Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Old and the New

Once upon a time, in Germany of all places, there lived the first people to ever make their way into the study of people's minds.  People have been philosophizing about the role of the soul in people's lives since ancient times.  There are brilliant works on the topic dating back to ancient India, Greece, and China.  However, it wasn't until the Europeans got their Western Scientific hands on it that the field of Psychology was born.  Wilhelm Wundt (say that in your best German accent) set up the first Psychology Laboratory and thus began the West's entree into the mystical realm of psyche.

The word "psyche" means "soul."  Thus, "psychology" is simply the "study of the soul."  Western Science loves to examine and study things, so psychology got quite a lot of attention.  However, back in the days of Wundt and Freud, scientists had to adhere to the stringent rules governing scientific inquiry.  Namely, as scientists, they agreed to study only that which was observable to the 5 senses.  This was an agreement that pleased both The Church, and the field of Science.  Science focused on the physical, not the metaphysical, and everyone was happy.  So, instead of studying the soul, they studied behavior, they analyzed people's thoughts, they tried to interpret people's dreams, they observed the innate behaviors of children, they postulated about aggression and sexuality, and on and on.

The culture that existed in the late 19th Century in Freud's Vienna, for example, was Victorian in nature, repressed as the day is long.  Piano legs had to be covered up as they were thought to be too risque.  Naturally, the "issues" that people had back then looked very different from what we have going on in our lives today.   Our culture has swung so incredibly far from Victorian Era principles, it's silly.  We can hardly imagine living by those values and ideals.  Yet, that is the backdrop of "modern" psychology.  And that is what most people associate with therapy.  Oops...

The evolution from Freudian analysis to Jung and Adler, to Skinner's Behavioralism, to Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow's Humanism to Rollo May's inclusion of Existentialism, to Cognitive-Behaviorism, and Interpersonal Neurophysiology,  to Spiritual Psychology, Positive Psychology, Mindfulness-Based approaches and Solution-Focused Therapies  has been essential to our gaining a whole understanding of how to help people heal their insides.  That is a compacted list, and says nothing about other fields of science and technology, nor about art, philosophy, music, politics, and cultural commentary.  As an integrationist, I look to all these sources and try to synthesize a treatment approach tailored to the specifics of each person.  It would be easier to adopt a single view and widely apply it.  However, history and Reason disallow that.  Today, we have the benefit of all that we know, and all that we know we don't know.  The myth that somehow there will be one single idea that will be a cure-all has to be dispelled.  We have to do better, think better, so that we can live better.  That is my mission.

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