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Each investigation is an original research project

“There have been many studies of social factors in relation to schizophrenia. These include attempts to discover whether schizophrenia occurs more or less frequently in one or other ethnic groups, social class, sex, ordinal position in the family, and so on. The conclusion from such studies has often been that social factors do not play a significant role in the ‘aetiology of schizophrenia’. This begs the question, and moreover such studies do not get close enough to the relevant situation. If the police wish to determine whether a man has died of natural causes or has committed suicide, or been murdered, they do not look up prevalence or incidence figures. They investigate the circumstances attendant upon each single case in turn. Each investigation is an original research project, and it comes to an end when enough evidence has been gathered to answer the relevant questions.” (Laing, 1967, Politics of Experience.)


Strange to know nothing, never to be sure
Of what is true or right or real,
But forced to qualify or so I feel,
Or Well, it does seem so:
Someone must know.

Strange to be ignorant of the way things work:
Their skill at finding what they need,
Their sense of shape, and punctual spread of seed,
And willingness to change;
Yes, it is strange,

Even to wear such knowledge – for our flesh
Surrounds us with its own decisions –
And yet spend all our life on imprecisions,
That when we start to die
Have no idea why.

—Philip Larkin

Total administration

“Total administration corresponds to that historical moment when technical rationalization and instrumentality, in the service of capital, spreads beyond subject-external social and political relations to penetrate and determine at a fundamental level individual psycho-interiority. This process, operating at the level of individual psychology to determine schema development and formation, has an integrative, regulatory function, affirming subject commitment to, and compliance with, capital and commodity form.”

From Downie, G. (2004). Aesthetic Necrophilia: Reification, New Music, and the Commodification of Affectivity. Perspectives of New Music, 42, 264-27.

It’s so rambling it’s musical.

Spotted thanks to The Chap (The Band).

words, words, words

[…] there is no end to it, words, words, words. At best and most they are perhaps in memoriam, evocations, conjurations, incantations, emanations, shimmering, iridescent flares in the sky of darkness, a just still feasible tact, indiscretions, perhaps forgiveable….

City lights at night, from the air, receding, like these words, atoms each containing its own world and every other world. Each a fuse to set you off….

If I could turn you on, if I could drive you out of your wretched mind, If I could tell you I would let you know.

– R. D. Laing (1967). The Bird of Paradise.


If I could tell you

If I could tell you
Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

– W. H. Auden (1907 – 73)

Haverstock Hill

“Paul Zeal told me of how, one day, he and Laing had spotted me careering down Haverstock Hill on my bike: bobble-hat on the hawk-head, a Dr Who oversized overcoat flapping in the breeze, with my “Unfit to Plead” badge attached to the lapel, no doubt heading for another night at the Vortex, or the consoling disillusions of the White Heart Lane terraces. This sight(ing) had provoked Laing to casually share with Paul, “What a strange bunch we are!” And the strangeness, the incipient unreality, of the psychotic world is what Laing had a considerable capacity to acknowledge, whilst neither rejecting, nor reinforcing it.”

Chris Oakley (2012), Where did it all go wrong? In R.D. Laing 50 Years since The Divided Self, edited by Theodor Itten and Courtenay Young.

Factors thought to maintain children and young people’s mental health problems

From Alan Carr’s Handbook of Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology (2nd ed) pp. 62-70:

Family system factors

  • Inadvertent reinforcement, e.g., frequently inquiring about mood or commenting on negative conduct
  • Insecure attachment, whereby children don’t experience carers as a secure base
  • Coercive interaction, e.g., escalating negative interaction leading to withdrawal and relief, reinforcing behaviour just before relief
  • Over-involvement, parental criticism and emotional over-involvement
  • Disengagement, low frequency carer-child interaction
  • Inconsistent parental discipline, leading to problems internalising rules
  • Confused communication, e.g., indirect rather than direct communication
  • Triangulation (not always negative), e.g., a “coalition” where one carer is peripheral
  • Chaotic organisation
  • Absent carer
  • Carer relationship discord

Parental factors

  • Parents with similar problems as child act as a role model maintaining the behaviour
  • Resources for parenting compromised by mental health issues or criminality
  • Misinterpreted crying (interpreted as intentionally punishing carer)
  • Low self esteem
  • External locus of control
  • “Immature defences”
  • Unemployment (failure to meet financial needs; impact on status)
  • Boredom in work
  • Excessive stress in work
  • Role strain with parallel “homemaking” and working

Social network factors

  • Lack of social support, e.g., lack of positive interactions with extended family/friends
  • Chronic life stress
  • Unsuitable education placement, e.g., understaffed schools
  • “Deviant” peer-group e.g., peers using drugs
  • Community problems, e.g., social disadvantage, racism, social exclusion, high crime rates

Problem maintaining treatment system factors

  • Family members’ denial of problems
  • Poor working alliance with clinicians
  • Rejection of formulation and/or treatment plan
  • Failure of communication between MDT members
  • Failure of inter-agency network
  • Conflicting formulations in multidisciplinary team and inter-agency work
  • Culturally insensitive clinicians

Also flip side of these, protective factors, such as good physical health, high intellectual ability, high self-esteem, humour, positive engagement with treatment agencies, protective peer group, …

A kõan about why science is tricky


Shuzan held out his short staff and said: “If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?”

Mumon’s Commentary:

If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. It cannot be expressed with words and it cannot be expressed without words. Now say quickly what it is.

Mumon’s Poem:

Holding out the short staff,
He gave an order of life or death
Positive and negative interwoven,
Even Buddha’s and patriarchs cannot escape this attack.

GCHQ’s director’s Turing speech – a research team manual?

Just read the (4 Oct 2012) speech about Alan Turing, given by Iain Lobban, Director GCHQ, at the University of Leeds.

Fantastic stuff in there. Here are some excerpts.

On learning to solve problems

“… [Turing] reported to Bletchley Park as agreed and immediately started working with [Dilly] Knox [expert on the Enigma cypher …]. Knox’s influence on Turing at this time is immense. The older veteran cryptanalyst shared everything he knew about Enigma with Turing, who eventually used this knowledge to write the first four chapters of his treatise on Enigma […]

“…[Turing] was happy to learn from Dilly Knox, happy to use that knowledge as the foundation for what he would develop subsequently, and was diligent in recording what he had learned and how he developed that into new areas so that others could profit from his knowledge just as he had profited from that of Knox.”

Knox could only take Turing so far and his quest for experience-based understanding of the cryptanalysis of Enigma took Turing to France in January 1940…”

Team work

There are lots of different ways in which people can work as part of a team.  Turing’s way was to take in other people’s ideas, develop and build on them, and then pass the product on to other people to be the foundation for the next stage.  He took the idea of electromechanical processing of Enigma messages from the Poles but developed their idea into something radically different.  When Welchman later enhanced the Bombe with his diagonal board, Turing was among the first to congratulate him on this major improvement.  Turing was part of the team, and shared in the success of the team.”

Respecting diversity

“I strongly believe a Sigint agency needs the widest range of skills possible if it is to be successful, and to deny itself talent just because the person with the talent doesn’t conform to a social stereotype is to starve itself of what it needs to thrive.”

“I don’t want to pretend that GCHQ was an organisation with twenty-first century values in the twentieth century, but it was at the most tolerant end of the cultural spectrum.  In an organisation which valued the skills and characteristics that difference can bring, Turing’s homosexuality was less of a talking point than his insights into the complex crypt problems of the day.  When he was put on trial, Hugh Alexander, the Head of Cryptanalysis at GCHQ went, with official approval, to speak as a character witness on his behalf, saying in court that Turing was a national asset.”

Exploiting serendipity

“Geoffrey Tandy was posted to Bletchley by the Admiralty in a spirit of helpfulness: his posting officer had understood him to be an expert in cryptograms, a word still used in the Admiralty at that time to mean messages signalled in code.  In fact he was an expert in cryptogams: non-flowering plants like ferns, mosses and seaweeds.  But while this knowledge might not have appeared to be of much use, Tandy became expert in German naval Enigma and because of his work on seaweed was able to provide unique advice on the preservation of cryptologic documents rescued from the sea.”

The role of management

“Part of my job is to continue to foster that atmosphere: to attract the very best people and harness their talents, and not allow preconceptions and stereotypes to stifle innovation and agility.”

Mentally sloppy freethinkers…

“Mentally sloppy freethinkers tend to be attracted to radical proposals, just because such proposals are radical. They don’t focus much on the detailed arguments, but instead substitute simple arguments based on broad crude analogies, more suited to their style of thinking. And they usually make sure to insinuate that opposition to the idea is mainly from excess conformity or entrenched interests. Others hear such sloppy arguments, reject them, and then reject the idea as well.”

—Robin Hanson, in Overcoming Bias

Methodology is the last refuge of scoundrels

“Cognitive science is all about rising above methodology and getting to a conceptual/theoretical level at which there is much more in common. Where there has been success, this ascension has been achieved. Where there has been failure it has been a failure to aspire to anything above methodology. Social science discipline divisions are dominated by methodology—that is why cognitive science happened. To adapt Dr. Johnson’s aphorism, methodology is the last refuge of scoundrels.”

– Keith Stenning (2012, p. 414). To naturalize or not to naturalize? An issue for cognitive science as well as anthropology. Topics in Cognitive Science, 4(3), 413–419.