In the 1st edition of THE DEVELOPING MIND Dan Siegel used the term “maximal complexity,” saying it was the “best definition of ‘mental health’” he’d ever heard.
The following quotes from Dan Siegel’s book (with Mary Hartzell) Parenting from the Inside Out give a flavor for what he meant about “maximal complexity” and “mental health:”
“[C]omplex systems have an innate self-organizing property that is built into the physical relatedness of their components. Self-organization determines the state of the system’s flow across time, meaning the position or activity of the system’s components.
“Complexity theory suggests that the most stable, flexible, and adaptive flow of states occurs when the self-organizing processes of a system move it toward complexity.
“It’s difficult to describe exactly what complexity is, so let’s start with the extremes on the scale of degree in order to see what it is not. At one extreme are the conditions of sameness, rigidity, predictability, and total order; on the other end are the conditions of change, randomness, unpredictability, disorder, and chaos. Complexity lies between these extremes.
“The example of a choir can help illustrate the sense of complexity. If all the singers sing exactly the same notes in the same way, this would be rigidity — a boring, but loud, output of sounds. If each member of the choir sings independently of each other, this would be cacophony and chaos. Complexity, the path between these two extremes, is the same as harmony. The subjective feeling at the extremes is boredom on the one hand and anxiety on the other. The rich, vitalizing, energized sense of complexity has a vibrant quality to it that emerges when systems are able to move in their natural, self-organizational flow toward complexity.
“Not only is such a state full of a sense of life, but complexity theory also predicts that such a self-organizational flow is the most stable, adaptive, and flexible. This is a terrific working definition for mental health!”
This project would explore Dan Siegel’s theory of “maximal complex” as “a terrific working definition for mental health” and the goal of this project would be to popularize “maximal complexity” as a definition of optimal well being.