Triangles — Basic Molecule of Human Relationships

One of the nine marks of Bowen Theory is the Triangle. This refers to three parts of an emotional system or two people and an issue. Triangles have rules that govern their functioning.

  1. It is not possible from point A to change the relationship of B and C.
  2. Continued efforts to change the relationship of B and C from the position of A will be converted by homeostatic forces to their opposite intent (pushing them apart will make them ‘fall in love’ , and trying to push them together will create polarized opposition).
  3. Change in B and C can only come from changing one’s own relationship with with or both, individually.
  4. If from the position of A you become responsible for the relationship of B and C, then you will wind up with the stress for their relationship, if not for the whole system.
  5. Triangles interlock: an important triangle in one branch of a system i.e. company, school, family effect the others. the interlocking demonstrates how problems in one system can produce symptoms in another system.

This way of thinking has changed my life. It has made me a more effective priest and hopefully a better human being. Bowen theory is counter-intuituive to the prevailing culture and requires commitment and a bit of contrariness but it is worth it.