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General Systems
Theory & Beyond
Mark Stancombe, Psychotherapist & Counsellor
mstancombe@move-forward.org
• A theory of organisation
• A way of categorising systems throughout nature [living & inanimate]
• The family is a „livin...
1. The whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts
2. Systems are highly organised and relationships are consistent
3...
• Gregory Bateson [England 1904 – 1980] Anthropologist
• Margaret Mead* [USA 1901 – 1978] Cultural Anthropologist
* she in...
• Existing Psychotherapy Focuses entirely on the individual
• The experience of treating Soldiers in groups after the war ...
In the late 1920's von Bertalanffy wrote: -
Since the fundamental character of the living thing is its organization,
the c...
• Proposed a general theory of systems that he hoped would help create a
coherent theoretical model of relevance to ALL li...
• Originally famous for work in Schizophrenia
• Most renowned for „The Double-Bind‟ that he proffered is a
fundamental ele...
Gregory Bateson Video
Observed that….
The Treaty Of Versailles exemplifies a whole pattern of human
relationships based on betrayal and hate
He ...
• Cybernetics is a set of principles adapted from electronic control systems
• Cybernetics refers to the exchange of infor...
…An emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in
which an individual [or group] receives two or more
conflicting me...
• Involves two or more people [„victim‟ and „superior(s)‟ the victim respects]
• Recurrent experience. Can‟t result from a...
• The presenting problem is rarely the real problem
- How people cope is the cause of the problem
• Low self-esteem is oft...
Virginia Satir Video
• General Systems Theory, Cybernetics, Information Theory,
Communications Theory ALL support the importance of the whole
s...
1. The whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts
2. Systems are highly organised and relationships are consistent
3...
General systems theory - a brief introduction
General systems theory - a brief introduction
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General systems theory - a brief introduction

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a very brief introduction to Systems Theory as a basis ultimately for Family Systems Theory etc. [aka Systemic]

Published in: Health & Medicine, Technology

General systems theory - a brief introduction

  1. 1. General Systems Theory & Beyond Mark Stancombe, Psychotherapist & Counsellor mstancombe@move-forward.org
  2. 2. • A theory of organisation • A way of categorising systems throughout nature [living & inanimate] • The family is a „living system‟ with capacity to adapt: - - The boundary around the family & family sub-systems - Differentiation of these sub-systems & the degree to which the boundaries within them is clear e.g. marital relationship is separate to the parental sub-system
  3. 3. 1. The whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts 2. Systems are highly organised and relationships are consistent 3. Systems are defined by boundaries (However, if the boundary is too solid or too permeable, the system will become dysfunctional). 4. The behaviour of individuals cannot be understood without reference to the systems to which they belong 5. Circular causality 6. Homeostatis (Systems seek stability but in order to stay healthy they must be able to change). 7. Systems are goal directed
  4. 4. • Gregory Bateson [England 1904 – 1980] Anthropologist • Margaret Mead* [USA 1901 – 1978] Cultural Anthropologist * she influenced Benjamin Spock [controversial child rearing views] • Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy [Austria 1901 – 1972] Biologist • Salvador Minuchin [Argentina 1921 - ] Family Therapist • Carl Whitaker [USA 1912 – 1995] Psychiatrist • Norbert Weiner [USA 1894 – 19640 Mathemetician • Walter F Buckley [USA 1922 – 2006] Professor of Sociology • Alfred Habdank Skarbek Korzybski [Poland 1879 – 1950] Scientist • Jay Douglas Haley [USA 1923 – 2007] Communication • John Weakland [USA 1919 – 1995] Research Fellow • Don De Avila Jackson [USA 1920 – 1968] Psychiatrist • Virginia Satir [USA 1916 – 1988] + Lyman Wynne, Murray Bowen, Theodore Lidz, Ronald Laing, Ivan Boszomenyi-Nagy ……..
  5. 5. • Existing Psychotherapy Focuses entirely on the individual • The experience of treating Soldiers in groups after the war was hardly individual, private or personal and the Freudian view of the psyche as a dark, hidden realm within the recesses of the individual cannot be maintained • Existing theories are deficient in ignoring the social nature of psychic life • The idea of an organism being driven by individual libidinous desire (Freud) is narrow, inaccurate and not acceptable • Individual „fantasy‟ is no longer reasonably acceptable as the cause of trauma Thus, the families of Schizophrenic patients commenced, which was distinct from the Group work undertaken with soldiers [based on cost] Family therapy was in its embryonic state, coming out from this early work with Schizophrenics. Became relatively late [end of 1950‟s]
  6. 6. In the late 1920's von Bertalanffy wrote: - Since the fundamental character of the living thing is its organization, the cus-tomary investigation of the single parts and processes cannot provide a complete explanation of the vital phenomena. This investigation gives us no information about the coordination of parts and processes. Thus the chief task of biology must be to discover the laws of biological systems (at all levels of organization). We believe that the attempts to find a foundation for theoretical biology point at a fundamental change in the world picture. This view, considered as a method of investigation, we shall call "organismic biology" and as an attempt at an explanation… "the system theory of the organism"
  7. 7. • Proposed a general theory of systems that he hoped would help create a coherent theoretical model of relevance to ALL living systems • Believed the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts • Believed we need to study the „transactional processes‟ occuring between the components of the system if we are to understand it. • Believed we need to „notice‟ emerging patterns and the organised relationships between these components • Framed the term „the system theory of the organism‟
  8. 8. • Originally famous for work in Schizophrenia • Most renowned for „The Double-Bind‟ that he proffered is a fundamental element of the root cause of Schizophrenia • Fundamentally opposed view to much accepted thinking  • Helped extend General Systems Theory into social sciences [1940‟s] • Devoted last decade of his life bringing these together
  9. 9. Gregory Bateson Video
  10. 10. Observed that…. The Treaty Of Versailles exemplifies a whole pattern of human relationships based on betrayal and hate He further stated that the treaty of Versailles and the development of cybernetics, which for him represented the possibility of improved relationships, are the only two anthropologically important events of the twentieth century Others: - - “Logic is a poor model of cause and effect” - “Language commonly stresses only one side of any interaction. Double description is better than one”
  11. 11. • Cybernetics is a set of principles adapted from electronic control systems • Cybernetics refers to the exchange of information [aka „communication‟] between „systems‟ and the environment within which and around which the system finds itself • Cybernetics is NOT „Systems Theory‟ in general terms • Cybernetics relies entirely on the study of systems that can be mapped using exchange of information via „loops‟ • A Thermostat is an example • Bateson takes this a stage further… - Systems are units that incorporate feedback mechanisms and by virtue of feedback can process information. Therefore, such systems can be ecological, social and individual. - Families are systems comprised of individuals who are also systems - The mind is not individual [Freud et al] but part of a circuit. As such the paradigm must shift from the individual to the consideration of relationship
  12. 12. …An emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual [or group] receives two or more conflicting messages in which one message negates the other This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will be automatically wrong regardless of response The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore cannot resolve it or opt out of the situation Double-bind‟s can be conveyed by tone or body-language
  13. 13. • Involves two or more people [„victim‟ and „superior(s)‟ the victim respects] • Recurrent experience. Can‟t result from a single traumatic experience • A primary injunction is applied onto the victim by the other(s): - - “do „X‟ or I will punish you” - “do not do „X‟ or I will punish you” - note: could be both the above • Punishment might be the withdrawing of affection, display of anger etc. • A secondary injunction “do „X‟ but only if you want to” [body language?] • Two logical levels [verbal, non-verbal perhaps?] • Neither demand can be ignored or escaped • Victim torn both ways • Whichever demand they meet, they fail on the other • “I must do it but I can‟t do it!
  14. 14. • The presenting problem is rarely the real problem - How people cope is the cause of the problem • Low self-esteem is often at the root of relationship problems • Rejected Freud‟s views in favour of seeing people as a result of negative family scripts that can be changed by learning to get in touch with feelings • Help people realise their self-worth • Help people get in touch with their feelings
  15. 15. Virginia Satir Video
  16. 16. • General Systems Theory, Cybernetics, Information Theory, Communications Theory ALL support the importance of the whole system over the individual within/as part of that system • The individual organism is a complex system [see next slide] • The individual is part of a family system • The family system can be comprised of many systems • The individual cannot be labelled „sick‟ within their family [Freud et al] as this is typically a tactic of that system • The relationship has priority over the individual • Communication Patterns emphasised over private fantasies
  17. 17. 1. The whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts 2. Systems are highly organised and relationships are consistent 3. Systems are defined by boundaries (However, if the boundary is too solid or too permeable, the system will become dysfunctional). 4. The behaviour of individuals cannot be understood without reference to the systems to which they belong 5. Circular causality 6. Homeostatis (Systems seek stability but in order to stay healthy they must be able to change). 7. Systems are goal directed

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