Radical Therapeutics: Family Therapy and the Politics of Chance

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Perhaps the domain of family therapy was postmodern before its time, eschewing a vision of progress toward a progressively revealed ‘truth’ for one in which the coexistence of multiple voices allows us to contribute to the richness of our unique voice to the chorus of the field to which we belong.1

-Mony Elkaim, 1997

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In the late 1950s, Gregory Bateson, recently returned from time spent in Bali developing new cybernetics-influenced theories on anthropological sociability, found himself in Palo Alto working with a group of therapists working in the emerging field of family therapy. The goal was to integrate cybernetic concepts in the psychoanalytic spectrum, just as Jacques Lacan was doing overseas in faraway France. One of the most pronounced results was a groundbreaking new theory of schizophrenia, describing the psychotic condition as resulting from a double-bind arising inside a family’s communication pathways. Bateson later recalled that one of the major influences on the theory had been the writings of Samuel Butler; in particular, his 1903 attack on Victorian culture, The Way of All Flesh.

In a double-bind scenario, the usual codes of communication find themselves scrambled – for example, a parent may give their child the verbal expression of “I love you,” while the tone of their voice and non-verbal mannerisms may imply otherwise. The child becomes confused, for there is no appararent reconciliation between these two conflicts – mom says she loves me, but she doesn’t act like she does. So what happens if there is an unusually high degree of double-binds, sustaining themselves or even accelerating over a considerable period of time? In the Palo Alto school’s theory, this would lead to a kind of breakdown in the communications passageways that the individual conducts with his or herself – in other ways, interior and exterior language collapsing itself into a space (or plane) of schizophrenic behavior. Following from this, Bateson poses the question of whether or not the family crisis, be it the double-bind or schizophrenic state, had larger ramifications relating the equilibrium of the family dynamic:

Families, Bateson reasoned, were calibrated systems that, like a furnace, maintain themselves within tolerable limits. Bateson and his team proposed that dysfunctional families have rigid rules that in effect “require” the symptomatic member to remain in this role while the rest of the family maintains good appearances toward the outside world… A family member’s symptomatic behavior, then, can serve the internal logic of the family to maintain its stability.2

While adopting a similar stance but finding fault in Bateson’s overall hypothesis, Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, argues instead that the double-bind is not the direct producer of a schizophrenic state, but that it is the central function of Oedipus itself. The model of the double-bind implies a certain molecular control that imbeds itself in an individual through communicative pathways issuing forth from an authoritarian figure. In their example, they offer a father who tells his son “go ahead, criticize me.”3 Yet while the verbal expression indicates a certain autonomy in the familial dynamics, the father’s nonverbal cues contradict this message by indicating that criticism of his word or law will, in fact, not be tolerated. Thus, the son is provided with an illusion of autonomy, and he fully understands this illusion and its consequences, even if the message produces a confused state. At the same time, the father is reaffirmed not once but doubly – he provides a freedom, albeit a symbolic freedom that is in actuality a profound unfreedom, and he also maintains his composure as an untransgressable despot. Following the reproduction of these double-binds, a heightened and rigid homeostasis is maintained within the family; no change occurs under the yoke of this Oedipal arena.

However, if the compounding of the double-binds leads the son to become a schizo, it is not simply because the exacerbation of confusing and contradictory messages has pushed him to step into a seamlessly confused and contradictory world. For Deleuze and Guattari, this becoming-schizo would have functioned for the son as a line of flight: faced with a totalizing social gridlock, the son withdraws himself from the binary dynamics of the familial and social machine itself and retreats directly to the Body without Organs, the plane of consistency itself. Hence the rationale between one of the stranger and more enigmatic lobsterpassages in A Thousand Plateaus: “God is a lobster, or a double pincer, a double bind.”4 The “pincers” in this abstraction are the dual sides of the strata; on one end, we have a side that is facing sedimentation. It is matter made solid, unmoving, series of blocks – structured. On the other side, however, is the BwO or the plane of consistency, where we find that matter is not structured, where is fluid and moving at various speeds. The lesson here is that there is always a line of flight from the Oedipalization of the social or familial double-bind, for one side of it is facing zones of deterritorialization. But this lesson is complimented, of course, by the reminder that parts of the plane of consistency can become stratified, made into structure. We can glimpse from here, in our eyes tuned to retrospection, a prophecy of what the amorphous discipline of “chaos theory” would hold, that systems in disequilibrium (conjoined with the plane of consistency) can make jumps into complexity, and that complexity can be returned to chaos, so on a so forth, butterfly-like spirals of deterritorialization and reterritorialization.

Escaping the Double Bind: Clinical Settings

Within time, Gregory Bateson certainly moved beyond the orthodoxy of “first order” or “first-wave” cybernetics, and along with Heinz von Foerster, Humberto Maturana, and Francisco Varela, became one of the leaders in “second-wave” cybernetics. This new approach augmented and built atop the first wave’s techno-fetishism and communication studies by looking not a fixed systems, but systems that are wild and unpredictable, full of noise, and the ways in which these systems not only integrate with their surrounding environment but adapt and mutate. First wave cybernetics pointed towards a collapse of academic discipline; but second-wave was the collapse. Biology, sociology, neuroscience, etc., all became viewed in terms of organic living systems. Psychology again emerges in this soup, and the name I want to focus on here is that of a family therapist following in Bateson’s tradition, Mony Elkaim.

Even so, Elkaim at times attempts to create a gulf between his work and the work of the second-wave cyberneticians, writing that instead of a literal boundary collapse, he finds that his utilization of Maturana, Varela, and von Foerster is “poetic rather than scientific.”5 This is keeping in tune with Varela’s own opinion of his theories, that the scientific world of living systems and autopoietic processes be insulated from application in cultural and political social environments: “History has shown that biological holism is very interesting and has produced great things, but it always has a dark side, a black side, each time its 300px-DrawingHandsallowed itself to be applied to a social model. There’s always a slippage towards fascism, towards authoritarian impositions, and so on.”6 This is because for him, autopoiesis is a process that takes place within a closed (or series of closed) system(s); the notion of the “border” is of utmost importance to his early work with Maturana. “An autopoietic social being is one focused on boundary maintenance, and this focus can create a fratricidal polarity.”7

And yet this is exactly what Elkaim attempts to do: push second-wave cybernetics into a space where it can allow non-deterministic interventions in the socio-cultural realms. “…are we so sure that poetry is outside the realm of science,” he asks as a rejoiner to his previous statement. The language of this question should be familiar to readers of Guattari, himself having posited in Chaosmosis that “poetry may have more to teach us than economic sciences, the human sciences, and psychoanalysis combined.”8 Incidentally, in this same text Guattari attempted to find an way around the isolationism inherent in the autopoietic process by demanding a reconception of the process itself, viewing its so-called isolation in the greater procedural cellular structures; this scientific autonomy, he charges, can only be thought of by incorporating all the other autonomous processes that the singular cell intermeshes with. The similarities of Elkaim and Guattari’s approaches to psychoanalysis and cybernetics is not accidental nor a coincidence: along with David Cooper and several others operating in experimental therapy circles, the two had collaborated in developing an applicable clinical method for schizoanalysis. This collaboration, in fact, would go on to produce the schizoanalytic theories put forth by Guattari in his latter day works, the Schizoanalytic Cartographies and Chaosmosis.

Prior to this transnational engagement, Elkaim’s own trajectory through therapeutic practice in many ways mirrored Deleuze and Guattari’s own passageways. Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, as two separate books and more importantly as an integrated rhizome, present a world of fluidity and dynamic mutations operating across a series of scales; this visualization of a world of flux was to provide a counter-visualization to the world that Foucault had described as the disciplinary society, a world where the body and the socio-cultural-economic-opolitial machine it is plugged into are bound by rigidities, command, and hierarchical behavioral models. The disciplinary society is congruous with the authoritarian tendencies within modernity, and at modernity’s close, this paradigm found its theoretical underpinnings in the structuralist schools of thought emanating from the linguistic approaches of de Saussure, and its subsequent incorporation with first-wave cybernetics through Claude Levi-Strauss and Lacan’s early work. These are the initial touchstones, along with Freud and Marxist-Leninism, for Deleuze and Guattari’s project, but for Elkaim, it was Ludwig von Bertalanffy, an Austrian-born theoretical biologist and the initial progenitor of what has become known as “general systems theory.”

von Bertalanffy’s work, which cris-crosses disciplinary boundaries ranging from biology to cybernetics to sociology, attempts to eek out what he considers to be general laws that are equally applicable in each realm and bind them together. To borrow from structuralism’s parlance, these “deep structures” are not only applicable but constitute really-existing factors that determine the flavor of a given situation in any context. While von Bertalanffy’s analysis concerns behavior in open systems, his repeating factors are geared towards what allows the open system to remain stable, unchanging – the tendency towards homeostasis. When applied to family therapy, this recreates a series of set assumptions that therapists attempt to isolate and work with in each particular situation. Elkaim, approaching family therapy from a distinctive vantage point that could only be characterized as post-structuralist, takes issue with this approach, which he states is rendering a state where therapists “deal with families as if they were playing a game of chess.”9 We should remind ourselves that Deleuze and Guattari themselves had taken up chess as an exemplary image of rigid, statist thought:

Chess is a game of the state, or of the court: the emperor of China played it. Chess pieces are coded; they have an internal nature and intrinsic properties from which their movements, situations, and confrontations derive. They have qualities: a knight remains a knight, a pawn a pawn, a bishop a bishop. Each is like a subject of the statement endowed with a relative power, and these relative powers combine in a subject of enunciation, that is, the chess player or the game’s form of interiority… Chess is indeed a war, but an institutionalized, regulated, coded war…10

Chess Set 43 goboard

Against chess they pose the contrasting image of the game of Go, whose pieces “only have an anonymous, collective, or third person function.” The war of Go is unregulated, its spaces not the closed ones of chess (the juxtaposition of white-and-black and the stipulations that pieces can move across them according only to the game’s code) but an open, smooth space – it can move in any direction. “In Go, it is a question of arraying oneself in an open space, of holding space, of maintaining the possibility of springing up at any point.”11 In other words, Go is contingent upon mutative leaps to higher points by positioning itself against the code, or more specifically, making itself an affair of the uncoded or decoded.

If the “structuralist” lineage of family therapy, descending from Ludwig von Bertalanffy, makes a chess-like or statist aura in the situation, then Elkaim makes positions it as a game of Go by drawing instead on the work of Illya Prigogine. Prigogine’s work concerned primarily thermodynamic systems operating far from equilibrium or homeostasis, and how these systems, like the fluctuations in the game of Go, could make evolving rapidly from a chaotic state to one of complex organization. John Johnston points out that one of the clearest examples of these self-organizing systems is the Belousov-Zhabontinksi chemical clock, “in which a chemical reaction suddenly produces colorful, pulsating rhythms.”12

Elkaim himself cites Prigonine’s own example of an African termite nest, which is built through the erection of pillars that are then connected by archways that are subsequently filled in to make a completed hole. In the beginning, these pillars are formed as bases situated at random depending on environmental and material factors at hand; these bases or piles are the creation of scattered termites, but “when a pile reaches a certain volume it attracts more termites and these deposit more material. A positive feedback mechanism enables a pillar to rise.”13 Another excellent example, this time courtesy of Gregory Bateson, is the cracks that appear when a pane of glass or a mirror is hit with a rock: while it is certain that there will be cracked patterns appearing in the glass, there is no identifiable method to predict the movements or shapes that these cracks will organize themselves in. As such, in systems in a state of disequilibrium, there is a necessity of chance that allows higher organization to proliferate.

But what does this have to do with family therapy?

In Elkaim’s understanding, elements of disequilibrium (or the bifurcation points in a system far from equilibrium) can be used strategically against the homeostatic mechanisms of a family in crises; if these mechanisms can be understood as an unspoken (or spoken, for that matter) control system, then the key is to break the control and allow a certain autonomy of the individual actors and the familial unit to progress through the new chaos into a new space of organization. But as he warns, we must realize that the homeostatic control – the double bind – of the familial crisis is not limited only to the family itself, but can encompass the therapist him/herself. Therapists following von Bertalanffy treat certain factors as stable and reoccurring norms in situations, and these factors are emergent from the history of the family itself. Elkaim, on the other hand, views history as non-deterministic: indeed it does impact the present, but it is not the history as whole that makes this impact. Instead, it is minor elements from the past that only resurface in the specific context of the crisis and therapeutic setting. He calls these elements “resonances,” and they apply equally for the therapist as they do for the family. For example, a family might feel a certain, negative way about how they were treated during the therapy session, and the therapist might have had similar feelings during his or her childhood with their own “family of origin.” By the sentiments being generated by the family, the feelings thus are resurfaced for the therapist. Because we, as human beings dependent on sensory experience to understand events in our environment, do not have conceivable access to universal, objective truths, the context of a given situation shapes individual subjective truths. Thus, by being an observer in a session, especially one capable of encountering these resonances, the therapist is in fact an active participant in an ongoing process that may impact him or her as much of the patient(s).

Elkaim builds his idea of resonances, appropriating the Deleuzeguattarian term of the “assemblage” to describe a network of resonances, the existence of which illustrates to the family and the therapist the interrelated nature of their own situation to broader “individual, family, social, and other themes.”14 Through this, we can glimpse how certain crises can actually open themselves up to wider social trends, and that these individual crises indicate a severe dysfunction in the social. At the same time, the existence of the assemblage, particularly those than ensnare the therapist, can either aid the therapeutic process or stymie it. This is further elucidated by what Elkaim calls the “official program,” the the demands an individual makes of his or herself and the other in a given situation. This official program is complimented by the “world map,” the governing perception of the world based upon previous experiences. Keeping in character with the interwoven complexity of the assemblage, each individual’s world map is crafted not only in the family of origin, but the family of origin’s own socio-political context, thus establishing a discrepancy between the application of lessons from the ‘past world’ and the ‘current world.’ Writes Elkaim: “Never mind that the world in which we live is not the same as the one we imagine when the maps were being drawn up. The system adapts itself to avoid too much disparity between the map and the territory.”

map is not territory

Several clinical examples are provided to us to understand the nature how the the official program and world maps can establish seemingly inescapable double binds that create controlled, homeostatic states in a couple-in-crisis. The first is of a couple, “Anna” and “Benedetto”; on Anna’s side, she has become overwhelmed by Benedetto’s perpetual suspicion of her and of their general lack of affection. Benedetto, on the other hand, finds that Anna seems to be isolating their from them and their general social circle. Two sessions in, Anna expresses to Elkaim that Benedetto has changed in the ways that she wants him to change, and yet now she is incapable of dealing with the newfound affection. Anna is caught in a double bind: she wants her husband to stop rejecting her, but she does not want his affection. Benedetto too has his own double bind: at one point, he tells Elkaim that “I am afraid of becoming deserted. I am becoming attached.”15 He too desires and rejects tenderness. And for each, the circumstances that arise in each double bind result from the family of origin. For Anna, it is traceable to her father: she had always been her favorite child, and yet on one Christmas Eve he never came home. In reality, Anna’s father had been arrested, but her mother never told her this, leaving her with the impression that all affection and friendship is fleeting and ephemeral. As for Benedetto, his childhood was equally turbulent, being removed from his friends and family at the young age of twelve. These experiences have led him to believe that trust and attachment is an impossibility, just the same as Anna. These constitute both of their world maps, and yet their official programs, the demand for reciprocal affections, contradicts each. If each partner attempts to move in one direction, the dualing double binds throw up roadblocks, and these roadblocks will confirm each of their own world-maps. A negative homeostasis, an equilibrium, is therefore imposed upon the couple.

A second clinical example will illustrate how a therapist can be directly integrated into these control mechanisms. “Fabienne” is a family therapy student assigned to “Chantale,” who she assists in sessions conducted over the phone. Fabienne recounts that during one session Chantale made the startling statement that “she could no longer imagine me as a disembodied voice, which she needed, and waited for every monday; the voice made her reflect, but it was a little like her conscience, the only difference being that I didn’t give the answers she would have given.”16 Chantale’s family of origin was just as turbulent as the ones cited in the previous example: alcoholic father, interpersonal family problems involving her stepfather, etc. These circumstances created a climate where Chantale believes that it is impossible to trust anyone, and yet she is reaching out for help. Fabienne’s own childhood was quite similar to that of Chantale, leading her to believe that to be an autonomous individual is to exist inside a state of pain. What she wants for Chantale is a “painless autonomy,” yet in her heart she feels that this is an absolute impossibility. Because of the disembodiment of Fabienne’s voice through the telephone, Chantale can reach out a little by identifying Fabienne, her helper, as herself. She doesn’t have to count on anyone. But at the same time, Fabienne worries that she is fostering a dangerous environment of dependency, and the situation complicates itself through the fact that if the phone therapy is broken off, “Chantale will be confirmed in her belief that she cannot trust anyone, and Fabienne will once again find that dependency leads to rejection and a forced and painful autonomy.”17

Therapy at the Intersections of Elements

Scattered throughout Elkaim’s work we can find reference to “singularities,” yet another concept borrowed from Deleuze and Guattari. Singularities are an ambiguous concept; there is no unifying structure to connotate what these are, for there are the potentials (both physical and affective) existent when certain forces encounter one another. In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze describes singularities as “turning points and points of inflection; bottlenecks, knots, foyers, and centers; points of fusion and condensation, and boiling; points of tears and joy, sickness and health, hope and anxiety, ‘sensitive’ points.”18 In A Thousand Plateaus, the singularities are described as having nomadic properties, “free intensities” that move across the BwO or the plane of consistency – a schizo-like nature that can be captured, stratified, made solid.19 Thus, comparing the relationship between the plane of consistency and the double-bind, we can see how the question of singularities emerges as a central one: in the psychological double bind, the singularities lack their movement or vibrational qualities, for they are locked in place by the homeostatic mechanism. In contrast, the fluid or autonomous singularity can jump, make sudden shifts and compel the order to new formations and conjunctions. We’re reminded that singularities can be the glue that holds the assemblage together, and that they can move from assemblage to assemblage,20 and so we should see the singularity as the critical point in which disequilibrium can be ejected into a stable system. It is clear why, then, in Guattari’s last work, Chaosmosis, he places singularities, a concept he has come to view as primarily aesthetic, as one of the essential factors for a schizoanalytic revolution within pyschoanalaysis. This new psychoanalysis, at once an aesthetic, ethical, and overwhelming political program, must find itself endowed with the ability to “engender a subjectivity free from adaptive modelisations and capable of connecting with the singularities and mutations of our era.”21

Early in this same work, Guattari praises Elkaim’s approach to family therapy, specifically because it moves from beyond the scriptures of scientism (arguably the legacy of structuralism and first-wave cybernetic research) and reaches towards the ethico-aesthetic paradigm. “Family therapy produces subjectivity in the most artificial way possible,”22 he writes, but we should not understand ‘artificial’ here in the sense of absolute fakeness. Instead, we should see it as indicating movement and fluidity, the ability to deterritorialize and recompose itself. For Guattari, the aesthetic play with singularities animates the therapy session in a way similar to interactive performance art: collective, unpredictable, an encounter of forces and flows that moves beyond the institutional confines that dictates just what therapy is and how it is to be conducted.

Elkaim describes this injenction of disequilibrium into homeostasis as the “amplification” of singularities. To illustrate, he engages in a lengthy discussion of his sessions with a Jewish family of North African origin. With a father long since deceased and three “psychotically disturbed” daughters, Elkaim approaches the mother in the beginning of the first session. She describes herself like the sea, being cast about from one side to the next. She then explains “I’m old now. I don’t count anymore. I’m only waiting for the hot water.”23 The hot water referenced here refers to a tradition in the family’s homeland, where it is used to wash the bodies of the dead; the sea, presumably, would be the Mediterranean. When further pressed as to what the old woman would do when her sons and daughters are married, she proclaims that she will work in a Turkish bath house – again, the hot water. The singularity that is arises in these conversations then is water, not water as a physical substance (though it derives from the physicality of the liquid), but the theme of water itself.

michael-runkel-beach-at-beach-resort-on-the-mediterranean-coast-near-tipasa-algeria-north-africa_i-G-62-6236-FVC3100Z

He then turns to one of the daughters, Rachel. Rachel describes herself as lacking matter – “I’ve evaporated and haven’t found any water.” When he presses her what the nature of this evaporation is, Rachel, and her sister Susan, both burst into tears, the incorporeal manifestations of the theme of water begetting physical water. The mother also weeps, and the brother, Albert, begins to sweat. The interchange of these feelings, affective circulations moving through each individual in the room, also triggers a change in Elkaim: he too finds himself sweating, and he moves to sit next to Rachel. “Don’t cry,” the mother tells her. “Nkoun kpara. Everywhere will be alright.” (“Nkoun kpara” is a Judeo-Arabic phrase translating as “Let me be your kpara,” the kpara being a chicken or other animal sacrificed on the eve of Yom Kippur to atone for sins.) Three minutes pass before Rachel turns to Elkaim, telling him that she feels much better. Elkaim then details how as he set next to her, he felt a strange calmness, a peace that seemed to radiate from Rachel – “It’s as if your tears help the people around you to feel more connected with themselves, calmer.”24

Throughout the therapy session, Elkaim draws out that in this family unit, when one member is in distress, the others feel a sense of calmness – it is a factor that unites them together, regardless of the hardships of the past. The phrase “Nkoun kpara” becomes critical – in the ongoing situation, “everyone is the kpara for everyone else.” Each member strives to sacrifice themselves, to try and absorb and take away the pain that the other feels. The sister’s psychotic break coincided with the fact that they are of the age when they begin to leave home; the loss of locality would in turn imply the loss of the sacrificial roles, and thus the loss of familial connectivity. The key then, would be to jump away from this negative homeostasis where each family is locked into a series of complex double-binds, and find a way to utilize a disequilibrium drawn from the singularities as a bifurcation or passageway to a new organization. Elkaim writes:

During this session I worked on two levels. In the first place, as I was amplifying the singularity water, I set in motion a whole series of elements on the level of the assemblage of singularities – the connection of the therapist and family around a common culture, the relationship with the Bible, the specific ways the therapist and the family members expressed themselves, my changing places to sit silently by Rachel the way North Africans do when mourning, the family’s tears and my own sweating, and so forth. These elements can be seen as having a meaning and function in the context of our usual explanatory frameworks, but they likewise can be looked on as assemblages of singularities with a meaningful existence outside our normal understanding of things… I was not trying to interpret or create insight, but rather, in the language of far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics, to enter the system in order to move it from equilibrium and allow fluctuations to be amplified until, by bifurcation or otherwise, the system’s functioning changed. I behaved as if assemblages of several coupled elements could be considered as fluctuations to be amplified. These assemblages were not limited to genetic, biological, or other purely individual elements. They also involved other elements connected with, but not reducible to the individual, such as mass media, culture, and society at large.25

The political has never been far from Elkaim’s work, and based on his repeated references to the media, culture, and society we discern that he sees a possible application of his model in the sphere of social change. His work has bridged this gap extensively: when he first met Guattari in New York City, he was participating with activities with the Black Panthers and the Young Lords,26 and the networks the two formed together engaged extensively with militant movements across the globe, including Italy’s Autonomia. One organization Elkaim helped to set up, the European Association for Psychotherapy, has organized platforms for mental health issues at the level of the EU parliament, and he has published articles and spoken on matters relating to conflict between Palestine and Israel. On a more theoretical level, his family therapy approach is very close to Guattari’s schizoanalytic projects on opening up the “existential territories” to new formations via the conscious and unconscious exposure to different flows, different elements, alterity on a collective level

We must ask, however, how all this would look on the levels of both macro and micro-revolution? This would take an extensive unpacking of Elkaim’s work, a deeper examination of the intersections (and divergences) with his work with Guattari and the anti-psychiatry movement, and further theoretical developments for our current socio-politico-cultural stage. While this would be quite the exciting undertaking, it is worth to mention that perhaps the most important lesson to gleam from Elkaim is that crisis can be utilized as a control device – in each situation cited above (and there are many, many more documented in his writings), the individual familial crisis and the reciprocal double-binds they generate establish a level of homeostasis that keeps the family glued in place, territorialized – hence the relationship between the double-bind and Oedipus drawn out in Anti-Oedipus. In the larger sense, we can see then how easily the Control Society maintains itself as a Crisis Society. Economic crisis does establish a disequilibrium, this much is undeniable, but on the social level, class relations are being recomposed where money is perpetually flowing upwards as social mobility is on the decline. People become stuck where they are, fixed by endless loops of debt and low-wage jobs. Precarity isn’t just the unfortunate side-effect of living in a neoliberal reality; it is neoliberal’s unspoken command, its social regulator. Disciplinary societies operate through imposing blocks on the flows of the body, its thoughts, and its movements, but Control societies control through a homeostasis built atop freedom of flows – albeit, a freedom that translates itself into base commodification.

A world beyond homeostasis is a world of chance. “The concept of chance can be very important when it is applied to family therapy. It allows us to intervene in human systems in disequilibrium without having to decide what route to follow.”27  Anti-Oedipus makes it clear that there is little difference between the cop, the traditional psychoanalyst, and the Leninist vanguard. Each dissipates the possibility of chance, each wants to code the individual to specific traits, movements and structures – chance, then, would be anti-structure, anti-vanguard. This most be complimented, however, by the realization that chance, in terms of therapy or politics, doesn’t happen with absolute spontaneity. There are always catalyzing factors and elements, and the decision to open and allow chance in. Hakim Bey writes of the creation of the Temporary Autonomous Zone in terms of a “pattern of instantaneous grace – spontaneous organic order completely different from the carrion pyramids of sultans, muftis, cardis, and grinning executioners.”28 Even if the actions and events that take place within the zone are spontaneous and bound up in chance happenings and becomings, it is clear the construction of the zone is anything but – it takes a conscious effort. Take the typical model of the Temporary Autonomous Zone, the rave – the people did not suddenly appear there by the dictates of fate, nor did the music, lights, and chemical states apparate into existence all at once. No, the Temporary Autonomous Zone is an intersection of elements, elements on one hand brought together through conscience effort and deliberate intention, and on elements brought in through unpredictability. Even John Cage, the greater rhetorician of chance, relied on I Ching, a physical and order medium, as a window to this abstracted world. But Cage is no vanguard, nor is the I Ching. When Elkaim enters into a therapeutic session and allows himself to sink into the circulation of affects, he removes himself from the hierarchy implicit in the doctor-patient relationship. He might utilize flows, but he does not direct them – anything that happens for Cage, for Elkaim, for those in a Temporary Autonomous Zone, is conducted along a plane is first and foremost horizontal.

2Pauline Boss (ed.) Sourcebook of Family Theories and Methods:A Contextual Approach Springer, 2008, pg. 509

3Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Penguin, 2009 (reprint ed.), pg. 79

4Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia University of Minnesota Press, 1987, pg. 40

5Elkaim If You Love Me, Don’t Love Me pg. xxiv

6John Protevi “Beyond Autopoiesis: Inflections of Emergence and Politics in Francisco Varela” in Bruce Clarke and Mark B.N. Hansen (ed.) Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory Duke University Press, 2009, pg. 101

7Ibid, pg. 102

8Felix Guattari Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm Indiana University Press, 1995, pg. 21

9Elkaim If You Love Me, Don’t Love Me pg. xxiv

10Deleuze and Guattari A Thousand Plateaus, pgs. 352-353

11Ibid, pg. 353

12John Johnston The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI Bradford Book, 2008, pg. 108

13Elkaim If You Love Me, Don’t Love Me, pg. 30

14Ibid, pg. xxvvii

15Ibid, pg. 4

16Ibid, pg. 13

17Ibid, pg. 16

18Gilles Deleuze The Logic of Sense Columbia University Press, 1990, pg. 63

19Deleuze and Guattari A Thousand Plateaus, pg. 40

20Ibid, pgs. 406-407

21Guattari Chaosmosis, pg. 106

22Ibid, pg. 8

23Elkaim If You Love Me, Don’t Love Me, pg. 44

24Ibid, pg. 46

25Ibid, pgs. 50-51

26Francois Dosse and Deborah Glassman (trans.) Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives Columbia University Press, 2010, pg. 335

27Elkaim If You Love Me, Don’t Love Me, pg. 30

28Hakim Bey “Chaos: The Broadsheets of Ontological Anarchism” T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism Autonomedia, 1991

1Mony Elkaim If You Love Me, Don’t Love Me: Undoing Reciprocal Double Binds and Other Methods of Change in Couple & Family Therapy Jason Aronson Inc., 1997, pg. xviii

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7 Responses to Radical Therapeutics: Family Therapy and the Politics of Chance

  1. dmfant says:

    a lot of good stuff here and I’ll be back to work thru it more carefully except to note that someone should do some ethnographic studies of family-systems clinical case presentations talk about your totems and taboos…

  2. Michael- says:

    psychic guerrilla warfare anyone?

    • edmundberger says:

      An interesting proposition for the crisis/control society, for sure… I’m interested in plumbing this further, looking for any potential praxis that could emerge. What about you? Any ideas?

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