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Encyclopedia > Family nexus

The term family nexus was used by the psychiatrist R D Laing to describe a common viewpoint held and reinforced by the majority of family members regarding events in the family and relationships with the world. Laing was particularly interested in schizophrenia, which he believed could be understood if seen from the viewpoint of the person concerned.

He saw how a powerful family nexus could victimise one member, usually a child, who found themselves in the position of not being able to speak or even think the truth without being chastised by the group, who often had vested interests in perpetuating the family myth and excluding reality.

Often described as part of the 'antipsychiatry' movement, Laing, struggled to see things in terms of existentialism, emphasising the difference between 'being' or 'being in this world' and being alive. Being in the existentialist sense means being an object for others, and having others as objects, in other words carrying a model in our heads of all the significant others in our lives. This model provided the motivation for many of our thoughts and actions, and without it we 'cease to be' in a very real sense. Beginning in the 1960s, a movement called anti-psychiatry claimed that psychiatric patients are not ill but are individuals that do not share the same consensus reality as most people in society. ... This article may contain original research or unverified claims. ...

It is this need for others, in order to 'be', which makes us afraid to contradict a family nexus, risking family exclusion. The distortion involved in not going against the nexus can force wrong thinking - leading to 'not being in reality', which Laing saw as the essence of schizophrenia.

Andrew Collier has commented on Laing's dilemma, which Laing himself seemed never to properly identify. In much of his writing Laing assumed an uncorrupted natural state for the human mind, and tended to condemn society for causing mental illness, in rather Marxist terms. He saw schizophrenia as a possible healing process, a way of working through things, back to normality. Collier suggests that there is no uncorrupted state, no normality; rather that as social animals we all need to incorporate others into a nexus in order to 'be'. We must all perhaps be 'mad' to some extent if we are to function in society, rather than as loners, but we must be uniformly mad. Marxism is the political practice and social theory based on the works of Karl Marx, a 19th century philosopher, economist, journalist, and revolutionary, along with Friedrich Engels. ...

What we call Mental illness is therefore perhaps more to do with the potential of family nexus to bend reality, necessitating lies, than in nexus itself, which we need as the root of all our motivations. At the root of the illness, according to Laing and others, is the 'Double bind' situation, originally proposed with referenece to schizophrenia by Gregory Bateson. Double Bind is a communicative situation where a person receives different or contradictory messages. ... Gregory Bateson (9 May 1904–4 July 1980) was a British anthropologist, social scientist, linguist and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. ...

Psychotherapy today comes in many forms, following different schools of thought. Psychoanalysis emphasises childhood experience, and left over feelings, though Freud did point to the role of society in his later works like 'Civilisation and its Discontents'. Family therapy concentrates on bringing families together and encouraging them to work out their interactions, but it offers no support to the victim of family nexus, who is often doomed to be punished for anything he dares to reveal or hint at.

The victim of family nexus therefore tends to submit to silent intimidation in family therapy, rather than risk exclusion and the 'ceasing to be' that follows in the absence of a strong support network.

See also

Gregory Bateson (9 May 1904–4 July 1980) was a British anthropologist, social scientist, linguist and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. ...



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