Ordinary People and Family Systems

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As you read you will learn information of the 1980 movie Ordinary People, the theory of family systems, and how they relate to one another. I will describe some basic information about the movie as well as key points that I feel will connect to the idea of family systems. I will also touch base on strictly the theory of Family systems for a better understand of the characters and plot of the movie. The movie, Ordinary People, is about a family that is currently suffering the unexpected death of their son, Buck, due to a boating accident. Shortly after, their youngest son and now only child, Conrad, tries to committee suicide by slitting his wrists, but was saved by his father, Calvin, who found him in the bathroom. Conrad was with Buck on the boat and witnessed his brother’s death. He then stayed in a hospital for four months, and during his stay there his mother, Beth, never came to visit him. Briefly after he is released he starts seeing a therapist, who eventually becomes Calvin’s therapist as well, named Dr. Berger. Dr. Berger progressively forces Conrad to feel all the emotions he was holding in and overcome them. You see the struggles the family goes through individually as well as a whole, trying to hold themselves together. Conrad let’s the guilt of his brother’s death eat away at him. At one point during the movie Conrad says, “it has to be someone’s fault, otherwise there’s no point.” Meaning that he blames himself for his brothers death all on his own, but also feels that he owes it to his parents for there to be someone to blame. The Mother repeatedly caused me to feel anger. I truly believe she was strictly a selfish woman, cared too much about her social status, and didn’t love her son. In the movie you learn that she cared for her oldest son Buck more than she did Conrad. Because of Conrad’s current state love from both parents is truly needed considering the shame he feels he brought upon them. Beth’s bitter feelings and lack of love towards Conrad is never fully acknowledged until the near end of the movie but is expressed passive aggressively from the beginning. Calvin is a good hearted and honest man who sadly is dealing with the conflict of trying to reunite his wife and son. He shows a great deal of concern for the both of them especially Conrad, but becomes overwhelmed and finally has a session with Dr. Berger. He comes to the realization that he can’t continue to love his wife anymore. In the movie he tells Beth that he’s unsure if she’s truly giving. He says to her, “everything would have been fine if there wasn’t a mess, but you can’t handle messes.” At the end of the movie Beth leaves to go to Houston Texas to stay with her brother, and you see Calvin and Conrad have this moment where you can honestly see they have forgiving themselves for everything and Calvin let’s Conrad know how he loves him. When doing research for this paper, I took the time to look through almost all my art therapy books. And every one of them devotes at least two pages to a whole chapter strictly on families. Emphasizing the fact that the family is a system and in order for things to flow properly within a family, everyone needs to participate. There may still be some gray areas but for the most part it has been agreed that family is a system, but in what way does a family have the formal qualities of a system? According to Von Bertalanffy he states that a system is, “entities standing in interaction.” And a family, as a household, has been stated that the behavior of any single person within that family is at all times a function of behavior of all the other members. Which interprets that when one member of the family changes their behavior it will affect the entire family as a whole in a meaningful way. Research has also shown that families portray constitutive characteristics. Meaning that the group, or family, varies with its components instead of with numbers. For example when a baby is born into a...
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