THEORIST: IVAN BOSZORMENYI-NAGY
This theory focuses on the notions of loyalty and fairness. Nagy introduced the idea that of an ethical system at the heart of families that, like a ledger, keeps track of entitlement and indebtedness. His view was that families must strive to achieve and maintain an equitable balance of fairness that transmits across generations.
- To rebuild loyalty and trustworthiness between and among family members, and guide members to take accountability for their own actions
- To establish a balanced and reciprocal relationship among the individual family members, with a fair proportion of entitlements and indebtedness
- Free family members from invisible loyalties that had previously disrupted the family system, creating a clean slate to move forward
- Four dimensions of individual and relational psychology that interact with one another:
- Facts (biology and socio-historical information)
- Gender, race, ethnicity, and birth defect
- Life experiences such as divorce, abuse, illness, etc.
- Individual Psychology (emotional and cognitive processes)
- Our personal thoughts, fantasies, emotions, and the meanings we assign to them
- Transactions (systemic factors and relational context)
- Patterns of family organizations
- Relational Ethics
- Individuals are ethically responsible for how their behaviors affect others
- A personal psychological accounting system where an individual keeps track of who owes what to whom.
- Destructive Entitlement
- The main cause of family dysfunction;
- The “right to bear a grudge,” that is, developing symptomatic and often harmful behaviors in pursuit of what an individual perceives is owed to him/her, thereby continuing the pattern of a poorly functioning family.
- Constructive Entitlement
- What an individual is rightfully and fairly due based on his/her behavior or actions towards others; an “ethical guarantee” to merits that are earned in the context of relationships.
- Rejunctive Moves
- Note for exam: Main goal of Contextual Therapy
- Effort to move towards trustworthy relatedness.
- Disjunctive Moves
- Moving away from trustworthy relatedness.
- Set of expectations and obligations that are passed down through generations and derived from one’s family of origin.
- Equitable Asymmetry
- The duty of parents to care for their child(ren) without expectation of anything in return.
- Source of credit earned through the accumulation of positive actions and behaviors toward others.
- Filial Loyalty
- The unspoken idea rooted in the child(ren) that upon reaching adulthood they are indebted to care for their parents as their parents once cared for them.
- Note for exam: Nagy is credited with originating the concept of parentification
- The subjective misinterpretation by an adult of a relationship, whereby that adult treats his/her partner or children as if they were his/her parent. (This concept of parentification is different from the structural model’s concept of “parentified child,” in which a child is elevated to the parental subsystem).
- Revolving slate of injustice
- Continuation of destructive entitlement in which one generation damages the next generation, as one person takes revenge (or insists on entitlements) in one relationship based on the relational transactions in another relationship.
- Split filial loyalty
- A demand for a child’s loyalty by one parent at the cost of loyalty to the other parent, i.e., when a child is forced to choose one parent over another because of mistrust between the parents.
- Multidirectional Partiality
- Therapist stance
- An attitude that allows the therapist to empathize with each family member and to recognize the value in each perception, i.e., being “partial” with all family members.
- Involves “sequential siding,” or empathizing with each person’s position in turn.
- Occurs when the client’s “ledger” is balanced, and trust is restored.
NOTE FOR EXAM: If you see any of the terms listed above, think Nagy and Contextual!
ASSESSMENT AND TREATMENT
- Family resources are the main focus of assessment
- Each family member is held accountable for (not simply made aware of) his/her position in terms of fairness to others
STANCE OF THE THERAPIST
- Multidirectional Partiality
- An attitude that allows the therapist to empathize with each family member and to recognize the value in each perception
- Therapist is not impartial or neutral
- Therapist does NOT pathologize the family
- The therapist is an active guide, advocating for rejunctive moves (toward trustworthiness) by: encouraging open discussion of ledger issues and exploring loyalty, especially sources of destructive entitlement; (“How do you account for your part here?”)
- Therapist serves as a catalyst of resources