The History of Psychology


The schism in psychology is the schism in man.


Until now, there have been two theories of psychology: psychoanalytic and rational. They're both half right, and they're both half wrong. If psychology is to have a future as a field of knowledge no one rolls their eyes at, we must cut out the errors of each theory and stitch them into one.

Psychoanalytic theory, created by Sigmund Freud, says there are drives in our mind that control our thoughts and behavior outside of our awareness. We may understand these drives to a certain degree, but never completely, and ultimately, they're in control and have motives of their own. It’s like having a Chevy Vega for a mind. It's rusting away, and you notice the rust, but the best you can do is to understand the rust and what it does so when the passenger seat drops out, you can only shrug your shoulders at your road-rashed girlfriend and say, “whelp, we all knew this was going to happen at some point."

Based on Freud’s evidence, this is indeed how men appeared to him. But when he began practicing, Western civilization had been soaking in 2000 years of religion that said there were parts of men that were inherently evil. Men would of course act as if they were split into different parts, but this isn’t man’s psychology as it is.

If you wake up one day with the deep, unwavering belief the world is ending next week, you will begin to act in erratic ways. If I were to evaluate your psychology without considering your newfound belief about the world, my extrapolated theory of human psychology would be incomplete at best. And if some people thought I was a bad psychologist as a result, then maybe I would deserve that.

Though psychoanalysis persists because it’s true from a certain respect. There are parts of ourselves that control us outside of our awareness---latent emotions, all of which have a perfectly explicable, if sometimes cryptic, cause. This doesn’t mean we’re inherently evil, but if you’re taught humans are inherently evil, then you will misinterpret latent emotions as such. And since even non-religious Westerners have the atavistic notion of original sin (hence environmentalism, white guilt, yoga), psychoanalysts will always be able to find a study that validates their interpretation of the data. The unconscious is all-knowing, so we're only here to do its bidding. It's like letting a woman control your life---you're only appeasing her because you don't understand her, so you feel powerless to do anything else.

Also, psychoanalysis has the chic of the proverbial muddy waters going for it; they're the postmodernists of the psychology world. Guys are going to fawn over psychoanalysis in the same way they fawn over whatever Yoko Ono’s next exhibit is at the MoMA. If you don't get it, it's because you're a flyover-country bumpkin.

There were other psychoanalysts besides Freud, but to learn about them is to learn about different kinds of rust patterns. Yeah, when rust gets at your steering joist, it will ruin your Vega faster than if it gets at your quarter panel, but they both work the same way.

One psychoanalyst who was not only a devotee of Freud, but his second-in-command on the psychoanalytic starship, was Carl Jung. Freud and Jung were perfect for each other---Jung loved that he was friends with the rock star of psychology, and Freud loved that there was this intelligent yet malleable youth, capable of taking the reigns of psychoanalysis when he died.

However, before his 30th birthday, Jung split from Freud and his ideas based on Freud’s unwillingness to consider man could integrate his disparate drives into one, unified whole. Jung didn’t see men to be doomed by their ancestral past or nebulous emotions. He believed these unconscious parts of ourselves had a language of their own, and if we could only decipher the language, then we could uncover these truths and incorporate them into our consciousness, thus putting them in our control. This is, in effect, correct. Except Jung was a mystic, and he based his ideas on supernaturalism, which was Freud's ultimate point of contention. Even Jungians to this day admit his ideas must be taken on faith. Jung was able to rid himself of the organized ritual of his devout Christian upbringing, but he never rid himself of the superstition.

Jung’s approach was correct (and his approach serves as a model for my unification of psychology), but the content was incorrect---so incorrect that his ideas begat the men’s movement of the 80s and so the cringe-worthy 90s male.

As such, Jung is the Thales of psychology. More than 2500 years ago, Thales proclaimed everything to be made of water. He was wrong, of course, but his approach of finding what is common to all we see, searching for the “one in the many,” is the correct approach to advancement in any field of knowledge.

By this point, psychology had been mostly subject to analysis, which can be summed up well by Dr. Hibbert: "We can't fix [Homer's] heart, but we can tell you exactly how damaged it is." It’s like if I created a theory to show you why bridges collapse without offering any solution, you would entertain my ideas if they sounded smart, and you may assign my books to undergrads to teach them engineering, but eventually you’d want to see a structure to the knowledge.

A structure came in the late 1940s when Albert Ellis introduced a new school of psychology, Rational psychology^1. Ellis’s point was revolutionary yet subtle: humans do have a consciousness, and it can do things. In other words, free will exists. Ellis recognized that you do have a so-called unconscious life that is in control sometimes, but if you give it the right commands---in the form of, “I know this emotion I have is irrational, so I’ll just come up with reasons why it’s irrational, then that will disprove it and remove its effect from my life”---then your consciousness will be in charge. Rational psychology taught patients to, in effect, argue with emotions. This makes as much sense as arguing with a woman---you may be right, but she'll never admit it, and it won’t keep her from destroying your life.

(Rational psychology bears a striking resemblance to the Stoics of Ancient Rome, which did indeed influence much of Ellis’s work. The Stoics saw emotions as inherently irrational, but they could be kept at bay---ie repressed---as long as you submitted yourself to certain duties and practices. Kind of like the Big Three religions today, which makes sense because Stoicism is one of the main influences on Christianity.)

So psychology is left with this split between reason and mysticism, between head and heart, between the rational and the irrational, between thought and emotion, between masculine and feminine. The psychoanalysts recognize the importance of emotions, but not the importance of consciousness; the rationalists recognize the importance of consciousness, but not the importance of emotions. And when we have integrated both consciousness and emotions, we do it on supernatural---ie unscientific---grounds. All three perspectives make the mistake of thinking our conscious and unconscious are inherently at odds^2.

This is where my unification of psychology comes---it reconciles the split in the content of psychology, and it systematizes the form. Psychology needs a theory that unifies the conscious and the unconscious, and it needs to do it in a way that explains what psychology is, not present its veneer as commandments. It’s the difference between giving someone directions versus giving them a map that shows them where they want to go, and maybe featuring other points of interest as well that they didn't even know existed.

My unification of psychology neither debunks psychoanalysis nor rational psychology---instead, it shows how each is wrong in its own way, and how each is correct in its own way. They’re both different sides of the coin of truth. I'm merely saying, "hey, they're on the same coin."

Yes we have an irrational side, or seemingly irrational side, and yes we have a rational side, or a side we are immediately aware of, but it’s only when we boil down the irrational side to its fundamentals, to anxiety and anger, can we better understand it and use it with our rational side, and so integrate it into our psyche. Man is now whole, without using mysticism as a crutch. Jung was correct in that our rational side must learn a new language to understand our irrational side, but he failed to correctly explicate what this new language is, and how it can be learned.

To fully understand our anxiety and anger, however, we must learn about where they live---our subconscious (re unconscious), and how it works in relations to our conscious. It’s only once we understand this process that we can see where our decisions come from, and our will. This combination of our mind and decisions interact to form our boundary, who we are and everything in our world.

The entire process of our psychology means nothing unless we can observe it. This self-awareness involves looking at our anxiety and anger, understanding them, and seeing how they affect our decisions and who we are so we can then use our decisions to build our psychology, not just figure out what's wrong with it. We do this, not in spite of our emotions, but in conjunction with our emotions.

This is the next step in the history of psychology, a reparation of this schism. It's no different than repairing a relationship between a man and a woman. Though your subconscious is more spectacular and way more beautiful than your conscious, your conscious is the leader, and it must treat the subconscious in a certain way to unify the two. Your subconscious is tired of being either put on a pedestal by the psychoanalysts, or being argued with and ignored by the rationalists. She neither wants to be treated like a queen nor a slave, but like a princess living in your world. You love her and appreciate her without letting her push you around. You dominate her without being domineering. You listen to her thoughts, but you also know she's incapable of thought, so you find spectacular truths in her words only by looking through what she says to what she means. In doing so, you become invigorated by her while giving her a suitable outlet for her intensity.

The schism in psychology is the schism in man, yes, but it's also the schism between man.

1. Rational psychology later became cognitive, cognitive behavior, and the increasingly popular ACT and DBT.

2. The reason for this split is the mind-body dichotomy, implicit yet deeply-seated in Western civilization since the fall of Rome.


PsychologyMark Derian