One Holleeder is no Holleeder

One Holleeder is not a Holleeder

"My brother is a psychopath. But I am also a psychopath. Only I do less bad things with it." This statement, with which Astrid Holleeder characterized herself during the trial against her brother Willem, testifies to an admirable self-knowledge.

As a cyberneticist I find it interesting that with these words Astrid Holleeder shifts the focus from the individual Willem Holleeder to the Holleeder family, from that one derailed man to the comprehensive system in which he grew up. I was reminded of the research conducted by Gregory Bateson, one of the most famous cybernetics leaders, into the causes of schizophrenia as early as the 1950s. Bateson showed that schizophrenics, as a rule, grow up in families in which certain pathogenic communication patterns repeat themselves over and over. The emerging schizophrenic is confronted time and time again with a paradoxical, implicit message: "I love you / I don't love you", being reproved regardless of the response to that implicit message. (Read Gregory Bateson's "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" book if you want to learn more about this.)

We are not used to looking at things from a larger perspective. Faced with a problem, our first tendency is to cut the subject into smaller pieces and then analyze each part separately. But Willem Holleeder cannot be explained solely on the basis of an innate disposition. According to Astrid Holleeder, that talent is not that much different. An analysis of the comprehensive system, of the total, can often lead to surprising, additional insights. And certainly not only in families.

For example, in the week of the municipal elections, let's also look at the system properties of the political battleground. For starters, the political debate is more "stage" than "battle": there is a big difference between criticizing someone and piercing someone with a sword. And that obvious fact can create a strange kind of dependence between political opponents. For example, if Pechtold is angry about the PVV, Wilders will not be weaker. On the contrary. At such a moment in the media Pechtold reaffirms not only his own position, but also that of Wilders.

As strange as it may sound, there really is often little difference between fighting and supporting your political opponents. In that sense, it is not that easy to effectively attack your opponents. For a non-empathic psychopath like Willem Holleeder, there is no problem: he simply seizes violence. I recommend healthier people to occasionally zoom out to a broader perspective: my experience has taught me that answers can be found there.

The systems that surround us contain enough patterns that are worth breaking. Preferably even before we become massively ill.