Criticism of Psychology

I am reading The Force Of Character by James Hillman together with friends in California and my wife, and we noticed the he lost interest in psychotherapy as a discipline.

It is, in fact, fitting that he lost interest in psychotherapy because what I take away from his books is that psychology, like religion to some degree, is about how to live the best life. It is when that no longer works out and people are not living their best lives that psychotherapy is necessary. So, the question is, how can we live our best lives so that our lives are mutually therapeutic? If we do not do that, psychosomatic consequences can make it a neurological or psychiatric issue, which is somatic medicine.

Living our best lives can involve various aspects, including maintaining physical health, nurturing relationships, pursuing meaningful goals, and finding a sense of purpose or spirituality. Practices like mindfulness, self-reflection, and gratitude can also contribute to well-being. Mutually therapeutic living means that our actions and interactions with others contribute positively to both our own well-being and that of those around us. This involves fostering empathy, compassion, and understanding in our relationships, as well as creating environments where people feel valued and supported.

How do you see this criticism?

What about that conflicts with psychotherapy? Could be helpful to work through early childhood traumatic experiences, attachment styles, family/normality expectations that may differ from others, so such differences are easier to navigate in relationships.

Neuroticism is normal and healthy in a sick environment. Depression in a ceaseless progression of meaninglessness and destructive influence is normal. Therapy as an intervention when things go wrong is too late. We need to learn to live mutually therapeutic lives.

Sure. Both/and. The word therapy & therapeutic… kinda sound similar. Coincidence?

Living mutually therapeutic lives involves proactively engaging in behaviors and cultivating relationships that promote well-being, not only for ourselves but also for others. It’s about fostering environments and interactions that contribute positively to mental, emotional, and physical health. This proactive approach focuses on prevention and maintenance, aiming to prevent or minimize the occurrence of psychological distress or damage.

On the other hand, intervening with therapy occurs when psychological distress or damage has already occurred and is negatively impacting an individual’s life. Therapy involves seeking professional help to address specific issues, learn coping strategies, gain insight into underlying problems, and work towards healing and recovery. Therapy is a reactive approach aimed at addressing and resolving existing problems or challenges.

So, the key difference lies in the timing and focus of the actions. Living mutually therapeutic lives emphasizes ongoing efforts to maintain well-being and promote positive interactions, while therapy comes into play when there’s a need to address and overcome psychological difficulties or damage. Both approaches are valuable and can complement each other in supporting overall mental health and fulfillment.

I like your last reply. How is it a criticism of psychology?

Because, as Hillman discovered, it often regards the patient as having the problem, rather than their situation being a problem in itself. Admittedly, changing the environment is virtually impossible, but making patients think they are the problem, or their relationships are, rather than agreeing that society is mad in many ways, and learning to cope, is not conducive.

I have experienced psychologists who conveniently latch on to the first thing that comes into their mind. Two friends of ours left their wives because they were suggested that the wives were the problem. The wives didn’t know what hit them, and were never consulted for their perspective. One couple was married 40 years and were approaching retirement. Two years after they split, they realised that they hadn’t found a solution, and were still struggling.

Patients need to realise that they are not the problem, but they need coping strategies to deal with the general madness around them.

So learning coping skills changes them internally (or…cultivates internal capacity), rather than their environment/wives.

Just imagine if they cultivated their internal capacity as a team with their wives.

Just imagine if they teamed up with other couples all cultivating their internal capacities as a unified front!

The “mutually therapeutic” would revolutionize the entire environment!

Psychology is dangerous! That guy is so right!

I’ve read several of Hillman’s books and listened to him lecture on YouTube. He was a student of Jung. But rather than become a Jungian he followed Jung’s advice and charted his own path. Instead of merely interpreting the archetypal meanings of dreams, he could look at the world situation and see archetypes everywhere. So he called what he was doing archetypal psychology. Original thinkers like Jung and Hillman can’t really be followed. They’re pointing people to their unique selves. So that’s what therapy would be: a relationship through which one realizes oneself. That’s what Socrates was doing on the streets of ancient Athens. It’s what the real gurus do. Sri Ramakrishna taught “Satchidananda Himself is the Guru.”

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And you mention Socrates. I think that “archetype” is basically what the tripartite soul/Republic was. We (children) are in the image/pattern of the (how you say) Cosmos/Father—but all unique variations on that theme. Being “in the cave” is like making up our own dream interpretations (worldview) and connecting (universalizing) dots (particulars) out of order so they fit the worldview, rather than recognizing & acknowledging the pattern for what it is (the harmonic Architecton, as Kant would say)…the whole/harmonic. That toward which the “mutually therapeutic” builds/returns… all else being alienation/dissociation… a return to the cave.

It boils down to “Know thyself.”

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I’m not sure. Can you quote it in context?

“ The phrase is one of three Delphic maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, along with “nothing to excess” and “certainty brings insanity”. The maxims are traditionally said to have been written by the Seven Sages of Greece, or even by Apollo.”

Socrates as Plato portrays him is the archetypal truth seeker who questions everything. His wisdom was to keep seeking cuz he knew he knew nothing. He didn’t know himself. He was wise enough not to think that he knew like so many people do.

“Know thyself” is inscribed on the sacred temple of the god of reason. It is a divine command. It is what the Greeks called gnosis and the Vedantist jnana. It is what Jesus referred to when he said “The kingdom of God is within you”. It is not the individual ego with a small ‘s’ but the Self with a upper case S which is Consciousness Itself the ground of Being. It is the effulgent witness that shines in every intellect thus illuminating the phenomenal world. To know thyself is to know the ultimate reality that we are. Therefore, I said everything boils down to that.

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“Give a pledge and trouble is at hand“

In other words…

…let your yes be yes, and your no be no.

harmonic triads ftw

& adds up

mutually therapeutic dao/tao yin/yang:

The quote “Give a pledge and trouble is at hand” is the third maxim of the Seven Sages of Greece. The Greek word έγγύα, translated as “pledge”, can mean either surety given for a loan, a binding oath given during a marriage ceremony, or a strong affirmation of any kind.

I translate this to mean that surety is often presumptuous, as can pledges be. Once more, humility is necessary (“know yourself”), and even saying yes or no could be underlined with “as far as I know.” There is also a Schiller quote from The Song of the Bell (poem) that you often hear in Germany:

Therefore, examine whoever binds forever,

Whether the heart finds its way to the heart.

The madness is short, the regret is long.

My wife and I had a short “examination” of whether our hearts had found their destiny, and it worked out. I think it was not so much a pledge but a mutual intention to grow old together that we both embodied, fully aware that there is no guarantee.

The sage has always practised introspection and moderation, along with the humility of tentative uncertainty and enquiry. The warrior is prone to overlook wisdom and be outright pragmatic, employing certainty and often excess if not controlled by wisdom.

I prefer the Yin-Yang of the He tu symbol, which combines the two interlocking spirals with two dots and has been more commonly used as a yin-yang symbol since the 1960s.

When I read Perennial Philosophy or books by James Hillman and people like him, I often realise that we are rediscovering old teachings. I also see how using symbols for principles is natural. They may become deities in some traditions, but really, we should know what we are talking about.

The Seven Teachings or Principles are deeply rooted in Indigenous cultures and traditions across North America. They serve as a guide for living a balanced and harmonious life.

Truth: This teaching emphasises the importance of honesty and integrity. It encourages individuals to be truthful in their words and actions with themselves and others. We can better understand ourselves and our place in the world by seeking truth.

Humility teaches us to recognise our own limitations and approach life modestly. It reminds us that we are part of a larger, interconnected web of existence and that no one person is more important than another. Humility also encourages us to listen to and learn from others.

Wisdom is gained through experience, reflection, and learning. It involves seeking knowledge and understanding, not just for personal gain but also for the benefit of the community. Elders and spiritual leaders often possess wisdom and share it with others.

Honesty goes beyond telling the truth; it also involves living authentically and with integrity. Being honest means being accountable for our actions and admitting when we’ve made mistakes. It’s about being true to ourselves and others.

Courage is the strength to face challenges, adversity, and fear. It’s not just physical bravery but also the courage to stand up for what is right, even when it’s difficult. It takes courage to speak out against injustice and to protect others.

Love is a powerful force that connects us all. It’s about compassion, empathy, and caring for one another. Love extends beyond family and friends; it includes love for the land, animals, and all living beings. Love is at the heart of healing and reconciliation.

Respect is the foundation of healthy relationships. It means treating others kindly, honouring their perspectives, and valuing their contributions. Respect for oneself, others, and the environment is essential for maintaining balance and harmony.

These teachings are not mere words; they embody a way of life. Without idolising a particular group of people, these principles steer Indigenous communities in their interactions with each other, nature, and the spiritual realm. By embracing these teachings, we can actively contribute to a more compassionate and sustainable world for all.

As I said:

Maria Popova writes:

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity,” the great French philosopher Simone Weil wrote shortly before her untimely death. An epoch after her, Mary Oliver eulogized the love of her life with the observation that “attention without feeling… is only a report.” Looking back on centuries of love poems by people of genius who dared to love beyond the cultural narrows of their time, the poet J.D. McClatchy observed that “love is the quality of attention we pay to things.”

Whom We Love and Who We Are: José Ortega y Gasset on Love, Attention, and the Invisible Architecture of Our Being – The Marginalian

Iain McGilchrist points out the same wisdom in his book:

What, then, is attention? Is it really just another ‘cognitive function’ of that supposed ‘machine’, the brain? It’s clearly something pretty special if it takes part in the creation of the only world we can know. Is it a thing? Hardly. Is it something we do? Nearer, but not exactly. Perhaps a manner of doing? Or even a manner of being?
The best way I can put it is that it is the manner in which our consciousness is disposed towards whatever else exists. The choice we make of how we dispose our consciousness is the ultimate creative act: it renders the world what it is. It is, therefore, a moral act: it has consequences. ‘Love’, said the French philosopher Louis Lavelle, ‘is a pure attention to the existence of the other’.

McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (pp. 31-32). Perspectiva Press. Kindle Edition.

So, is it any wonder that psychotherapy often returns us to learning to pay attention? What a strange deficit for a people that assumes it’s wisdom. Our problem is then that we pay attention to restricted fields of knowledge, limiting our scope habitually and can’t see the forest for the trees.