Sunday, March 29, 2009


I have never been obsessed with what everybody else is. While everyone in Lexington, Kentucky is focused on who our new B-ball coach will be, and the rest of the obsessive world is into Twitter and American Idol, I have developed my own fascination -- genograms! But, wait.. you say, "Been there, done that!" .... everybody's made a genogram by now. Sure. But have you made a genogram using Genopro? Try it free for two weeks. . I guarantee you will love it. (Maybe).

My love of genograms is really a companion obsession to my love of literature, stories, history, and of trying to understand human nature. I am enrolled in an MFA program for Creative Writing, and my extended critical essay (ECE) was on Family Systems in short stories. Genograms are a way of charting and understanding family systems.

Maybe you haven't done a genogram? They look like family trees, but the symbols include so much more information: illness, relationships, addictions, etc. Thereby, patterns can be detected over generations that are incredibly enlightening. Many people, me included, have made big changes in their relationships using the theories of family systems.

When I say "family systems," I refer specifically to the work of Murray Bowen and his followers/interpreters. I learned about it first by reading Edwin Friedman's Generation to Generation (used to be required reading for UU ministry), and later, by taking classes for a year with the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center near Chicago. By engaging in the extended conversation and group work the Center offered, I saw the dynamics of my own relationships with family of origin, nuclear family, and church "family" shift dramatically. Hence, my passion for this applied "science."

Back to genograms: I have made my own genograms for: Frank Lloyd Wright, Barack Obama, several members of my congregation (with their input), and I am currently working on one for Kurt Vonnegut. I used a good deal of the information I obtained in a sermon series I did on Family Systems. But now, the series is over, and I just keep making genograms. Yes, I bought the program at a cost of $44. A few nights ago, my husband asked me what I was doing, and I replied that I was constructing a genogram for Vonnegut. Why are you doing that? he asked.

Good question. I think I am passionate about this for several reasons. Mostly, it's a control thing. Placing neatly organized circles, lines and numbers on a computer screen, using this program that makes it incredibly easy --FUN, in fact!-- is a way of managing what never can be controlled: Life, families, human behavior, the random messiness of relationships, all of the potential disasters and diseases and divorces available to everybody. It makes things look tidy and clean. Having finally almost accepted my true powerlessness over most things, I have discovered yet another way to feel as if I have some measure of mastery over life.
Back to Vonnegut.