Healthy Relationships 1.6: Multigenerational Transmission Process

Multigenerational Transmission Process

The family projection process (see post by that title)—the process by which children are saddled with the undifferentiation of their parents—continues through the generations in a process called the multigenerational transmission process.

In any nuclear family, one child is the primary object of the father-mother-child triangle. This child will be more undifferentiated than his or her parents and does less well in life. The children who are less involved in parental triangulation emerge into adulthood with about the same level of differentiation as their parents (see post titled, “…Differentiation”). Those who were relatively outside the parental triangulation process develop better levels of differentiation than their parents.

Upward Differentiation

Most families retain a remarkably consistent level of differentiation throughout the generations. There are always anomalies. A family at the highest level of differentiation can have one child who starts down the scale, and a family at the lowest level can have a child who starts up the scale.

Making any kind of upward adjustment in differentiation is a feat that requires focus, intention and a willingness to go against the grain of the family tide. Doing so inevitably meets with disapprovalthe family’s way of unconsciously using an emotional process to maintain the status quo.

The individual who establishes a solid self that differs from the family norm, having established personal beliefs and opinions during times of calm, must be ready to stand confident (not cocky or belligerent) in who he or she isnot from a rebellious position, but from a well thought out perspective…a standpoint that he or she can maintain while staying thoughtfully engaged despite opposition.

Remaining Solid Despite Opposition

Remaining solid will inevitably kick up the emotional process of a family, and depending on the level of differentiation in the family, the opposition can be fierce, as the family attempts to communicate that the divergent individual is wrong and should change back in order to avoid consequences.

If the deviating individual can maintain solidity without getting caught up in the family’s emotional process, the resistance will eventually—sometimes after many years—subside, and family members may even seek out the individual as a respected resource.

Later in this blog, we’ll look at the competencies of a well-differentiated family—a family that doesn’t require its members to conform to a particular worldview in order to be deemed acceptable.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how typical patterns of birth order tend to operate in family systems.

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