One aspect of Family Systems Theory that I think is at risk of being lost is 'playfulness.' Students of FST like Friedman and Whittaker actually measured anxiety through the lens of playfulness, the opposite being earnestness.

Playfulness doesn't mean you don't take matters seriously. Sometimes the more serious, the more important 'play time' is.

Playfulness is not only for people of privilege, it is a human need and a true antidote to anxiety's grip.

In the 1950, Murray Bowen, founder of FST coined the term 'societal regression.' It became one of his 8 core concepts.

As he studied the way anxiety spreads between people, he kept moving his view wider and wider from couples to families to groups to an entire society.

Societal Regression is the simple idea that if anxiety spreads in a group, then any group gets more anxious over time unless the group has leaders with calm presence.

Bowen predicted that by the 1970s, our whole society would be very volatile, highly anxious, combative and polarized. These 'ends' are the result of chronic anxiety in a group over time.

If you've ever strongly disagreed with someone, or had, say, a strong political difference. Then if you pay attention to your inner life - what you think about them, the way you 'demonize' them.

Now imagine that on a societal level.

Societal Regression.

Our problems are profoundly serious. Our society is profoundly broken and people are profoundly anxious.

Now is the time for leaders to do even deeper work.

Often the first impulse of a leader is to lead 'the other'

I see this all the time in my trainings. People get a whiff of FST and quickly want to apply it to 'that person.'

But the first necessary deep work a leader does is always on herself or himself.

Want someone to be less anxious? Pay attention to yourself first.

Or, as our flight attendants incessantly remind us, 'first place the oxygen mask on your own face before helping others.'

Same sentence. Every time we fly. Every. Time.

Why the repetition? Could it be that it so deeply goes against our impulse to be others' focused?

So in order to de escalate societal regression or family regression or congregational regression the first thing a leader does is put the oxygen mask on her own face.

Then the leader clarifies 'what am I responsible for? What can I do? What is for the other to do?'

'What is God's to do?'

Chronic Anxiety in our life is the evidence that we've fallen into the oldest snare in the book, 'you can be like god.'

Some of our chronic anxiety is generated by our attempt to control what we simply cannot control.

But Paul reminds us in Galatians that we can control 'self.' Self control being evidence that Spirit is alive and working in us. Part of self control is releasing our grip on what we cannot control.

Ok, so O2 mask and all that....

That is where playfulness can come in. Laughter, fun, recreation, soul care, contemplative prayer, full cream lattes and more come in.

Some questions for today:

1) How can I play today?
2) With whom?
3) What serious matter am I anxious about?
4) What can I do?
5) What can I not do?
6) What is God's to do?

Amen and amen.


• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Steve Cuss

Steve Cuss Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @stevecusswords

12 Mar
I continue to explore tools and ramifications to decrease the grip of our Inner Critic.

It recently occurred to me that the message of the inner critic often fall into broad categories of:

- you must do it perfectly
- you must know the answer
- you must always love well.

Wait a minute there, Inner Critic.

Are you suggesting we should be:

All knowing
Unconditionally loving?
Always there for people?

Does that sound like anyone you know?

The very first temptation given to humans was:

'you can be like God.'

No. We cannot. We will never be like God. We can worship God and love God and follow God.

Most scandalous of all, we can enjoy God.

But we will never be like God.

Read 7 tweets
3 Mar
Pastors, let's talk about 'usual suspects' critics.

There are all kinds of critics, some of whom are an absolute gift.

Then there are the 'usual suspect' critics.

Helpful: they're in it with you, they're for the cause, they see things in you that you don't see, they help develop you as a leader.

Sometimes their feedback hurts, not because of them, but because we pastors tend to take our ministry so extremely personally.

Then there is the 'garden variety' critic. They don't have malice toward you, it just hasn't occurred to them that maybe you and your team have put 100 hours into the decision and looked at every angle.

Because they go to church, they think they know how to lead a church.

Read 10 tweets
2 Mar
Chronic anxiety is present any time the false self is demanding attention.

What do you think you need that you don't really need?

What are you in the grip of that God is rescuing you from?

Jesus died to free me from needing ______ anymore

For me? Thanks for asking.

Gold standard sermons everytime.
Having the answer always at the ready.
Everyone approving me, no matter what.
More insight from me when you don't understand me or misattribute my motives.

and plenty more.

I recommend you write them out. It is crazy what you live for and how tightly you are in the grip of these false needs.

Pay attention to superlatives and exxagerations.

'always' 'everyone' 'must' etc. These words are evidence of being in anxiety's squeeze.

Read 5 tweets
1 Mar
What are the top four ways relationships get into trouble quick?

1) Unspoken expectations.
2) Unspoken values.
3) The meaning we make out of what we don't know.
4) Assumption of motive in the other.

And then we spin in the '4th space: the space inside the other' and we spend inordinate amounts of time wondering, 'what were they thinking, why did they do it that way.'

Spinning ensues.

It takes courage, clarity, calm and curiosity.

Sorry for the litany of Cs....old preacher syndrome....

But you can speak the unspoken and move into a posture of curiosity with the person to regain human connection.

Read 7 tweets
27 Feb
The Inner Critic.


Its hard to dislodge the power and influence the IC has over us.

Here is a helpful tool:

1. Find at least one other who cares about you and get together.

2. Have your friend write down the messages your IC tells you as you share it.

3. Then ask her/him to write the adjectives of these messages, ex: 'harsh,' 'unrelenting,' 'condemning.' etc. So now you have the actual messages on one line and descriptors on the other.

4. Now write the descriptors of God's character and God's posture toward you. Patient, loving, kind etc.

5. What if I were at least as ________ to myself as God is.

Read 11 tweets
25 Feb

John says 'perfect love casts out fear.'

Perfect love displaces fear. I think fear can displace our awareness and experience of perfect love. It cannot displace God's love, but it sure can displace our awareness of it.

Knowing you're in anxiety's grip is actually not as easy as we think. We tend to bear down and try harder instead of pausing.

One way to notice it: you are no longer aware of God's presence and God's love.

It could be that your anxiety has displaced your awareness.

Warning Signs:
- you start to think it is all on you/all on your shoulders.
- 'if it is to be, it is up to me.' An anxious statement if ever I heard one.
- An impending feeling of doom or hopelessness.
- Rigid thinking, either-or locked in thinking.
- double binding.
Read 12 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!