November 18, 2009

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
==Philip K. Dick

There’s always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.
==Henry Louis Mencken

It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.
==Pierre Augustin
They certainly give very strange names to diseases.

On Stability

November 10, 2009

“True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.”
==Tom Robbins (American Novelist. b.1936)

Today I want to write about Ilya Prigogine, a Russian-born naturalized Belgian chemist and Nobel Laureate. His Russian roots notwithstanding (Prigogine’s family left Russia when the future genius was only 4), Ilya lived, studied and worked all his life in the West. His most famous work that got him the coveted prize in chemistry in 1977 was on the Thermodynamic Equilibrium.

According to Prigogine, systems are ‘autonomically stable’ – in other words, they exist in a steady state and equilibrium. When a system is ‘perturbed’, it shifts little and quickly returns to its balanced status. Most of the time, structures enjoy stability. Even strong external forces fail to change the system from a steady state. The laws of equilibrium are universal. Or are they?

From time to time, for multiple and various reasons, the systems fall into a temporary state of instability when a mild external influence can cause irreversible changes. Then, the system achieves new equilibrium and never returns back to the way things used to be.

Although written for thermodynamics and quantum mechanics, Prigogine’s theory could be applied to societies. Russian history offers two examples in the last century alone. First, the solid and unshakable Russian Monarchy dropped like a house of cards by a small and not particularly popular Bolshevik coup. Then, in a few short decades, massive and menacing Soviet Union fell to pieces in front of our eyes.

Psychiatrists see daily ‘Prigoginism’ in action. Seemingly solid unions and marriages disintegrate in months, friendships that lasted decades break after one fateful quarrel, long-term partnerships dissolve over a weekend. The process is often irreversible and the new state is nothing like the old.

In our lives and our theories, including Prigogine’s, can appear rock solid only to one day undergo fundamental revisions and never again be accepted by the majority. Let’s find more than a quantum of wisdom in this notion.


November 8, 2009

This blog (that might be named Psychobiological Manifesto) is an ambitious project. I’ll  try putting together a cohesive (not necessarily comprehensive) conceptual model of psychiatric disorders with strong biological basis. Inadvertently, this approach could be on collision course with psychoanalytical orthodoxy. Well, be so. After all, that project is meant to be a pursuit of illusive truth, not an attempt to please anyone or bring together incompatible concepts. I welcome comments, relevant additions, and challenges. Let’s begin.

Doctor Misha