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Extraordinary Relationships: A New Way of Thinking about Human Interactions
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Extraordinary Relationships: A New Way of Thinking about Human Interactions

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  326 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
This revolutionary book, based on the innovative Bowen Family Systems Theory, is truly the first self-help guide that shows how to improve and fully develop our individual selves by improving our relationships--from friendships and family to the workplace--and how we use them.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 20th 1992 by Wiley (first published 1992)
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Caitlin Yes, this work is based on the theory of Bowen. But she fleshes the theory out with lots of examples from her professional work.
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Apr 07, 2008 Danielle rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to improve their life
This book gives an explanation of Bowen's family system theory. The first half of the book is heavy on the theory, and then the second half gets into a little bit of how to use it in real life. It doesn't read like a self-help book, and Gilbert gets props for not using words like "codependence" and other jingoistic psychobabbly words. She's completely blunt and realistic, and it's all well-written.

The basic theory is this: in order to have good relationships, you have to be a well-differentiate
Sep 24, 2012 Jules rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirit
Gilbert does a good job explaining systems without making it sound technical. I appreciated the illustrations and the depth of the content of this book. At the ELCA church I serve, we used it as a base for a 10 week class - two chapters a night. The feedback from the participants was positive. Several had read 8 Concepts and Cornerstone Concept, also by Gilbert. Those who had not read her before or were new to Bowen Family System's Theory still enjoyed the book and the class time.
I am recommend
Sep 23, 2007 Alison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction-read
This is an incredible book! The publishers put on a silly cover and made it sound like a dull self-help nightmare, but really it's an accessible explanation of Bowen's Multigenerational Family Systems Theory, which is by far the best counseling theory I've come across. Most theories tell you to look deeper to understand the self. This says to take many steps back, instead, to look at patterns in your family for at least 3 generations. When you do this several clear patterns emerge that are being ...more
Mar 27, 2008 Afsaneh rated it really liked it
One of those books one should re-read to keep perspective about all kinds of relationships (family, romantic, work, etc) and re-aligning one's own expectations in each of those relationships. The provided case studies make it easy to relate to the situations and how they may fit your own life.
This is the best self help book I have read, a layman's explanation of Bowen's family system theory. Observe patterns in your nuclear and extended families, adjust your own behavior and responses, and experience improved relationships. Know thyself and become a more mature and secure human being.
Christine Hiester
Oct 19, 2016 Christine Hiester rated it it was amazing
Excellent resource. I had not heard of Bowen's theory of relationship systems before reading this book, and it has been transformational for me in this season of life. Highly recommended.
Jared D.
Jun 24, 2015 Jared D. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Extraordinary Relationships' was recommended to me by a friend and it turned out to be an enjoyable read. I am always willing to a read a good 'self improvement' (for lack of a better term) book every once in a while.

This book was written by Roberta Gilbert, who is an adherent to the teaching of a psychologist named Dr. Bowen. Dr. Bowen (who is now deceased) had something of a revolutionary view of modern psychology. He had been classically trained as a psychologist, and as such was well-versed
Mar 13, 2012 Holly rated it it was ok
At the core of each of us is a ratio of togetherness and individuality. The togetherness is evolutionary; it is at least somewhat explained by the pack mentality. When one of a pack senses a threat, that anxiety is transferred to the rest as a survival mechanism. This may also be the instinctual part of us that craves acceptance, that worries over what others think, whether we are loved as much as we love, etc. The individuality (a uniquely American/Western phenomenon??) is our core being, our c ...more
Alexandria Skinner
Jul 11, 2014 Alexandria Skinner rated it it was amazing
I recommend this book for anyone who wants to develop a better framework for understanding human relationships and to examine one's own unspoken assumptions and roles that each of us plays within those relationships. This readable, down to earth book condenses Bowen family systems theory into a relatively short explanation. It then devotes one short chapter each to five main relationship patterns that most people tend to engage in. The last part of the book invites the reader to engage in self r ...more
Al Gritten
May 23, 2014 Al Gritten rated it liked it
This is not light reading. Gilbert looks at relationships within the context of Bowen family systems theory. It is an academic work that helps to understand relational behavior in terms of family of origin systems. In other words, it explores how one's behavior is a result of the family system within which they were raised. Within my own setting (parish ministry), systems theory helps us to understand how and why various members of a congregation behave in certain ways. Bowen, and now Gilbert, m ...more
Loriann Oberlin
May 25, 2014 Loriann Oberlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 20 chapters, Dr. Roberta Gilbert does a great job stepping a newcomer through Bowen Family Systems theory and systems theory in general.

Bowen theory has sometimes been faulted for being lofty or perhaps too theoretical. Of all the books I've read on theory, I do think this makes the tenants of theory more palatable to the layperson. Even those of us in the field want to read more easily at times!

Gilbert offers chapters on "Thinking Systems, Watching Process" and others on the differentiation
Oct 30, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it
A very helpful and accessible discussion of Bowen Systems Theory. After slogging through Kerr & Bowen's Family Evaluation, I was much relieved at the accessibility of this book. In reviewing my notes, I find many positive comments. My main negatives were her adoption of too absolutist a position about the supposed ill effects of "cutoff" on P. 62, and a naive fetishization of sexuality in her discussion of friendship on P. 150. The former is just a reflection of her devotion to her mentors, ...more
Dale Callahan
Jul 08, 2016 Dale Callahan rated it liked it
Academic - but someone interesting. Seemed to have circular reasoning - but perhaps the reasoning was missed on me since I am not a practitioner. The message seemed to be that self is not important - instead we need to focus on relationships. But, to fix relationship problems, we need to focus on the self. Huh?

While there were some good ideas in the book about how to do that - it overall left me feeling like I now know what to do but not really how to do it.
Ruth Segal
Feb 26, 2008 Ruth Segal rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who has relationships with others, human or otherwise.
Hopefully this is the only self-help book I will ever review! I just have to share it though!
This book sums up Bowen Family Theory, which basically is about having a sence of self (or not) and how that affects every relationship in one's life. It is short, cuts right to the chase, and has been extremely helpful to me in recognizing ways I still sometimes relate to people in the way I was trained in childhood so I can snap out of it and be my real self!
Nov 01, 2012 Heidi rated it really liked it
Easy to read version of Friedman/Bowen theory. I find this stuff invaluable as a pastor, but I think it would be helpful for any career that involves managing people. Great reference for systems stuff, family issues, premarital counseling, and just general better understanding of human emotional structures.
Scott Hopkins
I have been in Dr. Gilbert's seminar on LEADERSHIP for three years. The theory of Murray Bowen MD is powerful enough to change any life or life situation regardless who it is and what situation they are in. It has given me better relationsips and LEADERSHIP POSITIONS in my vocation than ANYTHING I HAVE EVER BEEN IN! Read this book !!
Blake Kanewischer
Oct 24, 2016 Blake Kanewischer rated it it was amazing
This book is not for a casual weekend read. To fully appreciate the depth of this book, I suspect having a health practitioner around to have conversations about the book would be helpful. The dynamics come through so clearly in the vignettes, and the behaviours stemming from them are so easy to recognize. A magisterial work.
Nov 28, 2011 Bikewriter rated it liked it
An interesting read from a social/psychological viewpoint -- not "pleasure reading" per se. But the presentation is accessible, informational, helpful and worth the effort. Helps to see relationships from a new perspective, to understand the underpinnings of how we approach, enter, and handle relationships based on our inner selves.
Scott Lewis
Jun 03, 2010 Scott Lewis rated it liked it
This practical guide to Bowen Family Systems, also explains the theory for personal use, both individually and with groups. Though the emphasis seems to be on pairings the exploration of parallels between family or origin and ongoing relationships is well explained and accessible.
Jan 16, 2014 r.b rated it really liked it
Clearly explains the concepts of Bowen Theory, which I've been studying for a few years. As soon as I finished the book, I was tempted to start reading it again. A good book to own as I will probably revisit many of the chapters over and over again.
Dec 23, 2013 Katherine rated it really liked it
I found this helpful. It made me view my own family dynamic in a different way, therefore rethinking my own relationships. Learning how to relate to family and personal relationships has been made a little easier to realize because of this book.
Nov 19, 2010 Ilya rated it really liked it
The book provides a family therapist's perspective on relationships. It walks through concepts like differentiation of self, dealing with various negative relationship patterns. A very useful read, with a good bunch of ideas to try out.
Aug 18, 2009 Lynn rated it it was amazing
great family systems insight impacting all relationships
Jennifer McEwen
Aug 26, 2012 Jennifer McEwen rated it it was amazing
This book made me realize just how screwed up I really am!!
Jul 13, 2011 Beth added it
Sharon Campbell
May 05, 2012 Sharon Campbell rated it it was amazing
A life changing read
Cy Helm
Apr 09, 2012 Cy Helm rated it really liked it
Dr. Gilbert provides clear descriptions of the basic concepts in Murray Bowen's Natural Systems Theory.
Oct 19, 2011 Kerri rated it really liked it
Very accessible, practical introduction to family systems theory.
Jun 08, 2012 Corey rated it really liked it
A very good - albeit a little repetitive application of family systems theory for the context of most human relationships. Full of very helpful examples backed by solid theory.
Daniel Seifert
A nice primer of sorts (Bowen theory) toward building healthier and/or supporting family relationships
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“It takes two to have a fight.” 8 likes
“People frequently point to communication as a problem, because its easy to notice, but usually it is a symptom of an underlying problem with a relationship posture.” 6 likes
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