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August 30, 2006
The Beach Boys - Brian and Murray Wilson, Family Dysfunction and Schizophrenia
News and audio recordings that have just come out on Brian Wilson, the leader of the band "The Beach Boys" - and the news highlights some of the genetic susceptibility and environmental factors that are now believed to contribute to many cases of schizophrenia.
The Beach Boys were one of the top bands in the 1960s and 1970s and much has been written about how in his early to mid 20's Brian Wilson had a "breakdown", and then descended into mental illness and drug abuse in the late '60s and '70s, taking less and less of a role in the Beach Boys. Withdrawing into himself, he spent long periods of time sleeping, taking drugs and overeating.
Such behaviors are common among those developing schizophrenia. Additionally - the fact that Brian Wilson was extremely creative prior to the onset of schizophrenia - is also described as not uncommon in schizophrenia-prone people. Psychological studies indicate that highly creative people share an elevated risk of serious mental illness.
Brian Wilson was then dramatically less creative after the schizophrenia set in - a fact that has been described in depth in the "Scientific American" magazine - where it stated:
"Psychological studies also indicate that highly creative people share an elevated risk of serious mental illness. For certain individuals, such ailments may actually contribute to their soaring achievements. Yet often the same condition eventually ruins their inventiveness and their lives. Perhaps no story better exemplifies how mental illness can free up creativity, then crush it, than that of Brian Wilson"
All of this is very interesting, you might say, but why are we covering this as news today.
Well, in the past few years increasing research suggests that social stress, family dysfunction and child abuse can all play a role as a contributing factor in the development of schizophrenia. Following are just a few recent stories on this:
Lower level of Family Stress May Reduce Risk of Schizophrenia in Children
All of this is relevant because today it was announced that there are actual recordings (from studio recording sessions) that you can listen to of Brian Wilson's father (Murry Wilson), who is described as "abusive and alcoholic", interacting in a highly dysfunctional way with the creative son who is trying to record his songs that would ultimately become some of the top sellers in the country.
The WFMU radio station web site describes it this way:
"January 8, 1965: The Beach Boys enter the studio to record what will become their second number one hit, Help Me Rhonda. Well into the session, a drunken Murry Wilson (Brian, Carl and Dennis' Dad) arrives and proceeds to commandeer the session with psychodrama, scat singing and weepy, abusive melodrama.
After listening in on this session, It's easy to see why the Beach Boys eventually purchased Murry a fake audio console for their sessions, so he could twiddle knobs to his heart's delight without destroying anything.
To listen to all the tapes over the Internet - and learn more - go here: The Murray Wilson Tapes.
To be clear, parental/family dysfunction is only one of many factors that has been identified as contributing factors in schizophrenia (And, we don't want people to think that it is by any means thought by most researchers to be the leading contributing factor. That research has not been done.) In the case of Brian Wilson, however, it seems entirely possible that a genetic predisposition could easily have been pushed toward schizophrenia due to high levels of family stress, as well as work/band stress, and drug use that was common in the mid-1960s in California.
Its impossible to know for sure how the environmental factors contributed to Brian Wilson's schizophrenia - but we suspect most psychologists would agree that the example of Brian Wilson's alcoholic, yelling, abusive and controlling father seems like a case study of how not to behave as a parent if you care about the mental health of your children.
Posted by szadmin at August 30, 2006 11:48 AM
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