The Psychology of Psychology
Some things cannot be fixed, and it shouldn’t be tried.
Most people sense things could be better. A few actually make some effort to make things better. Both times when I was in college, few fields of study drew helpful minded folks more than psychology or related social sciences. Most of those who go on to publish books or programs which become famous are generally guilty of one thing: They cling to a single model. That’s on top of being deeply welded to Western Civilization. So they have a one-trick pony which can only be ridden on one surface. I don’t doubt that’s enough for their individual needs, but they tend to extrapolate that to the whole universe. If they are also good at communicating it, they manage to sell it. But I’m not sure they’ve actually done that much good.
I’ve read most of the biggest and brightest programs which came to public acclaim during my lifetime — Transactional Analysis, Parent Effectiveness Training and related extensions, Logos Therapy, etc. The last one I read was the one which broke me free from all that crap: Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. I still have a copy. Peck had the wisdom to avoid having a model, per se. Rather, what helped me most was his tendency to simply explain how people operated. He wasn’t much on fixing up their problems, but felt the only useful thing was to simply get a rough idea what to expect from people. He was also wise enough to avoid making too many applications outside his own experience. I read his other books, but they didn’t make nearly the same impact. After that, I quit reading such literature because I no longer felt the need.
I don’t doubt a great many folks understand as well, or perhaps even better than Peck. The difference was his ability to tell me and millions of others. Aside from that was his unique brand of self-knowledge. That example by itself was worth all the other books I bought and all the time I spent reading them. All that other crap made sense, in that I knew the limits of their models’ usefulness, which was a darn sight less than how they were sold. It’s not just eclecticism, but something fundamentally different, a wholly other level of thinking. There aren’t nearly enough books like that in the world.
I have taken a broad interest in more different areas of human knowledge than I can begin to list, made more false starts down the path to hobbies for which I was wholly unsuited. In the end, even writing is just a hobby, but it’s the one I’ve taken most seriously, and stayed with the longest. Even longer is the actual time engaging one particular field of interest. Psychology is simply a supporting cast member. The star of the show remains Religion. To do any good at all, I had to understand human nature, which is pretty much the point behind all the Social Sciences. Once I managed to cast aside some of the Western bias (thank you, Philosophy), I was forced to trash an awfully large library.
I don’t miss much of it. It didn’t go all at once. I still have books and still read them, but it’s not the same at all. For those who have a computer background, you’ll understand what it’s like to switch from Windows to anything based on the Unix structure. You can hack Windows, but your explorations are highly limited by the lack of options. Unix systems are a whole other game, because the entire thing is hackable. But I don’t really hack computers and software; I hack religion. It came in bits and pieces over many decades, going all the way back to my first stint in college, but once I realized the limits of the Western bias, most books, even language itself became a serious limitation.
Then again, had it not been for all those books I read, I doubt I could have considered writing. Talent means nothing if you don’t channel it into expressions people understand. So, yes, 90% of the arts I’ve encountered is meaningless crap, and I have no patience with it. Art History is cool, but Art Appreciation (AKA Humanities) is often torture. The whole point should not be saddling people with what the pointy-headed elites say art is, or ought to be, but helping people discover art which has lasting impact over many generations. Like everything humans do, art is spoiled by politics. We don’t tell people what art is; we let them discover what beauty can touch them in places with no name. We become exposed to people like Leonardo da Vinci, who could see and draw things — capturing the full motion of birds in flight — others can’t even see. So writing as art is simply helping people discover something they might not have already considered, but it has to follow the channel of being readable. When some painter tells me he has a painful awareness of variations in hue, tint and saturation, I have the same painful awareness of people chasing fantasies about human nature and fixing what’s wrong with the world.
My empathy is overdone. If you relate an unpleasant experience and I tell you, “I feel your pain,” chances are I may well feel it with more depth than you. The sorrows of others can produce literal suffering in my flesh. So there are times I simply have to turn it all off and get away from people. This is probably the primary reason I’m introverted — I care too much.
What has prevented suicide during several rough episodes in my past has been incremental steps of learning how to step outside of this reality, something the West wants desperately to take away from me and everyone else, and see things from that other, mystical perspective. Without that, I am unable to approach any suffering with any hope of perspective about what is actually doable. Most of the time, my efforts in counseling are nothing more than pointing out reality, and destroying a few fantasies. That’s always the biggest job. Almost everyone I’ve ever known was capable of finding a workable solution to everything bothering them when I helped them eliminate what wasn’t possible.
For the most part, Psychology can’t be fixed.
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