Mental health practitioners have been using genograms for many years, having borrowed the concept from anthropologists. I have degrees in both subjects, so I have two reasons to love them!
Summary: a genogram creates an anthro-style family tree, with additional details added to as many people as possible.
* a circle is a female. A triangle is a male. = is a marriage or other liaison that leads to descendants. ________ shows lineage. So Bill = Mary and there is a straight vertical line down from the = . Then draw a horizontal line a the bottom of the vertical line. That is the space where we will put the descendants.
* Below the horizontal line, put vertical lines at intervals, with circles or triangles to show the next generation, Bill and Mary's children. Put = to show their spouses, then vertical lines and those children's children.
I can't plunk a diagram into this, so Google Hawaiian lineage and you can see a lineage in action.
The key to a genogram is the information that you collect on your ancestors.
* I did a genogram for a person who couldn't understand why her brother and mother were alcohol abusers. There weren't any other alcoholics in her family, she was sure. Then she did a genogram and discovered two greatuncles and a cousin. And a grandfather with a gambling problem. Three cousins who smokes like chimneys. A compulsive shopper. There was a lot of different dysfunctional solutions to stressful lives there. She re-doubled her efforts to meditate and do Reiki, and had peace with the mum and brother. Instead of thinking they were a bolt from the blue, she could see a pattern.
* a client with a kid with autism did a genogram and realized that every generation had at least one person who was "off-base" in a way that they didn't understand but that she could see was somewhere on the spectrum.
* many people map out cancers, to know what to be extra vigilant about.
* several of my clients have mapped out character and personality traits. One person realized that schizophrenia crops up now and again, but that everyone is atypical in one way or another, reflecting subclinical genetic predispositions.
* Even if your question has no basis in genetics, the genogram gives you a pictorial representation of relationships, which can make the linkages "pop out at you," visual creatures that we are. Scientists in many disciplines still use diagrams to help them think through a problem, even in this quant-crazy world.
* You can look at multiple questions on the same genogram. You can see similarities and differences, among one question and even be able to see if two trends are trending in the same way. They could be causal to each other, or just correlated (responding both to a 3rd force, like your net income and your happiness have both increased in the past 6 months. Did one cause the other or are they both the result of you just got married or you moved out of a place you were stifled in?)
Pick a characteristic you want to look at and produce your first genogram. Send it to me and I will give you a free consult on your conclusions (up to 25 minutes). The insights can be mind-blowing.