Theory Of Mind And Witchcraft

In addition to classifying the client's communication into the two categories of content and relationship, Bateson offers the following method to determine which category of a message is the valid one:

When a boy says to a girl, "I love you," he is using words to convey that which is more convincingly conveyed by his tone of voice and his movements, and the girl, if she has any sense, will pay more attention to those accompanying signs than to the words.

(Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p. 412)

Or, as Bateson comments:

What is known to occur at the animal level is the simultaneous presentation of contradictory signals — postures which mention both aggression and flight, and the like. These ambiguities are, however, quite different from the phenomenon familiar among humans where the friendliness of a man's words may be contradicted by the tension or aggressiveness of his voice or posture. The man is engaging in a sort of deceit, an altogether more complex achievement.

(Steps to an Ecology of Mind, pp. 424-25)

In both of these statements, Bateson implies that the relationship part of the communication — the portion carried by the non-verbal part — is the valid portion of the communication when there is a difference or an incongruity. In fact, in the latter quote, he uses the word deceit to describe the use of words by a human to convey a message which differs from the message carried by the non-verbal portion of the communication. His use of this word presupposes that the non-verbal or analogical message is the one which faithfully reflects the true nature of the person's feelings and intentions. This choice on the part of Bateson and therapists in general becomes more understandable when we examine the model which they are using to organize their experience in therapy — the Theory of Logical Types.

In his adaption of Russell's Theory of Logical Types to communication and therapy, Bateson chose to assign the relationship portion of the communication — the message carried by the non-verbal part — to a level higher than the content portion of the communication. In other words, the analogical, non-verbal message is considered meta to — of a higher logical type than — the verbal message. A message, call it A, will be considered meta to some other message (B) if message A is a comment on B, or if, equivalently, A contains B as one of its parts (less than the entirety of A), or, equivalently, if A includes B in its scope (A is about B). An example will help. A client says:

The therapist responds by asking:

How do you feel about feeling angry?

The client responds:

/ feel frightened about feeling angry about my job. (= message A)

The client's statement, message A, is about the client's state-

ment, message B; therefore, message A ¡s meta to message B. Message A is a meta-message with respect to message B.

Russell developed the Theory of Logical Types to avoid paradoxes. His theory is that, once statements (or whatever category of things was being considered) were sorted out by logical type, they were to be kept separate under pain of paradox — that is, to mix statements (or any objects) of different logical types was to invite paradox — a form of pathology to which mathematicians are particularly vulnerable. Consequently, when Bateson adapted Russell's theory, he accepted this generalization that objects (in this particular case, messages) of different logical types or different logical levels are to be kept separate.

Specifically, Bateson assigned the relationship portion or analogical part of the communication act to a meta position with respect to the content or verbal portion of the communication — the body posture/movement/tonality/tempo message was a comment on the verbal message. Thus, the analogical and the verbal portions of every communication are of different logical types. We can represent this classification visually as:

Bateson's use of Russell Theory communication act

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