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Psychologies of City Planning

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posted on Mar, 8 2014 @ 05:45 PM

The Schizophrenic Brain

Before I get to the topic at hand, I want to say a few things about what many psychiatrists and psychologists consider a condition "unique" to our industrial age: schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a severe psychological disorder which distorts natural perception of reality. Although most people associate "hearing voices" with schizophrenia, the cardinal symptom of schizophrenia is a distorted perspective of objective reality, not hearing voices. Schizophrenia could be described as a profound disconnect, or dissociation, of self from the world of lived experience. fMRI scans, as well as EEG and study of brain lesions, show that schizophrenics have highly left lateralized brains. This makes a lot of sense, since the left hemisphere has more dopaminergic pathways, while the right hemisphere has more noradrenaline pathways: psychiatrists help control schizophrenic symptoms by blocking dopamine reception in the brain.

The schizophrenic is highly removed from his own experience of the world vis a vis his body. His chief "referent" in functioning is some abstract idea, which becomes abstracted upon, and made "conscious"; schizophrenics are conscious of processes that are normally unconscious i.e. usually handled by the right hemisphere: again, another cogent explanation for the over lateralization in the left hemisphere of the schizophrenic brain.

Schizophrenics have a severe deficiency of processing information with regard to context. This is the consequence of losing "contact" with the body (awareness of the body i.e proprioception, interoception is processed mostly in the right hemisphere). Schizophrenics typically prefer "impersonal" models or views of things: it is quite common for them to see themselves as "machines" or to disown some part of their body and see it as "different" or to have an "agenda" against the self. This is all a breakdown of holistic, contextual perspective. Instead of the mind being embodied, it is floating about the body, perilously "broken" and fragmented. If you read the words of a schizophrenic, or hear them in speech, you will very quickly notice the tell-tale signs of breakdown of contextual perspective: One clause will modulate the next clause which in turn will modulate the next clause: there is no "contextual thread" holding it all together. The schizophrenic brain seems tied down to the syllogistic perspective where a = b = c. It gets lost in the structure, losing awareness of how the individual elements relate in a functional and meaningful whole.

The Natural World vs. The Human World

The right brain and the left brain pick up the world in different ways. The right brain is more activated when looking at a natural scene with natural forms. The left brain conversely is more activated when looking at a scene with rectilinear forms. This makes sense: the right brain is more emotive, context dependent, bodily oriented, relational and personal; in contrast, the left brain is logical, linear, syllogistic, focused on particles, categories, and "impersonal".

Lines do not exist in nature, but rather, everything is "circular", that is, is wavy and edgy. Even the "horizon" is not quite a line, but an arc. The idea of a line is a human projection upon nature reflecting the compartmentalism of the left hemispheres need to control and manipulate its environment. Human beings who interact with a "natural environment" with natural forms are more stimulated in their right brains, and thus, appear to experience a deeper sense of context: wholeness, a spiritual connection of self with nature and other creatures: with what exists beyond the self in terms of a "betweenness". In contrast, the lines and gridlike patterns that define our modern cities and towns produces a "disruptive" effect in how we feel in our environments. The very fact that such forms aren't "real" - aren't actually found in nature - this discontinuity between self and environment may in fact have a positive feedback effect in promoting agitation and frustration in people. It is well known that schizophrenia is more common in cities than in rural areas: the dysregulated left brained "schizophrenic" mind sees its own state "reified" in the physical patterns of the streets and buildings it walks upon, causing further agitation in perception.

Modelling Cities on Natural Forms

I think eventually sometime in our species future, it will become more apparent that the environments we interact with have a strong unconscious effect in how we feel. Environments which reflect natural forms promote feelings of "connectedness" between self and the other, whereas environments with unnatural forms, like modern and post-modern art, has a disturbing effect on the unconscious mind, and therefore, has a regulating effect in how we interact with other people and with nature.

The human organism evolved in interaction with a natural environment, with natural forms. It was only a little over 2000 years ago that the Romans created the modern "grid system" with it's bureaucratic geometry of lines and squares. For hundreds of thousands of years, human beings evolved WITH nature. It was only when we thought that we could dominate nature - around the time of Socrates - that humankind lost awareness of the context of it's evolutionary adaptedness; of course, such concepts at that time didn't exist, unlike today.
edit on 8-3-2014 by Astrocyte because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 8 2014 @ 06:04 PM
reply to post by Astrocyte

I agree, cities are planned by schizophrenics.

But seriously folks, I am a fan of attempting all of the various ways to improve our lives as individuals and as civic groups as long as it isn't at the federal level. Everyone must be able to vote with their feet on the best place to live.

I would be delighted to visit an experimental city which was extensively integrated with a natural environment.
edit on 8-3-2014 by greencmp because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 8 2014 @ 06:19 PM
reply to post by greencmp

I agree with the de-centralization of power. One of the "strengths" or obsessions, of left brain thinking is categorization and systematization of "information"; statism is the expression of this sort of hubris applied to human beings, as if we could be depersonalized and treated like cogs in a machine. This of course is a consequence of the prevailing metaphor of our age: machines, industry. We see everything through this lens.

My intuition tells me that the future world will be more local. Globalization is an expression of the "will to power" - not a sustainable model and it certainly wont have a positive end. Of course, in our "internet age", connection is an inevitable reality, nevertheless, I hope that we will work harder on strengthening relationship within communities, at a social and economic level, so that the nature of the relationship between "nations" will be less dependent on commerce, and more on friendly exploration of other possibilities and vacationing.

posted on Mar, 8 2014 @ 08:23 PM
reply to post by Astrocyte

oh ffs nm
edit on 8-3-2014 by Nephalim because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 2 2014 @ 05:47 PM
a reply to: Nephalim

there was a video i seen, it may have been a TED talk, in which they discussed the experiment which was performed on schizophrenics where they took them out of the city to live in the wild for a short time (camping) and their symptoms vanished, only to return as soon as they returned to the city, I'm trying to find the video now, but having troubles locating it, anyone know the video I'm talking about?

posted on May, 3 2014 @ 01:15 AM
a reply to: pryingopen3rdeye

No, but that is incredibly interesting.

It's intuitively plausible that the the forms we daily relate with interact at a fundamental level shape biopsychological processes. And since evolutionarily speaking, our bodies and it's chemistries emerged in interdependence with the world it interacted with - the trees, grasses, flowers, sun, sky, as well as daily exposure to wildlife - the human brains higher order psychological functioning works optimally when surrounded by forms that conform to its environment of evolutionary adaptedness.

Many eco-thinking architects and city planners are taking this hypothesis as plausible - and science on the relationship between environment and emotional well being are being carried out as we speak: the biological-psychological-environment nexus is the bees knees in brain science nowadays.

I personally love the idea of bio-mimmicry. Why would anyone think that streets and all these other unnatural forms don't exert a strong unconscious tension on our personal and collective psyche? Why is it people in cities are so uncouth, strong headed, and narcissistic? The ego - the make-believe - notion of ourselves as ontologically significant, is a phenomena of the process of interaction between caregiver and baby. The final product - the sense of self - is a mishmash of psychoenergetic transmissions between selves. Selves certainly exist - but they are ancillary to the context. The context - the fact that self emerges in such a dyadic way (with another individual) means that our very, deeply treasured idea of our SELF, is secondary to the "other" outside ourselves. I have often found myself amazed at how much stronger someones will becomes when they realize someone ELSE depends on them. It's as if, for their own selves, they simply cant muster the energy; but when they see the pain in another, paradoxically, they become more deeply aware of their own significance: that what they do can help the life of another. And this brings a joy and happiness that is hard to square with our idea of "self interest" as the basic common denominator of human relations.

City streets - rectilinear forms - is like the ego. The ego helps us navigate the world. It enables to use the world. But it is merely a construct: it doesn't actually represent the world as it actually is. Similarly, a deepening bioconsciousness and sense of our interdependence with the natural world - a perception growing thanks to the state of nature, climate change, etc - is like recognizing the artificiality of the forms we use when we exercise reason: linearity. Linearity can help us cordon off certain information so that we can more clearly understand and control something. But it actually doesn't reflect how processes actually work in nature. Not in biology, and Not in the biosphere. Nature is not linear - no lines in nature - but non-linear. It is a chaotic system whose functioning only makes sense as a "state of relationship between particulars". This is a crazy idea. The growing body, for example, starts from one cell: the zygote. And somehow, through a magic, chemical processes build a body of 50 trillion cells. This does not happen linearly: DNA directs the growth of proteins which in turn direct which genes become active. This is a circular process: nothing man actually does mirrors this process.

So, I think, there will no doubt come a time when we redesign our cities. Not necessarily moving buildings etc, but once more efficient and clean modes of transportation emerge, we can expect the removal of large swaths of infrastructure. That might not happen in this century, but certainly, some point down the road, the unseemly sites of 'roads' and city streets will impel a more mindful society to let the earth "breath" again. They'll remove the concrete and grow flowers - or something natural.

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