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Study or Heal

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

Blog Thought prompted by a psychology course brief

I have just read this intro …

Humanistic psychology refers to a scientific discipline that focuses on the study of an individual’s inherent drive towards self-actualization. It belongs to the field commonly known as transpersonal psychology. Humanistic psychology typically holds that people are inherently good and adopts a holistic approach to human existence, with a special emphasis on the creative aspects of human potential. It encourages individuals to view themselves as a “whole person” through self-exploration. Humanistic psychology acknowledges a spiritual drive as part of the human psyche.

Oh dear, I was immediately dismissive, maybe too quickly dismissive. Humanistic psychology is a scientific discipline and a study; and more a study of an individual’s drive towards self-actualisation.

Warning bells rang with these keywords Scientific, Study, Drive Self actualisation.

Such language suggests to me the inherent traditional stance of the medical model – scientific and drives. Please know, that science is defined and composed of assertions and outcomes that must be replicable to yield the same outcomes. And how long do we have to endure the biological drive assertion. Even psychoanalytic thought has moved away from ‘drives’. Self-actualisation is misaligned to human potential and is not an achievement, rather an ongoing of the moment and in the interaction of a situation in which the dynamic is actualising in the best possibility with the given circumstances.

Perhaps as I read more such aspects of which I have spoken will come up.

Yet, it is this initial passage that is written to capture the, presumably, positive attention of the reader. In my case, as you see, the effect is negativity, pessimism even.

Let me positive:

The continuing conflict, indeed antagonism, that is present between some groups of psychologists – ok, being clearer and in direct experience, some academic psychologists – and humanistic oriented psychotherapists often rests on the debate of quantitative versus qualitative research approaches. In turn this prompts the lack of what such academics refer to as rigour and replication. (I guess this is not sounding positive yet!). Actually even writing in this format would have some of the academics I have mind turning away with criticism and a narcissistic attitude of the lack of academic writing detachment.

There is a need to stop trying to compare ‘apples and oranges’; a need to accept differences that are equitably valid. As such I want to draw a clear distinct delineation of psychology – a study of – and psychotherapy – the healing of. It is not necessary for the two disciplines to be aligned so fully. I consider this like Pure and Applied mathematics – both separate disciplines and complementing the other.

The study of the psyche is not the same as the study of chemistry, or physics which have quantifiable behavioural environments where x + y will always = z. Yet, it seems this is what psychology requires with the statistical analysis, determinants and correlations. I have yet to meet an undergraduate student of psychology that has not decried their study being nothing but statistics! As number 6 cried – I am not a number! (You’ll need to be certain older age to get that reference!).

I am really wondering about the linking of humanistic and psychology. I do believe that there is a necessity of growth and the development of discriminate categories that do evolve as we learn more and more, so recognise some necessity to humanistic+psychology. One of the deep influences in my life has been a text I chose for one of my school prizes back in 71/72. This was ‘The Study of Thinking’ by Jerome Bruner.

When A Study of Thinking first appeared it was greeted cooly by mainstream psychologists. Some deplored our self-imposed inattention to learning theory, the then reigning system for explaining how anything in “mind” came to be as it was. Thinking, for all that it benefits from acquired knowledge, is not the acquisition of knowledge, but is its deployment in the interest of solving problems.

A few psychologists who were out of the mainstream of those days, like Jean Piaget, lavished high praise on the book: “a revolution in the psychology of thought.”

What then was different about the book, … grew out of our strong conviction that a theory of thinking should not tell a story about how laboratory “subjects” behaved that was different from the story it would tell to explain how thinking psychologists or physicists or chess players behaved. There should be one psychology of thinking. … we wanted our subjects to be as aware as possible of the nature and requirements of the tasks … Many earlier studies concealed their objective

Bruner, Jerome. A Study of Thinking . Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

And, now, back to the point from the opening chapter of this book that I want to draw attention to that both supports and refutes the conjoining of humanistic and psychology…

The world of experience of any normal man is composed of a tremendous array of discriminably different objects, events, people, impressions. There are estimated to be more than 7 million discriminable colors alone, and in the course of a week or two we come in contact with a fair proportion of them. No two people we see have an identical appearance and even objects that we judge to be the same object over a period of time change appearance from moment to moment with alterations in light or in the position of the viewer. All of these differences we are capable of seeing, for human beings have an exquisite capacity for making distinctions.

What is occurring is enabling a process that

To categorize is to render discriminably different things equivalent, to group the objects and events and people around us into classes,

This process is in action in all aspects of our lives and in psychotherapy this is evident in the proliferation of approaches, particularly since the 1950s. We are all looking to achieve an equitable outcome; we simply have different equivalences and discriminatory processes in doing this. Eventually there will be an integration of practices. Meanwhile there is the need to adopt a thoughtful approach and be curious of the origins and thus expectations and foundations of material and views being considered.

What, then, of my origins, expectations and foundations?

Conclusion from a behavioural perspective must be limited because there is requirement for interpretation on the part of the observer. Where the behaviour is considered in respect of the actioner the limitation is that it is subjective. There is quite sufficient cause to accept unconscious processes are in play. My biggest bias would be in this area – behaviour; and there in lies my own vulnerability.

I cannot conceive of an ultimate single truth; there is a validity of each persons perspective and thus their own truth. This is not then to go unchallenged, rather one of our tasks in relation to others is to perceive the other’s truth and fit in the world. The challenge, should it be taken on, would be to assist the grouping and categorisation development of the other.

Fundamentally how I am, who I am is constantly in flux and is dependent on the relationship I have with my situation; thus my being has variables influenced by my situation. This leads to the conclusion of that my self is being-in-relation with others. To put this another way, [my] Self is the connecting experience I have with another, and part of this determinant is the present situation, this being different and evolved out of previous situations, no matter how alike that previous-ness might be.

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