Edwin A. 1884. "A Square" now called Flatland, Seely & Co., Ltd., London. Subsequent Publishers: 1952, 1979, 1992, Dover Thrift Editions, Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, N.Y., 11501

ABERCROMBIE, M., 1960. The Anatomy of Judgment. New York: Basic Books.

BATESON, Gregory, 1936, 1958. Naven, 2nd. Ed., Stanford: Stanford University Press.

BATESON, Gregory, 1972. Steps to an Ecology of Mind, New York: Ballantine Books.

BERGMAN, Robert L., M.D., 1978. "Navajo Medicine and Psychoanalysis," Human Behavior, July.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Volume IV, American Psychiatric Association, Washington, D.C., 1994.

FULLMER, D. & ISHIKAWA, J., 1991. The Diagnosis and Treatment of a Japanese Boy with a Visual Handicap. Honolulu, Hawaii.

FULLMER, D. & ISHIKAWA, J., 1991. The Family Therapy Dictionary. Honolulu, Hawaii

FULLMER, D. & ISHIKAWA, J., 1998. "The Theory and Research Supporting the Family Bond Inventory,: Honolulu, Hawaii, in press.

ISHIKAWA, J., & FULLMER, D., (in process).

KEEN, Sam, 1988. "Personal Myths Guide Daily Life, the Stories We Live By." Psychology Today, 22.:2, December, pp. 42-47.

MEAD, M. and HEYMAN, K., 1965. Family, New York: MacMillan.

PRIGOGINE, Ilya., A Belgian Physical Chemist who created the theory of dissipative structure.

SARTRE, Jean-Paul, 1943. Being and Nothingness.

THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER - an education film to show how perception is a projection from one's own mind set.

TWELVE ANGRY MEN - a film where 11 members change their vote after realizing their initial vote was based on their prior experiences in their own life history.

Janet Ishikawa-Fullmer, Ph.D, is a psychologist in private practice; the president of Human Resources Development Center, Inc.; Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii; and a former dean of students at Honolulu Community College. She is listed in Marquis' Who's Who of American Women, and Marquis; Worlds' Who's Who of Women. Janet received the Thomas Jefferson award for outstanding public service, the Frances E. Clark award for outstanding leadership in counseling & guidance, and the Outstanding Educator of America Award.

Daniel W. Fullmer, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice and a retired professor, University of Hawaii. He is the vice prsident of Human Resources Development Center, Inc., and is listed in Who's Who in America. He received the Thomas Jefferson award for outstanding public service.

For more information, please call or write to Dr. Ishikawa or Dr. Fullmer at:

Human Resources Development Center, Inc.
1750 Kalakaua Avenue #809
Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
(808) 942-2072

Last updated 18 August 1999

Posted with the author's permission by Duen Hsi Yen
Annotated by Duen Hsi Yen

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