The Chaotic Life

Patterns and randomness in how we live

Chaos Theory and Batman Part II

Okay, so where we left off in part I: we now know the basics of what chaos is, from "chaos theory," and we are wondering if this really relates to the character Joker, from the new Batman film. And on a broader level, I want to explore whether or not this type of chaos is bad, as people (Westerners at least) do typically think that chaos is bad. Is ‘deterministic chaos' like the force of the evil Joker, the bad Anarchist (there are good anarchists by the way - like Noam Chomsky)? Read More

The Joker

My perspective of the Joker's "chaos theory" is a psychological one versus a scientific theory. The Joker in the Batman movie appeared to be the epitome of a what I imagine someone touched by evil and darkness, similar to madmen of the world (Hitler/Manson). To have a plan to bring the world down to their dysfnctional level, to test people to uncover their madness, is pure evil intent. It is the opposite of loving kindness. In the Joker's chaotic madness, he wanted everyone to feel the same, this way he would be less "crazy".

The Joker's motives

I'm with you Heather. This makes sense to me. I did hear that theme in the movie too. I don't think Joker would admit it...even if you had him in therapy. Unless it was court ordered and he was messing with you. I have worked with a few people who technically were antisocial types in the past, and the question of motives for these folks has remained a mystery to me. I have usually experienced them as being just as honest (when they admit that they have been lying to me) as other clients, and just as "human" or understandable. If you extend your idea here - I think you would be equating "loving kindness" with something like understanding and accepting others. Evil would then be using control to turn others into what you want them to be. Of course there would be varying degrees of this - from a "user" type that you could date - to a hitler type that could commit genocide. This fits with my experience in both therapy and other loving relationships - being understood by another person and accepted seems. Caveat - we want to be careful with the term "crazy." On the average - people with mental illnesses are safer than those without mental illnesses. Joker, technically was not mentally ill or insane - but "crazy" yes, and evil, I would agree with those.

Mind Body Shop

Sometimes we need a few words from someone else to get through the day. Here are a few that have motivated me to push on.

Push on...

Hey Mind Body, That's great! Thanks a lot for saying so. I can say the same for your words too. -Dave

It's a very interesting way

It's a very interesting way of relation the theory to a movie.

But, I have a question, um, I'm very new at this theory so it may sound dumb, but I really hope you could help me.

It's just, if we want to focus on relationships as the matter in complexity theory, does it mean that we just simply have to expect some 'chaos' (and I don't necessarily mean bad chaos) in the future condition of our relationships with others? As to what you're saying, what's your recommendations to relationships which seem to be doomed if you are to apply the complexity theory in explaining it.

Thank you

relationship dynamics

Hi, First - this is not "dumb." Great questions! This is what will make this blog fun for me. Like an on-line class in a way. Also - Nonlinear dynamics is very difficult and abstract stuff. I feel "dumb" working with it almost everyday. Okay - your first question - 'do we simply have to expect some 'chaos' in our relationships' Short answer - yes, I think we do. Technically, maybe it isn't truely chaos as in chaos theory. But relationships are like sharks - they have to keep swimming or they die. John Gottman's research is the best I know of in this area. Conflict is critical in relationships. And my own research suggests that conflict resolution is what makes relationships, and the individuals within them, grow. So no conflict, no growth. Too much unresolved conflict = doom. This leads to your second question - what about relationships that seem to be doomed? This is tougher to answer. Essentially, it will depend upon a) how well the individuals fit in terms of the way they manage conflict. For example, Gottman has found that when you couples are comprised of a "conflict avoider" and a 'conflict seeker' you will have an intense imbalance from the get-go. From a complexity perspective, you will have a structurally imbalanced relationship, where information piles up quickly as unresolved conflict builds, leading to an eventual "break" as in "break-up." Essentially, the dynamical systems perspective suggests that you should go ahead and take such metaphors as hitting the "breaking" point or "breaking" up, literally. If information flows too rigidly, or in an imbalance manner, people and relationships essentially break-down. They literally disintegrate. What pop psyc suggests about everyone owning their own reactions is not entirely true - some people can make you crazy. We'll get at this in today's blog - "One bad apple" The other factors besides the fit between the individuals is b) the structural integrity of the personalities involved, which will determine how much either person can accommodate to the other person's style of conflict. So if you have 2 mismatched people who are rigid and inflexible, this is a bad sign. And c) how much unresolved information has already built up. Even the best fitting couple (as in 2 volitile people), who are flexible, will not do very well with an avalanche of unresolved business hanging over their heads. My general advice, which I try to live by: fight early, fight often, fight fair, and fight fun. But of course, even in complexity theory - everyone and every situation is different - like snowflakes bumping together as we each fall to the earth...

A very interesting article!!!

Your article is very interesting. It opened my eyes in two ways. First, I had never thoughts that fractals could be used to analysed human relationships in such a close scale such as a relationship. Second, I always thought that free will passes through certain restrictions, but I had never thoughts of the "fractal and branches" analogy. This is the best metaphor I've ever seen in the subject! Finally, I'm very happy that you mentioned this book Chaos and Complexity in Psychology
The Theory of Nonlinear Dynamical Systems, since I am searching for litterature on the subject of non-linear dynamics and their applications on psychology. Keep up the good work dr. Pincus!

Thanks very much encefalus

And anyone reading, please do check out Encephalus's web-site: Very interesting - and clearly a lot of time and talent goes into his work there.

-Dr. Dave

Converging/diverging paths and Lyapunov exponents?

As I perused through your post, I found interesting stuff triggering new thoughts. I will leave reminders for later use. One thing that stands out in my mind, is the use of the concept of Lyapunov exponents in looking at chaos encountered in our/people's lives. The main idea is, as the Lyapunov exponents in mathematically analysed chaos cases, determine or predict whether a pathway or trajectory will converge or diverge towards, for example an attractor, taking that the case of converging will lead to ordered states, and the case of diverging leads to states away from any kind of attractors, what is experienced as chaotic. Searching for any elements in people's lives, to be used as some sort of predictors, evaluators, assessors of converging or diverging tendencies towards ordered states or not.

Though both tendencies have got their own merit. Converging towards already established attractors, tried and tested modes of behaviour. Diverging, giving the opportunity to explore new ways of looking at things, create new attractors, new behaviour practices, new ways of dealing with stuff coming along in life.

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David Pincus is a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University in Orange, CA.


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