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The Intimacy Paradox: Personal Authority in the Family System [Hardcover]

Donald S. Williamson PhD

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Book Description

Oct. 25 1991 0898621062 978-0898621068 1
"How does one leave home emotionally and yet somehow still remain lovingly connected within the family of origin? It is my thesis that this is both the fundamental psychological issue and the essential relational challenge of adulthood....' --From Chapter 1

Although most people physically leave home by their early 20s, emotional separation from one's family is a more difficult process that can continue for a lifetime. THE INTIMACY PARADOX addresses the struggle of adults to establish individual autonomy without sacrificing family connections, and offers a psychotherapeutic approach designed to simultaneously foster both personal development and family of origin intimacy.

As viewed here, the key to achieving the goal of personal authority (or autonomy with intimacy) is to facilitate a deconstruction or demythologizing' of the parents in their parental roles. This allows for an adjustment (sometimes tranformation) of mutual expectations, leaving the adult free to experience parents in a new way, with every admirable trait intact, indeed highlighted. By changing present relationships with parents, the book shows how one can change the present meanings of past memories and thus generate new possibilities for healthier and happier future experiences.

Williamson's theory of personal authority in the family system is offered as a synthesizing construct, which reconciles the opposing pulls of differentiation from parents and intimacy with parents. Personal authority therapy prepares clients to talk directly to their parents as adults and equals and, therefore, without fear. Through hearing the personal narrative of each parent's life firsthand and exploring the private meanings of significant events and relationships, sons and daughters can both demystify and humanize their parents. It is this humanization that ultimately resolves intergenerational intimidation. The goal is to create a family of former parents and former children who share psychological freedom of action and interaction as adults. This creates the conditions for intimacy. The former parent no longer has any special position of power, control, or privilege inherent in the old role; the former child no longer has any obligation to attentiveness, obedience, or overriding loyalty. What is now given, is given freely.

THE INTIMACY PARADOX demonstrates that psychological power and control can and must be redistributed across generational boundaries, so that parents and (former) children can achieve psychological and relational equality. For all professionals engaged in family therapy, this work presents an innovative psychotherapy method for ending intergenerational intimidation while fostering intimacy, love, and a renewed sense of family identification.

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"This fascinating and provocative book reflects a wide and deep understanding of systems ideas. Williamson asks the question: How does one leave home emotionally and yet remain lovingly connected with one's family of origin?' Drawing from many different conceptual frameworks, Williamson revises Bowen's concept of differentiation as the life cycle stage of developing 'personal authority'--a concept that combines differentiation and intimacy. His is a thought-provoking and controversial view, well presented--an unabashedly how-to book, full of humor and clinical nuggets as well as profound ideas about how mid-life adults can make a political shift in their family relationships, through which they come to relate to their 'former parents' as peers."--Monica McGoldrick, M.S.W.

"In this illuminating and intriguing book, Williamson articulates his well delineated ideas on how to intervene to promote the co-evolution of self-differentiation from the family of origin with the establishment of closeness as an adult within the family system. His comprehensive model, derived from long years of clinical and supervisory experiences and analytic reflections on these experiences, is presented in a compelling, highly readable fashion. Important reading for anyone interested in intimate and dynamically evolving personal relationships.' --Florence Kaslow, Ph.D.

"An excellent and thoughtful text--clearly written. A good tool for students' reflection on their family of origin." --Joseph Horak, Wayne State University (Grand Rapids Satellite), Graduate School of Social Work, Grand Rapids, Michigan

"Any person who has ever seen or heard Don Williamson speak knows he is a master at melding his personal life with his theoretical and therapeutic work. In The Intimacy Paradox, Williamson has succeeded in writing what he does so well in his presentations. This book is the authoritative work on the concept of personal authority in the family system."--Journal of Marital and Family Therapy
(Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 2002-07-05)

"An interesting, theoretically sophisticated, and useful guide."--AFTA Newsletter
(AFTA Newsletter 2002-07-05)

"Williamson is utterly persuasive when making the case that achieving wholeness of the self cannot be best built on separation of that self from the parents of origin....He makes his points in a context of respect for the client, the client's spouse, and the client's parents—albeit a context that is open to play and humor and not taking itself too seriously. Williamson not too seriously does very serious work."--Contemporary Psychology
(Contemporary Psychology 2002-07-05)

About the Author

Donald S. Williamson, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine

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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Personal Authority April 26 2000
By Dale Irving - Published on Amazon.com
This book has been most helpful for me in developing a better sense of myself by exploring my place in the family system in which I grew up. In particular it enabled me to claim my own authority in relationship to my parents. Williamson's theory is that it is essential to find a way of eliminating the inter-generational hierarchical boundary that is created in the parent-child relationship in order to fully develop our sense of personal authority. The goal is to find a means to begin to relate with parents as peers once we have attained adulthood. When this is accomplished, paradoxically the intimacy deepens as this new relationship develops.

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