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Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia

In "Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia"ùa chapter from his book, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson (1972) presented a normalized portrait of a schizophrenic patient that has left an indelible impression on me. Before reading this chapter, I had considered schizophrenia to be one of the worst mental illnesses, which strips the victims of their desire to connect with others, thus dehumanizing them. Knowing that the schizophrenic patients' condition springs from their childhood experiences that were beyond their control has made me realize that their mental illness is a logical response to maddening life circumstances. If I were exposed to the double-bind situation throughout my childhood, I would likely respond in the same way.

Responding to Bateson's (1972) theory of schizophrenia on a personal level, I was struck by the delicate and vulnerable nature of the psychological state of young children. Because they possess the instinctive need to be loved and cared by their parents, their ability to understand the world and the way it works are derived from their parents. To me, the double bind situation, as described by Bateson (1972), in which a child cannot blatantly accuse the mother of her insincerity (p. 214), is literally and figuratively a living hell from which there is no respite. In the child's perverse world, nothing he does with regard to the mother can result in a positive outcome. During the process of growing up, the child does not receive any praise and encouragement, which will bolster his self-esteem and enable him to develop an independent identity that is separate from that of his mother.

Having experienced some of my childhood with an alcoholic mother who was unable to extend her affection to me, I feel fortunate that my loving father, grandmother and relatives provided an alternative world for me during my childhood. Unlike these children who grew up to be schizophrenics, I was nurtured and l...

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Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:59, May 28, 2020, from