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Finding emotional satisfaction in the answer.

Freud and Marx are the two best known social theorists in the world. Both enjoy a popular appeal beyond that accorded the longevity and intellectual strengths of their theories. Why? What is it that people seek? And can a thoroughly constructed general theory of psychology be expected to deliver this sort of emotional appeal?

The contribution of Freud to the understanding of people was that things were never, at least seldom ever, exactly what they seemed. As a species we seemed to be driven by forces that well from deep within. These images fitted the age in which they were offered generating a fascination in the society of the day to the point that the notions now pervade our psyche and it is almost impossible not to encounter them in the common round of life.

Freud emphasised an instinctive aspect of humanity, but never did quite reconcile this with the self-determining, rational aspect. Many other theorists have offered alternatives stressing the rational and the cognitive, Kelly's theory of personal constructs and Ulric Neisser's book crystallising the emergence of cognitive psychology are only two, but none have captured the imagination of the day in the manner of Freud.

Part of the problem is that science itself has a mixed emotional appeal. The ambivalence rooted in mixed feelings about the products of science, food, shelter and medicine on the one hand and the opportunity for mass destruction on the other. And beyond these obvious issues, the clinical, dispassionate nature of science. People instinctively mistrust the lack of human feeling, seeing science as almost driven by values not wholly human, certainly not spiritual. This compounded by the twist of psychology and science generally into concerns with rationalism or positivism or some other philosophical nicety. The result for psychology was to lose touch with the reality of people, with consciousness, attitudes, hope and faith all of which the common people knew to be crucial even if it did not fit with some philosophers view of the practice of science.

After Freud people lost faith that the science of psychology had anything to offer, while at the same time found usefulness and support in the practice of counsellors and self-development practitioners. So we arrive at our modern time, with scientific psychology and psychiatry fragmented amid a myriad of schools, while yet the practice of psychology is a burgeoning industry. And within the industry the better practitioners quickly give away their theoretical pre-dispositions to focus on showing people how to manage what they think and feel, and to work through the reconciliation of their past circumstances so to secure the peace they seek in today.

A full and valid theory of psychology, today, is not likely to surprise people in what it says. What it must do is to make sense of what in fact people significantly understand. It is most likely to result in a re-emphasis. A shift away from the linear, rather simple causality of Freud, to a more complex system of causality that integrates the unconscious and subconscious forces with the understood reality that we do tend toward becoming that which we think most of the time.

Any such theory must be thoroughly science: dispassionate, objective and detached. Despite the ambivalence toward science, people do know and understand it when it is offered, eventually according it grudging respect. This translating in enthusiasm if the theory also guides people in how to better their personal lives, and how to approach important issues of the day, such as education, mental illness, child rearing, and the sustaining and development of our personal freedom and individual spirituality.

 

 


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