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Systems Theory, And Why Norms Are Good But Madness Is Better

August 14, 2012

I have yet again come up with a list of unsupported assertions.  They’re not remotely testable, and perhaps they make sense only to me (they’re based on my potted knowledge of systems theory) — but they are enough for me to confidently use them as a sort of quantum backgrounder or set of position points on how I view mental health issues.  Got your stompers on?  Then wade in!

  • I do not view mental health issues as pathology.
  • I do view them as evidence of extremes or lacunae in the standard apparatus of a person’s psycho-spiritual-behavioural make-up, relative to posited norms.
  • Though inconstant, highly variable, and fundamentally unquantifiable (hence “posited”), norms and normality in human behaviour and thought must be acknowledged, for these constantly negotiated intersubjectivities for better or worse both reflect and define the negotiated inter/intra-personal spaces we inhabit.
  • Systems theory applies.  Our intersubjectivities and our inter/intra-personal spaces are of course functions of imbricated and nested systems with their own specific sets of characteristics, tendencies and trends.
  • Norms are one of the social system’s inevitable negative-feedback regulatory measures — the centripetal weight that ensures relative consistency and constancy, and guards against entropic dissolution/disruption.  Group behaviour finds its centre.
  • By that token, our psycho-spiritual-behavioural selves are also systemic functions, and themselves systematic.  And when it comes to social systems, they are no less subject to norms than are groups.  Each aspect of the psycho-spiritual-behavioural self, then, is at any moment a node on a continuum of current social norms.
  • Specific norms, how they arise and why we attract to them are not my concern.  I’m interested in Selves.  If you are an outlier — if you have extremes or lacunae anywhere in your psycho-spiritual-behavioural self, placing you too far from whatever set of values the system requires to maintain stability, you risk becoming an element in a positive feedback situation.
  • Depending on who you are and what your issues/situation are, negative feedback mechanisms may or may not “correct” the disruption you cause (or are!), and the disruption you cause may affect you alone, or provoke major systemic cascade resulting in planet-wide catastrophe.
  • I define as insane (pathological) those outliers who actually aim toward the centre, and whose devotion to negative feedback strategies provokes at the very least stagnation, or at worst catalysis of a positive feedback mechanism which will collapse the system and take them down with it.  They have no role outside the dynamics of the current system, and once they’ve disrupted the system in their attempts to sustain it, they will be superfluous nuisances.
  • I define as Mad (healthy) those outliers who possess the positive feedback characteristics needed to kick the species into higher gear — or at the very least kick it swiftly in the behind.  I believe that the effects of their psycho-spiritual-behavioural characteristics will likely jack the entire human species into a whole new age (or at least, broaden our thought-paradigms and mentalities).  Their characteristics will disrupt the system, yet provide the foundational elements of a new system: an expansive one, complex and complicated, full of variety and diversity.  Regulatory measures will come into play, of course, for sets of norms are both necessary and inescapable.  But they will be new norms, different and better.  Much, much better.

 And that is why the last thing anybody should do is treat the Mad as ill.  We’re gonna save your asses.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2012 9:05 pm

    Wow…. I like how you are thinking this through…. the drive to be normal….. suddenly meets the obstacle of valuing the different for their motivation towards a society that evolves towards health.

  2. August 15, 2012 2:42 am

    What the heck is that drive toward normalcy? Is it gravity? Accretion? Avoidance of pain?

    I suspect it is an attempt to resolve a chronic, culturally-based thrust toward divisiveness and exclusion. We are trying to come home before we allow ourselves to wander.

    Positive feedback systems always burn themselves out. Thank God.

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