Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Thoughts on Psychology.

Influences on my thinking:-


http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/24500_01_Fox_et_al_Ch_01.pdf - Critical Psychology Intro: Chapter 1.

http://www.midpsy.org/draft_manifesto.htm - Draft manifesto for a social materialist psychology of distress.




Midlands Psychology Group
for a social materialist psychology
-"We are a group of clinical, counselling and academic psychologists who believe that psychology—particularly but not only clinical psychology—has served ideologically to detach people from the world we live in, to make us individually responsible for our own misery and to discourage us from trying to change the world rather than just ‘understanding’ our selves. What are too often seen as private predicaments are in fact best understood as arising out of the public structures of society."


Thoughts on Psychology:-

  • Psychology must consider biology politics sociology history philosophy -basically it must be Holistic and intersectional.
  • Psychology cannot be value free. Psychology must be political. Psychology must understand both personal issues and political issues. The linked nature of  external and internal causes of problems.
  • A critical psychology must have a historical political institutional systematic understanding of how psychology has developed and the ways it may act to defend oppression or mask oppression etc.
  • I think distress can be caused by social and political factors.
  • I agree with Critical Psychology and Social Materialist psychology.
  • I believe the 'unconscious' mind does exist.
  • I don't agree with Psychoanalysis.
  • I  do think that  while  material  conditions do not determine how you think feel and act  they do strongly influence how you think feel and are able to act  and set limits on it
  • No one approach seems relevant for everyone everywhere and at all times- psychology is very contextual
  • I support the Autism rights movement.

Criticism of Mainstream Psychology.
  1.  Claims monopoly on Psychology becoming too ivory tower and academic
2.  Claims to be 'objective' and 'neutral' as if being a psychologist does not involve you in psychological processes.
3. Tied up with power relations e.g. drug companies.
 4.  Often liberal/ victim blaming - puts the responsibility for problems on the individual and usually their internal state and then claims the solution can be found in the same place. Often ignores the environment or living conditions which influence people. Almost always ignores the political circumstances which influence people. Puts the focus on individual personal change rather than individual AND social change. Tendency to assume almost unlimited 'free choice'.
5.  Developed in a historical context so obviously is shaped by those in power.
6. Has been and is being used for domination/oppression/exploitation by capitalism and the state especially. Tendency to promotes ideas of a fixed human nature which is inherently greedy/selfishish/uncaring/controlling/ anti-social etc which is to the benefit of existing power structures.
7.  Ultimately reformism in that it advocates altering existing situations not abolishing them.

Existing society encourages learned helplessness and learned powerlessness by encouraging consumerism, the spectacle, passivity and hierarchy and by denying autonomy and by destroying community, critical thinking and democracy.

Psychology is not value free. Just like in Sociology, to be involved in describing a psychology theory or account or the like the very act of doing so changes everyone around even if only in the short term and in a small way. It certainly changes the psychologist themself.

  • Improving ourselves as individuals and improving society CANNOT be meaningfully separated.
  • Autistic people should be helped if they need help because of how society marginalizes them but not medicated and are not there to be 'cured'.

Useful Quotes:-

“Critical psychologists have objected to psychotherapy‘s most common approach: helping us adapt to an unsatisfying world by internalizing problems and solutions rather than recognizing their societal nature. Psychology’s claim to be a science separate from philosophy accompanied 19th century Social Darwinism, which imagined and demanded a competitive, striving human nature for a dog-eat-dog capitalist world. It assumed rather than challenged hierarchy, patriarchy, and race privilege. Twentieth century psychologists who eventually became therapists encouraged people to fix themselves rather than challenge bosses, political elites, or dominant institutions more broadly. And still, today, mainstream therapy helps us function, boosting our confidence and self-esteem and maintaining our relationships so that we can get through school, get to work on time, keep at it one day after the next, mastering stress reduction techniques and ignoring any inkling that something outside ourselves might be at fault even when millions of us have identical “individual problems.” These culturally disseminated clich├ęs have become part of our everyday psychology, seemingly obvious and natural and right (Fox et al., 2009).”

“Gross believed that “[w]hoever wants to change the structures of power (and production) in a repressive society, has to start by changing these structures in himself [sic] and to eradicate the ‘authority that has infiltrated one’s own inner being’”

"We are more likely to experience distress the more our experiences are invalidated and the more isolated we become from one another. Equally, the further we are from supportive, nurturing relationships, the more that invalidation and isolation will engender distress. People stripped of ameliorative influences such as a loving, supportive family and friends; comfortable, safe environments; and the trust, support and solidarity of others, are increasingly likely to experience diagnosable distress. In other words, the effects of trauma, social inequality and life events contingently interact with the less visible, less quantifiable effects of parenting, friendship, nurturing and caring. This is one reason why ‘the same’ event causes distress in some, but not others."

In the words of eminent psychiatrist Kenneth Kendler (2005, p.434-5): ‘We have hunted for big, simple, neuropathological explanations for psychiatric disorders and have not found them. We have hunted for big, simple, neurochemical explanations for psychiatric disorders and have not found them. We have hunted for big, simple genetic explanations for psychiatric disorders, and have not found them.’

"But this does not mean that biology should be largely ignored, as is so often the case in social science and (predominantly cognitive) psychology. Embodied capacities lend shape and texture to distress, by enabling activities and by co-constituting perceptions, thoughts and feelings. This means we should strive to understand how distress is produced by the adverse socialization of embodied, biological capacities, rather than by their impairment, disease or failure. This massively complex interdisciplinary undertaking will draw upon anthropology, social science, neuroscience, psychology and other disciplines. "

"Another example: sensitivity to others is a trait that might have a genetic component. Ordinarily this trait is adaptive, associated with maintaining good relationships, being a better employee, functioning well in groups, and so forth. But when someone with this trait is placed in a traumatic or abusive environment, the trait becomes maladaptive because it means that the effects of this toxic environment are felt more keenly. "

"Both psychiatric and mainstream psychological explanations of distress are at best partial, at worst ideological, because they fail to capture the way in which experience is shaped over time by a social world that is frequently oppressive. The acquisition of what could be described as an affective ‘default’ position is sensibly interpreted by the person as reflecting the way the world is, has been, and will always be. This enduring, embodied aspect of distress means it is very difficult for us to change the way we experience ourselves and our world."

"This does not mean that we are necessarily unable to choose a given course of action, nor that we are constrained to perform actions against our desires. ‘Freedom’, ‘will’ and ‘power’ are necessary and valid concepts. ‘Willing’ means choosing this or that; freedom means having the power to choose this or that. Whether or not we have the power to exercise our will depends upon the availability of the necessary social and material resources. Will and power are two distinct capacities: without resources, exercise of will is impossible.
So there is no immaterial force called willpower upon which we can call. The personal powers that make the exercise of will possible may be concurrently present in the world, or they may be acquired historically – embodied – from engagement with it. I will not be able to speak French (to ‘will’ a sentence in French) if I have not studied and practiced the language sufficiently for it to become an embodied skill. Similarly, I will not be able to behave confidently in a given circumstance if I have not acquired and embodied the kind of experiences which engender the appropriate confidence. Most therapies, whether explicitly or not, invoke boot-strap-pulling as a vehicle of change, but boot-strap-pulling is no substitute for the necessary personal power (Smail, 2005)."

"Sometimes, medication can usefully anaesthetize the distressed to their woes, yielding brief bubbles of respite or clarity. During these short, chemically induced holidays from their misery, those with the resources may initiate life changes that alleviate their problems and establish positive future trajectories. But whether this occurs is a function, not simply of the medication, but of the resources and circumstances within which it is ingested: consequently, medication can also make things worse (Moncrieff, 2008)."

"Therapy can also help, though again not by ‘curing’. Understood generically, therapy provides comfort (you are not alone with your woes), clarification (there are sound reasons why you feel the way you do) and support (I will help you deal with your predicament) (Smail, 2001b). In an atomised, fragmented, time-poor society, where solidarity and collectivity are derided, time limited, and relationships consistently infected with a toxic instrumentalism, these are valuable, compassionate functions.
At its best, psychological therapy can help the sufferer to understand distress, not as a (more or less wilful) failure of insight, motivation or learning, but as the inevitable result of living in a noxious world. Moreover, both medication and therapy can help people make better use of the powers and resources already available to them. Both may draw attention to unrecognized resources (e.g., solidarity with others); make it feel permissible to use available powers and resources; change the ways that people use available powers and resources; or explicitly support people to cease viewing themselves as ‘the problem’."

Where people have (or can obtain) more resources then they will have more scope to act upon whatever insights they might have gained.
It is also well-established in this literature that so-called ‘non-specific factors’ are a consistent predictor of good outcomes: in other words, that the therapist and client are able to establish a good relationship (Mair, 1992; Norcross, 2010). Indeed, unlike professional therapists, service users frequently declare the most ordinary aspects of therapy the most helpful: listening, understanding, respectfulness."

"The presentation of therapy as specialised technique cheapens and oversells psychology itself; leads to resources being wasted comparing the marginal differences between this brand and that; and deflects effort and attention from the very real opportunities for psychological research and insight that are supplied by the highly privileged situation of the therapeutic encounter."

Baron-Cohen said:

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