R D Laing came up with an amazingly creative way to express complex cognitive processes in a very simple and concrete way, so that the truth beneath them is revealed.
Cognitive psychology is the most influential and productive branch of contemporary psychology by far.
The point of this post is that all of the negative social dynamics that humankind suffers from are the result of skewed and irrational thinking. They can rightly be called cognitive knots. And that’s what R. D. Laing’s book “Knots” was all about. We have internal “knots” because we have the world inside us. Inside each of us is a representation of our known universe filtered through the lens of our subjective experience, which of course alter our “reality.”
Some of our knots are conflicts within ourselves (our subjective self and objective self), but they’re all tangled up in we, because we are inextricable from society because we are a social species. So some of these knots are both internal arguments between aspects of ourselves and arguments between us and other individuals, or between our group and their group. But the dynamics are the same at every level, just like a fractal.
Here is the book free online, R. D. Laing, Knots.
It may seem like a pain in the ass to negotiate, at first, but it becomes simple if you look at the little square with the page number. All you have to do is keep typing the next page number. It’s easier than scrolling.
Laing made a study of schizophrenics and their families. It was a long term study and he interviewed these families over a long period of time. What he found was that most of the families of schizophrenics engaged in double-bind communication. The most common example is, “You don’t love me; you only pretend to.” The reason it’s a double bind communication is that it’s a demand for a demonstration of love, but at the same in makes it clear that no demonstration of love will ever be sufficient.
The central feature of cognitive psychology is the idea that most of our thought processes are below our conscious awareness. And it is because they are below our awareness that they have such control over us. It is only when they are unearthed that we can gain control over them. These cognitive “knots” come from his journals. In other words, he didn’t invent them. They are schematics that he drew up to represent actual cases.
The reason I think they are important is because I have never seen a technique that can make complex cognitive knots so vivid and understandable. And that was exactly why he developed them, as a tool that he could use to untangle the cognitive knots he encountered so that he could understand them. In other words, this book is the expression of a teaching technique that he used to teach himself, so that he could untangle otherwise impenetrable social, cognitive knots.
And I think this technique could be used as a great tool for making complex social dynamics vivid and graspable. For example, I think I could work one up for the conflict dynamics between Palestinians and Israelis. And I think I could make the self-destructiveness (on both sides and interactively) clear to everyone.
That’s why I think there is such genius in this book.
Phi Beta Iota: The reason we consider the integration of education, intelligence, and research the essential next step — the third era if you will, of national intelligence (first is secret war, second strategic analysis quickly subverted by clandestine operations) — is precisely because it is not possible to have a functional government on top of dysfunctional society, and vice versa. It is all connected.