Human Development and Psychological Evolution:
Psychologists have long been interested in the developmental processes of children, and more recently, of adults. Systems and Mental Health SIG presentations this year focused on both. Gary Metcalf presented his research on the influence of systems thought and thinkers on John Bowlby, a seminal investigator in the field of early child-caregiver attachment and its influence on psychological functioning and growth. Pamela Buckle Henning discussed her work on the development of psychological resilience in adult life, particularly the affective experience of the disequilibrium that inevitably emerges as people move between developmental stages.
The dynamic nature of healthy mental functioning was a topic of discussion in other SIGs as well. Judith Rosen is using anticipatory systems theory to understand how – for individuals, and as a species – our environmental context becomes deeply encoded into psyche and soma, how the encoded information within the body and mind interacts and evolves, and how the particular ways we have encoded the environment within ourselves have become an actual requirement for us to effectively function; that, as living systems, we prepare in the present for internally predicted changes in the future – and that this is a vital part of what makes us human. Anticipatory systems theory is a lens she is using to understand how this encoding becomes an evolutionary force in both individuals and the human species.
A person’s thought patterns have long been recognized as key factors in mental health. In the Evolutionary Development SIG, Will Varey presented a theoretical perspective on the evolution of human thought itself. He notes that a retrospective view of human thought can help us understand the “set of learning choices already created” (p. 5) by humans. Using panarchy theory, he posits we can begin to map emerging patterns in human thought as it evolves in increasing scales of complexity.
Mental health is dynamic. From the individual to species level, “the world’s psychological systems are also in transition” (p. 5) and investigating these systems is vital to our understanding of the human experience.
Replaced/Superseded by document(s)
In the newly-reinstigated Systems Integration Group (SIG) on Systems and Mental Health and in other SIG sessions at the 2010 meeting in Waterloo Canada, several ISSS members explored concerns relevant to mental health, examining such issues as: psychological suffering in individuals, families, and organizations; optimal behaviour amidst such suffering; relationships between mental health and systems of biology, social policy, and natural environment; meaning-making contributing both to suffering and wellness; and liveable systems conducive to human health and thriving. ISSS meetings are becoming a venue for those interested in understanding mental health from systems-informed perspectives. At this meeting, several conversations took place.