Reinventing Psychology.

Via on Apr 22, 2011

We must escape the strait-jacket of the self-fulfilling stories of our psychological woes. Photo: Wet Napkin

Energy of Mind: Natural Wisdom|Practical Applications

Let’s face it: the history of the mental health profession is not a good one. It’s a wonder we trust shrinks at all.

Whether it was the lobotomies and straight jackets of yesteryear or the current over-pathologizing and totally irresponsible medicating of the masses of modernity, psychology has a tough rode ahead to prove itself worthy of being our principle guides to happiness.

But, it must step up to this role. We need it desperately – people are either too jaded or too fanatical about religion and doctors mostly see us as parts and pieces, much like a mechanic looking under the hood of a car. Politicians are mostly a joke, and our current role models of actors, athletes and rich people are obviously not worthy of this type of status we give them. So, if it is true – and I believe it is – that we require some form of mentorship to lead fulfilling lives…then, I fear it is up to the women and men of psychology to fill the role.

Science can tell us much, but it doesn't know sqaut about the heart, mind and soul. Photo: enlewof

That said, it is also up to us, the ordinary people of the world, to point out the bullshit when we smell it. It is one thing that some guy in a smock does a lab experiment on a rat and determines that it’s a bad idea for mothers to soothe their crying babies because it will reward and encourage their tears. It is an entirely different problem that thousands and thousands of people believe these insane conclusions just because they come from people with a degrees or some position of “authority.”

It is up to us to hold the wisdom of our culture to the standard of common sense.

We are designed to cringe at the sound of our crying babies and that shrill they send up our spines is meant to inspire us to pick them up. They are designed to cry when they need something. Real needs do not only amount to being hungry, thirsty, wet or tired. Emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs – though more amorphous – are every bit as real. So, just as an example, when I hear people tell me things that that fly in the face of common sense like that it is a good idea to let a child cry alone in a crib because it teaches them how to “self-soothe,” I have to wonder who the hell convinces us of foolishness like this and why in god’s name do we believe them?

Most of the infringements I see like this have to do with the fact that we, as “adults” become parents, are not really grown up. In a different era of my imagination, being an adult meant that you had matured to the degree where you realized that your personal needs were no longer necessary to fulfill. But, in the age of pop ego-psychology we have succeeded in prolonging our adolescence to the point where moms and dads, or any of us for that matter, don’t have it in them to be truly selfless. We are still working on our “wounds” and so we often justify our need to “shut the door” on the parts of our lives that we are responsible for.

Time to wake up! But no need to scream... life can be beautiful again... Photo: Bryan Gosline

What we need from mentors is a wake-up call. We need someone to snap us out of the story that has been sold to us for too many years by shrinks and self-help books: that our problems are real! I know this is a radical view for a counselor to take. And it may inspire the reader to think of what an uncompassionate professional I must be.

But, our belief in the reality of our problematic life-story, which we identify with as who we are, is the only problem. We make it real – and we often do so in very complex and complicated ways. Thus, compassion and skillful means end up being necessary to assist us in waking up to a natural reality. We all require this guidance from time to time – it seems to be part of the human predicament. But just because our problems are normal does not mean they are natural. A counselor must be aware of and working towards an ultimate standard of health or else there is no possibility for them to help us to recognize the deeper truths of our lives.

What we also need from our mentors is a lack of hypocrisy.

They must practice what they preach – really. So far, the psychology world is notorious for being full of practitioners that are every bit as nuts, and more so, than their clients. This doesn’t mean that our counselors must be perfect – no one is. But, they must be transparent. They must know themselves so well that they catch themselves at once when they are full of shit, and they must self-rectify immediately. In this ability, they must exceed in skill that of the average person. They must be held to a standard of being MORE self-aware than the rest of us, and better able to more immediately get their lives in tune with their counsel as soon as they notice that they are off-beat.

It is the responsibility of the people served by counselors and shrinks to hold them to this high standard and tar and feather them when they are out of line. Their role in our culture is too valuable to let them continue to mislead us. The masses must pool their common sense and when they read a “scientific” study published in the New York Times, which I did recently, that says, “Don’t worry ladies, increased stress does not contribute to your infertility woes,” we must cry out collectively. We must say what me must be said: ”Whoa, whoa, whoa you silly scientists are totally out to lunch. I don’t care what your study results were in your contrived laboratory of ideation but they simply cannot override a far more authentic source of knowledge: natural wisdom born from real experience.”

About Yogi Michael Boyle

Michael Boyle, also known as Yogi, is training to be a DHARMA INC Acarya as student of Dharma Bodhi (Adi Yoga). Yogi is a graduate of DHARMA INC's , seven year, “Tantrik Yoga Studies Program” as well as JFK’s masters psychology program. He is a certified Sauhu Therapy Counselor, Primal Ayuveda Health Advisor, Śakta-Śaiva Dharma Teacher and Adi-Yoga Teacher. In 2010, he founded Energy of Mind Holistic Counseling, which offers counseling through the lens of yoga, ayurveda, meditation, etc. all within the context of psychological insight and understanding.

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19 Responses to “Reinventing Psychology.”

  1. Now this is a call to (open) arms I can support. :) Thanks, Michael. Very well stated, and I’m intrigued to hear more about how you think we can bring this reinvention of psychology into reality.

  2. Owen Marcus says:

    Right on! I couldn't have said it better.

    I wrote a recent post on how depression is a hoax – http://owenmarcus.com/?p=2158.

    I agree that between the drugs they want to give us and the beliefs that we must constantly share our story – we are screwed.

  3. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Nice post Michael. I love what you say about the history of psychology at the beginning – things which I hadn't considered or thought about before. Interesting…
    Ben

  4. Monique says:

    Just a little clarification re: medication- Psychiatrists medicate, not psychologists. In my experience in the field, psychologists, counselors, and social workers are not often chomping at the bit to get their clients medicated. Even the psychiatrists I know can usually be found lamenting the fact that patients come in to their office expecting to be prescribed a med that they saw advertised on TV and get annoyed when the psychiatrist actually wants to talk to them. In actual fact, the vast majority of meds are prescribed by family doctors (i.e., general practitioners) and nurse practitioners. If you ask me, the ire about meds is best directed at money-hungry pharmaceutical companies and the current overly permissive attitude as to the level of training required to prescribe psychotropic drugs in our culture.
    In addition, you raise a good point about critical thinking as pertains to empirical studies and their results. I think it is the responsibility of not only mental health practitioners, but everyone, to have a basic working knowledge of statistical analyses (it's not that hard, I did it and math is not my strong suit). Relying on someone else to spoon-feed you your facts is never a good idea, and until the average citizen can smell a bullshit study, pharmaceutical companies and other money mongers will continue to sell us toxic garbage and call it salvation.

  5. Thanks Monique for the clarification. I tend to just think of the entire mental health profession when I am writing an article on "psychology". But, you are right, I should be more specific in my language. I will make the change now. Best wishes, Yogi

  6. Laura says:

    though I agree with a lot of what you said, I disagree with the point that adults need to realize that their needs no longer need to be fulfilled. My ideas on that topic are a bit different….just as the childs cries are real, so are the adults. We just come to an identity of learned helplessness, perhaps because when we were a crying child, nobody picked us up. It often is that if you pick up the crying child, they will stop crying because they got what they needed. Same for adults–if the hurting is soothed and the needs, the acting out and grabbing for self often stop. Its interesting that you take the point that the child should not be asked to self-soothe, while the adult should. Of course this is true to some degree, but the firey demands to "tar and feather" do not seem like a kinder, more willing to reach out version of humanity that I actually think could heal.
    I do think this discourse is hugely important. I just don't think it can be as black and white, nor should it be tossed into the rhetoric of maya….because, even if it is illusion, it is a very specific one, asking us to choose wisely. I think that on that point, we would certainly agree.

  7. Rich Bordoni says:

    I'm not sure what you're recommending in this article. Are you you saying we should heal our relative self, or just discover our absolute self?

  8. Yes and Yes, Rich. But, you can't do the latter (discovering the absolute) without doing the former (healing the relative). And, why not do the former in a way that leaves us open for the possibility of the latter? In either case though – and this applies to Monique's comment above about adults having "needs" to – the best strategy is dropping, cutting, letting go, relaxing, disregarding, etc the stories of suffering that we so strongly identify with and convince ourselves are so important. Getting over ourselves is the best medicine – relatively and absolutely. Even if we are attempting to "heal the relative" it never helps to get stuck in "Storylandia."

  9. Michael you have some valid points here but there is a lot of over generalizations and seems like some kind of blaming going on. I have been a therapist for over 30 years and I am an imperfect person like everyone else. I show up as fully as possible with my clients, listen, and help them find solutions to the challenges of their life. I do not tell them what to do, how to live their lives, or even pretend I have the answers. Together with my clients, we try to be mindful, aware and in touch with hearts. I do not see myself as more together, more enlightened, or a better person than my clients. This is a shared journey and I feel blessed to assist them in any way I can.

    • Monique says:

      Amen:) That is the attitude I try to take in my work as a Mental Health Counselor (in training) and as a yoga teacher. Thanks for explaining it so well.

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