Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Into Darkest Subconscious

Some see belief in God as wish fulfillment. But personally, I came to believe in God despite the fact I did not want to. The problem with the argument from desire is that it cuts both ways. There are reasons why a person might want to believe in God. There are also clear reasons why a person might not want to believe in God. I find it hard to believe that everyone who does not believe in God wants very badly to believe in Him but suppresses it by sheer logic.

But when we go from the conscious to the subconscious, we are in more difficult territory. It is easy to see the subconscious as some sort of labyrinth totally unrelated to our conscious thought. Now I am convinced that psychology is a legitimate pursuit. Understanding the mind and its maladies is a worthwhile endeavor. But I am also convinced it is a science still in its infancy. It is on the level of medicine before it learned of microbes. It has some value, but also probably contains many fallacies. The current approach is to see mental problems as biochemical. Now it is clear that certain chemicals can affect the brain. That the body may sometimes produce such effects without the use of chemicals is not implausible. But whether this is the solution to mental illness, part of the solution, or merely treating the symptoms is hard to say.

But it is in the specific approach of psychoanalysis that we confront the idea of the subconscious. And it is this approach that I consider particularly problematic. Freud says that the basic motivator of human behavior is sex. We have these sexual thoughts and are so shocked by them that we repress them. These then go into our subconscious mind and come out as other things: dreams, fantasies, perhaps even theological beliefs. But while this idea may have made sense in nineteenth century Vienna, it makes no sense in twenty-first century America. We are an over-sexualized society that has it thrown at us at every turn. I know that for myself I have battled sexual fantasies my whole adult life, clear and without disguise. I know that this repression is seen as applying to infantile sexual fantasies, but I question that in the modern day even these would be so shocking as to be automatically repressed. As for Jung, he has his own pseudo-mythology which he sees as underlying all other mythologies. But there are many mythologies in the world, serious or fictitious, and I do not see any reason to accept his as the right one (I will not say "true one," for it is admittedly not real).

Now there is a certain attraction to the mysterious and esoteric. We want to believe there is a hidden secret that explains other people's behavior. But we really need to stick with the obvious explanations. Or we can end up explaining away everything the other person says without having to ever grapple with the actual issues.

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