The role of mood change in defining relationships: a tribute to Gregory Bateson (1904–1980)

John Price

in Maladapting Minds

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199558667
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754647 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

The role of mood change in defining relationships: a tribute to Gregory Bateson (1904–1980)

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In almost all group-living vertebrate species, relationships are asymmetrical in terms of power. The mechanism for creating and sometimes reversing asymmetry is ritual agonistic behaviour (threat and attack). In human beings the requisite asymmetry may also be produced by verbal means, as, too, may symmetry. Gregory Bateson included all these means of producing symmetry and asymmetry (words, threat, attack) in the term “defining the relationship”, so that each asymmetrical (or complementary) relationship has a Definer and an Acceptor (who accepts the definition proposed by the Definer). In this chapter it is suggested that one evolutionary function of mood change is to facilitate the formation and reversal of complementarity, and another is to maintain complementarity once it has been established. Elevation of mood gives the Definer the courage, energy and forcefulness to impose a definition on a possibly reluctant Acceptor. Depression of mood enables an Acceptor to accept a definition which may deprive him of power and resources, and which in a normal mood state he would find unacceptable.

Chapter.  10767 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychiatry

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