Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Deep Wells of the Soul

Psychology is a legitimate field of study. There are real sicknesses that affect the mind, and we need to know how to understand and treat them. But it is also a discipline which is still in its infancy. There are a variety of theories, and no one has satisfactorily proven which is the true one. This makes easy to read in one's own biases. And I have done enough introspection and counseling of others to know how easy it is to get lost in the depths of the mind. The most recent claim is that psychological illness is the result of an imbalance of the biochemicals in the brain. But whether this is the answer or is simply treating symptoms remains to be seen.

This leaves people open to the allure of mysterious, esoteric procedures that look for deep, hidden solutions that are not obvious from a straightforward approach.There is something intoxicating about believing there is some deep, hidden truth that ordinary people do not understand. I am convinced that such secrets are simply wrong and that the pursuit of them is a frequently dangerous indulgence. And psychology, and particularly psychoanalysis, in its original form is rife with them.

Freud claimed that our deepest motivation was the desire for sex. He claimed that our dreams and fantasies are really sexual desires in disguise and that psychological illness comes from the failure to properly channel our sexual desires. The idea is that I am so shocked by my sexual desires that I repress them and they reappear in my conscious mind in symbolic form. This may have made sense in 19th century Vienna, but it makes no sense at all in 21st century United States. We live in a culture where overt sexual material is readily available from a number of sources. We should not have dreams anymore. Nor does this seem to have eliminated all psychological illness.  Now I realize it was infantile sexual desires, such as for our own mother, that Freud thought really shocking. But I question that even that would have the required shock value in our current society. Since I have been old enough to do so, I have fought off fully conscious sexual images in living color. But at the same time I also loved science fiction and fantasy, which according to Freud is just sexual desire in disguise. And whence comes this super-ego that is so shocked by sex that it has to repress it? If unfettered sexual desire is the normal thing, where does the shock come from?

Now Freudianism is one of the chief justifications for opposing all forms of sexual restraint. It has also, by adding a cryptic psychological significance to sex, produced an esoteric attraction beyond the normal human desire. While I certainly would not base the whole sexual revolution on it, it is a very useful piece of propaganda. And if we are to return to some idea of sexual restraint, it is a thing that must be jettisoned. 

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