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Caution: Psychology May be Hazardous to Your Mental Health

In his lecture on dream therapy on Monday, HMI director George Kappas opined that we should teach children about sleep when they are in junior high. The need seems obvious, when one stops to consider that we spend far less of our lives procreating than we do sleeping.

The problem, of course, is the same problem we have with religion: if you start kids talking about their dreams, you are going to have kids talking about abuse in the family, and somebody is going to have to confront the damage.

In professional terms, the front line in that trauma ward shouldn’t be teachers, it should be psychologists. But the psychologists confront the same problem that religious leaders do: they don’t have the strength to deal with the scope of the problem. There simply aren’t enough resources in society to treat all those in need.

In part, that’s because the psychologists have used licensing to restrict supply: becoming a practicing family therapist requires six years of schooling and 8000 hours of supervised practice – a total of ten years. But it’s also because psychotic behavior is both contagious and difficult to cure.

War, for example, creates deep and lasting scars on the mind as well as the body. Those scars are passed from warrior to child and take generations to heal. Even in non-combatants: female survivors of the Holocaust feared to bond with their children. Early maternal intimacy is essential to establishing the assumption of trust in human relations. In withholding it, mothers unwittingly raise sociopaths. This was a pattern observed by Judith Hermann in her treatment of Holocaust survivors and their children, but also in survivors of torture.

In the workplace, the metaphor of war creates the psychic damage without leaving physical scars. Lacking the exterior evidence, we tend to ignore the wounds.

The industrial scale of the problem has led psychology to seek industrial solutions – pharmacology. The belief is that healing can begin only when the patient’s behavior is stabilized. But the psychiatrists have created a culture of zombies based upon an erroneous model of the mind. It is obvious to those of us that understand spiritual experience that they are ceding the battlefield to the enemy.

Psychologists believe in a material model of the mind: they look at synapses firing and see logic networks like those in computers. When confronted with exceptional behavior (musical or mathematical savants), they look for explanations in structural differences in the brain: the density of synapses in certain regions, or increased blood flow. The difficulty is that none of their correlations hold up.

I am confident that this is because the seat of cognition is not the brain. The brain is, in fact, simply an interface to a complex intentional field shared with all living creatures (much like a modem is an interface to a network of computers). Our bodies are metaphors through which the elements of that field negotiate new relationships – relationships that often entail conflict.

That negotiation will take place in one context or another. So in medicating us, psychiatrists are simply displacing the problem – they are forcing the spiritual elements to seek another context in which their conflict can be resolved. Which creates another patient on medication, causing another displacement, and another patient, and another displacement…

At one point, psychologists (perhaps foremost among them Jung) sought to characterize and negotiate spiritual conflict. They quickly discovered that the forces at play are too vast for any single individual or subculture to manage. To succeed in disciplining the forces of conflict, we must distribute throughout society the competence to recognize and manage the symptoms of spiritual conflict.

Of course, this is religion. Religion is explicitly spiritual, and the religions that endure hold that there is a higher power that sustains us in the struggle for mental health – which is to say to exhibit behaviors that create mutually satisfying relationships. Those behaviors are known colloquially as “love.”

Psychology buys into the Golden Rule, but for some reason chooses to treat religion as a problem rather than an asset. The dominant rationale is materialism: in a material world, the soul doesn’t exist, and so all religion is a hoax. But the hidden rationale is economic: when you have a hammer for hire, every problem is a nail, and someone with a screwdriver is competition to be eliminated.

The dominant tool in this age is protection of the “public welfare.” This is the justification for onerous training requirements. The mind is a tangled web of influences, and treatment occurs in a constricted and artificial environment. The energies built in the psyche of a patient accumulate for decades (or millennia) before entering therapy. Here potent psychotic alchemies can evolve: bad ideas in the minds of the practitioner (such as the behavioral psychologists who promised the Catholic Church that their pedophiles could be cured) combine with bad ideas in the mind of the patient, and the outcome is uncertain and sometimes counter to the goal of creating mental health.

But the regulation doesn’t stop there. Psychiatrists would like priests and ministers to stop counseling parishioners and have fought strenuously to restrict the activities of lay hypnotherapists.

But psychology fails because it operates on an invalid model of the mind; because it relies upon rigorous categorizations of behavior that are stimulated by the treatment system; because it uses arcane language that disintermediates the individual from management of their own mind and the minds of those they love. The public is left only with the role of creating problems, not solving them.

In watching videos of John Kappas speak of the relationship between psychology and hypnotherapy, I have often been struck by the implied hostility of a licensed professional to his own discipline. Kappas believed in individual potential and was motivated by the joy evidenced by those that received healing. He understood that love was the most potent element in the spiritual realm, and so trusted that providing people with tools for healing would be beneficial, even if some mistakes were made that caused individual pain.

Kappas spent his life fighting for the right for people to care for one another.

Can psychology claim the same?

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