ontogeny and expression
The shouts of children, racing from class to playground, tumble happily into chaos like fireworks at carnival: "Crazy! Let's do it!" "Wicked!" "You're mental!" To choose their leaders they follow their instincts mdash;our history seems like a comic strip to them. Yet while they're focused on their experiences our schooling still absorbs them, their development and growth framed in the environments it describes.
Every being synthesizes an internal model of the environment they perceive from the pieces of data about it that their senses are able to gather for them. No being can see past this. Born expecting their world to make sense, children see only foundations around them. In a lifelong recursion that begins at conception, they build on these regardless, imagining that what seems to them to work is viable. They learn as best they can, their understanding of the information on which they depend limited by their experience as well as confirmed by it.
Like the floor of a cave in the darkness, felt as pressure from the head of a walking stick against the palm of our hand, reality is real, though we can only imagine it. Our sense of it, of our life and environment, is just a model we construct in our minds, formed from those elements we can recognize —those that have significance for us. Even though things are not as obvious as they might appear, reality makes sense. All we can ever have of it however, is our perception.
In order to survive, every being must interact appropriately with an environment, that, as well as inanimate entities, is made up of other beings. Societies formed as the relationships between beings and their environments then developed. Over generations, as elementary societies became more complex and interdependent they evolved into multi-cellular, modular, and symbiotic beings. For the advantage of social connection, communication has developed from fundamental individual interactions. Reflecting inherited pre-conceptions this has evolved into languages that then frame our perceptions —good or bad, right or wrong, mad or not.
Communicating constantly and unavoidably —through non-verbal more than verbal language— each of us expresses a unique, nested set of cultures. In us, cultures of family, community, region, and state aggregate to form one that is singular, personal, and unique. Our experience and our learning —even about culture and language— are framed by the understanding this provides. For each of us, the cultural understanding we develop in ontogeny frames who we are, and what we do; it makes sense of the world —and of us.
As well as patterning our environment with constructions and artifacts, our culture patterns our perception. Through its paradigm we learn how to anticipate and interpret the responses we receive from the world around us; by weighing those of candor and kindness we learn to build and sustain our society. Whether as tourists or immigrants we discover these patterns are not universal and absolute we discover that we are dumb. As the categories that seemed certain to us evaporate we find ourselves yearning for the authentic connection that we took for granted in well-established constructs and familiar company.
Every individual being engages with reality by sensing a world of essentially relative data. This random stream is filtered and translated into functional information through a unique, personal culture. Centred on our mother's this grows, expanding outwards as it absorbs the world we come to know. Crystallizing around a genetic algorithm, moment by moment every experience is meshed with earlier ones, ignorantly incorporating privation and error as well as understanding. Like the development of a rose bush or an apple tree is trained by a trellis, the development of our psyche is trained by our culture.
To successfully integrate with society, and to obtain its protection and support, learning to communicate effectively is vital. Being shunned can be a death sentence. Instinctively aware of this, infants relentlessly demand conversation, their drive to communicate readily overwhelming other fears, and even their drives of hunger and thirst —as all animals do, we cry first, and then we suckle. Away from our family home, in later life, the quality of the conversations we have with the world around us emerges from the pattern of expression imprinted by ontogeny. To negotiate meaning with those coming from cultures other than our own, we must learn to communicate through the sieves these patterns interpose.
Every being's survival depends upon it making sense of its environment, both external and internal, and appropriately communicating with this. Success in doing so determines not only physiological well-being but also mental well-being —its meta-biological expression. When understood as being distinct from an ineffable soul, it is the fluency of our expression that defines our psyche. The success of interventions made in the lives of others, comes from their ability to develop our fluency.
This note is being drafted. Please use the contact form (accessible via the link at the bottom of main pages) if you would like to be notified when it is published.
From the UK House of Commons debate, 28 October 1943:
The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill): ... On the night of 10th May, 1941, with one of the last bombs of the last serious raid, our House of Commons was destroyed by the violence of the enemy, and we have now to consider whether we should build it up again, and how, and when. We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us... Hansard, vol 393 cc403-73
Whether healthcare interventions are made actively: through surgery, chemical or physical therapies, psychotherapy or social support, or whether they occur simply through the process of engagement with healthcare providers, they all necessarily involve profound cognitive interaction. In whatever way health conditions are expressed and managed they intrinsically impact on the mental-wellbeing of those involved.
"To my patients, who have paid to teach me."The dedication of: "Playing and Reality", 1971, by D.W Winicott (1896-1971), now a classic work of reference in the field of human development — Winicott was Chairman of the British Psychological Association, President of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, and President of the Paediatric Section of the Royal Society of Medicine.
a complete aetiology
sorry! This note is being edited. Please use the contact form (accessible via the link at the bottom of main pages) if you would like to be notified when it is re-published.
From the Hippocratic Oath, 1964.