Saturday, February 05, 2005
Who hasn't been referred, in reading, at some stage, to Gregory Bateson's "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" and thought to yourself, that will be important/interesting? I bought it and read it about 15 years ago, being less knowledgeable than I thought I might be after struggling through it. At least you can dip into it when you think you might be thinking along the same lines. Bateson was obsessed by the double-bind theory but it is not taken so seriously nowadays
R D Laing took up Bateson's double-bind theory, trying to use it in theapeutic practice.
In the 70s I got all the books, "The Divided Self", etc, diligently reading them. You could be persuaded by the force of that "They fuck you up, you Mum and Dad". It seemed extremely plausable. Now it seems merely quaint. In those days, Laing was considered to be the bees-knees, therefore difficult to contradict. In retrospect, it was a quasi-Marxist type of thinking, where once in [i.e poor parents of mentally ill patient] you were trapped. The passage of time and the demonstration that drugs can ameliorate schizophrenia has rather disproved this family ecology cause type theory. Everything has swung back towards nature over nurture.
Though with all mental illnesses, accepting genetic factors, there must be environmental triggers running from diet through stress to complex social factors. Someone told me dopamine had something to do with triggering schizophrenic episodes. I looked it up but could only find that post-mortem studies have shown increased numbers dopamine receptors in parts of the basal ganglia. It might be a secondary effect of neuroleptic treatment.
There is a new link up to Bateson under Psychology (think of a better category later). The site has been produced Alexandru Anton-Luca out of Indiana U. and is pretty comprehensive, giving a full biography which is very important to get a handle on Bateson's thinking.
Here area few quotes from Steps to an Ecology of Mind