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.