Can Psychology Heal Itself?
Craig Chalquist, PhD
June 12, 2019
At what point are we prepared to take in the enormously difficult idea that we are at the end of an era, that the worldviews that underlie much of our approach to nature, development, and governance are about to arrive at a dead end? …From the point of view of psychology, the first question is whether we face the unexpected in life with denial or dialogue.
— Helene Lorenz, “Liberation, Depth, Community, and Eco-Psychologies, 1998 – Present”
Psychology has no self-help manual for its own affliction.
— James Hillman, The Soul’s Code
At the end of what we might call the century of psychology, it is not theory but stories that are informing us about human nature... The reemergence of the storyteller in her traditional role of cohering society is a sign of the conviction that stories can sustain us. Stories provide a bulwark against the erosion of our personal and collective histories.
— Deena Metzger, Writing for Your Life
What Is Wrong with Psychology?
When I began studying psychology three academic degrees and more than three decades ago, I memorized a term that did not mean much to me at the time: “iatrogenic illness.” Iatrogenesis is when the healer wounds.
Over the years, I’ve seen again and again how psychological practitioners make a transformative difference in people’s lives: self-understanding deepened, relationships enriched, conflicts healed, families knit back together, idealisms realized, stressed-out offices relaxing and cooperating, communities put back together, lives being saved.
Unfortunately, I have also seen great harm inflicted. Not just through incompetence, but mendacity: false “evidence-based” advertising, ideological dogmatism, invasive personality test results shared with hiring managers, repression of rival treatment regimens... That Earth is drowning in microplastics and styrofoam is largely because of mass marketing and consumerism vastly amplified by experts in the psychology of conditioning people to buy things.
Starting out in research, psychology has mutated into a globe-spanning series of fields and subfields. Psychologists work in various industries, advise the military, educate business owners and administrators, counsel students, create mental tests, design advertising, testify in court…the list is long. What joins these occupations is a belief that psychologists wherever found are experts on human nature. Too often this belief is not only false, but dangerous.
At the time I write this, certain members of the California Board of Psychology are working to confine the very use of the words “psychology” and “psychologist” to practitioners licensed by the American Psychological Association—which has already succeeded, through decades of sustained political pressure, in restricting “psychologist” as a professional label. I can still refer to myself as a psychologist because of my role in academia, but graduates of non-licensing psychology programs in which I have taught and in which they have earned PhDs in psychology cannot. A colleague refers to the political agenda of domination and control responsible for these erasures as “fascism”; another, to the Psychology Board’s purists as “heresy fighters.”
This kind of unacknowledged but relentless zealotry is what comes of detaching psychology from the humanities—including their lessons of history—and pretending to a scientific objectivity that is neither.
When psychology made its behaviorist turn, someone asked: Has psychology lost its mind? Since the cognitive revolution took hold, the answer seems to be: Not permanently. But today we must ask whether psychology has lost its body, heart, soul, and imagination. Some would add its spirit as well.
After all this, we also have the right to ask whether psychology’s dark shadow (which we will call psychomalignancy) is endemic to the discipline or whether, like religion, psychology has been systematically and deliberately kidnapped, brainwashed, and warped into becoming the opposite of its original self.
Can psychology heal itself? Perhaps a brief case history of psychology can clarify this for us and open a space for looking for alternatives that really do honor human nature in all its beautiful unfolding.
All cultures practice psychology. Psychological truths appear in the ancient Pyramid Texts of Egypt, in Chinese and East Asian philosophy and lore, in the Vedas and Upanishads of India, in the Torah and Kabbala, in the parables of Jesus, in Alexandrian Gnostic gospels, in Maori chants and tales, in Aztec art and symbolism, in Greek metaphysics and myth (including the myth of Psyche), in German Romanticism, in the dream songs of Enheduanna of Akkad. Psychology surfaces in sacred stories around the world, its connection to the wisdom of nature elaborately clear in indigenous art and ritual.
Psychology seems to have acquired its Western name, which means “study of the soul” and not “study of the mind” or “study of behavior,” around 1520, the year Pope Leo X threatened Martin Luther with excommunication. The name was bestowed by multilingual man of letters and Renaissance humanist Marko Marulić of Croatia. Yes: our discipline got its name not from a scientist, but from a poet.
“Psychology” surfaced again in 1574 under the pen of philosopher and dialectician Johann Freigius, and again in 1590 in Marburg, where the Grimms had collected German folklore, via philosopher Rudolph Goclenius. These and other early writers and teachers on “psychology” had studied broadly in literature, sacred scripture, and philosophy: the humanities. All were, each in their own way, storytellers. All sought a disciplined understanding of soul: not so much a literal ethereal entity as a symbol of our innermost humanity. (The humanities teach us how to distinguish between the literal and the metaphorical.)
Rationalist philosopher Christian Wolff introduced the field’s next evolution in Psychologia empirica (1732), where he called for the study of the mind with strict scientific methodology. Even so, he defines psychology as “the science of establishing through experience the principles from which a reason is given of those things which occur in the human soul.” He also refers to the soul’s “active potencies” that link us with the world. Conceived on the humanities side of the disciplinary house, psychology had acquired the beginnings of scientific expression.
Because of Wolff, “psychology” as a magical and evocative word began to circulate through European discourse. Nietzsche used it in Twilight of the Idols (1889), where he might have been criticizing contemporary psychology’s alienation from lived encounter:
Moral for psychologists. –Not to go in for backstairs psychology. Never to observe in order to observe! That gives a false perspective, leads to squinting and something forced and exaggerated. Experience as the wish to experience does not succeed. One must not eye oneself while having an experience; else the eye becomes "an evil eye." A born psychologist guards instinctively against seeing in order to see; the same is true of the born painter.
European empiricists like John Locke picked it up, and cape-wearing showman Franz Mesmer hypnotized people with “animal magnetism,” a practice demystified and refined into hypnosis by the Nancy School in France. As we will see, Mesmer’s pecuniary hustle lived on.
Psychology was considered a branch of philosophy until the likes of Ernest Weber, Gustav Fechner, Hermann Helmholtz, and Wilhelm Wundt wedded philosophy to the scientific method credited to Roger Bacon but developed much earlier by Hasan Ibn al-Haythem of Basra (965-1014), the Muslim experimenter and polymath known in the West as Alhazen. Crafting his own precision instruments, Al-Haythem conducted research on touch, color perception, optical illusions (which he linked to psychological forces), light refraction, binocular vision, and sensory thresholds. He also wrote about distinguishing the true prophets from the false.
Would psychology rise as an innovative bridge between the humanities and the sciences, or would it collapse into confining empirical preoccupations?
Re-Membering Psychology’s Founders
Modern psychology would unfold primarily in two big branches: “tough-minded” experimentation, and “tender-minded” psychotherapy. Going concerns in psychology have included early lab studies, Structuralism, Functionalism, Behaviorism, professionalization through corporate and military applications, the humanistic, existential, and transpersonal responses to this, Family Systems Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), online, and “evidence-based” therapies, neuropsychiatric studies, and ongoing work in depth psychology.
As psychology rolled out and began to congeal, influential people and institutes would batten onto it, feeding on it while suppressing qualities not aligned with whatever program they sought to push. The early theorist-practitioners’ multidisciplinary leanings, love of nature, grounding in the humanities, communal relationality, philosophical acumen, and sense of social justice would be excised, replaced by a hyper-individualistic overemphasis on mind and thought, instrumentalism and quantification. The founders’ generosity of idea and practice would retreat before a narrow exclusiveness that punished dissent but made no bones about strengthening the rule of the powerful in return for opportunity and privilege.
Take Wilhelm Wundt. The textbooks identify him as a physiologist who set up a psychology lab at the University of Leipzig in 1879, where he devised the introspective method that led to a structural emphasis on what mind is made of rather than a functionalist approach to what it does (a falsification perpetrated by American psychologist Edward Titchener). There was so much more to him than that. Growing up reading his father’s library, he was punched in the head once for daydreaming in class. When he became a doctor in 1855, he worked with peasants, servants, and sex workers; he always felt for the underdog. Despite his shyness, he spoke up for workers’ rights.
A severe hemorrhage in 1857 served him as a spiritual crisis that left him convinced of the uniqueness of personal existence, the unity of inner and outer experience, and the need for a social-cultural psychology. He published ten volumes on that after growing bored with pedantic introspection; some of his work anticipates Systems Theory. Acts, he maintained before both Adler and Jung came along, could only be understood in terms of their goals, which when attained gave rise to new aspirations (anticipating Maslow).
To stay relevant, psychology must be social, political, and historical, not just empirical. It must focus not only on thought, but on sensation and emotion, on “the immediate reality of the processes themselves.” “Attempts to subsume mental processes under the types of laws found in the physical sciences will never be successful.” The natural sciences miss psyche and “soul”—for Wundt, the immediacy of psychic experience—because they are designed to study substances rather than phenomena at hand.
Psychology’s social goal should be to further human evolution toward humanitarianism (“Entwicklung zur Humanitat”). Beyond that, continued Wundt, “Human consciousness constitutes a decisive point in nature’s course, a point at which the world becomes aware of itself.”
Psychology textbooks identify Gustav Fechner as a pioneer of physiological psychology and a scholar of sensory thresholds. What they leave out is that he wrote on aesthetics, worked on a home encyclopedia, and evolved into a nature mystic after recovering from a long spell of blindness. Having dreamed about feeding him raw ham with lemon juice and wine, one Frau Hecher visited him and did just that. He opened his eyes and was enchanted by his wife’s face and by the flowers blooming brilliantly in his garden. He wrote about nature’s miraculous aliveness and beauty under a pen name to prevent being thrown out of the scientific academy.
Fechner came to consider mind an emergent quality of nature. Some of his nature writings were resurrected and translated by William James in A Pluralistic Universe:
We rise upon the earth as wavelets rise upon the ocean. We grow out of her soil as leaves grow from a tree. The wavelets catch the sunbeams separately, the leaves stir when the branches do not move. They realize their own events apart, just as in our own consciousness, when anything becomes emphatic, the background fades from observation. Yet the event works back upon the background, as the wavelet works upon the waves, or as the leaf’s movements work upon the sap inside the branch. The whole sea and the whole tree are registers of what has happened, and are different for the wave’s and the leaf’s action having occurred.
Like Wundt, William James had set up a psychological lab, but he left behind “that nasty little science” because of its preoccupation with the stimulated reflexes of dead frogs; he preferred the company of live ones. Decades later, Abraham Maslow would almost leave psychology for similar reasons. In James’s case, having hiked to the top of Mount Marcy, he fell asleep and woke in the middle of the night to what he called a spiritual “walpurgisnacht,” bewitched and joyful: “It seemed,” he wrote his wife, “as if the Gods in all the nature-mythologies were holding an indescribable meeting in my breast with the moral Gods of the inner life…”
On the clinical side of the house, a number of theorists and practitioners smoothed the way for Freud—less an originator than a synthesizer of other people’s ideas, including Pierre Janet’s “Psychological Analysis”—and for Jung. Janet’s transmutation of the medical case history gave psychology a new genre and the beginnings of a new clinical vocabulary that would gradually shed some of its medical terminology. Today, Janet, who coined “subconscious” and gave us an early form of trauma theory and treatment, is largely ignored outside of France. Freud and Jung are taught in humanities programs but seldom in mainstream psychology classes because of the current overemphasis on what can be charted and measured: the most mechanical aspects of what we humans are.
Freud had tried to sound scientific and empirical, but he won the Goethe Prize not for his theorizing but for his elegant German writing and his deep insights into human nature: not always correct, but usually worth pondering. By including his dog in therapy and going for long walks outdoors with his patients, Freud served as an early ecotherapist. He also trained and supported brilliant lay analysts like Lou Andreas-Salome, whom he referred to in a letter as “the best of us.” His encounters with her changed not only his theorizing, but how he saw human nature.
Having been a colleague (never a disciple) of Freud, Jung went his own way along the path of a clinical practice informed by dreams, myths, literature, classical philosophy, and active imagination. After a visionary “confrontation with the unconscious,” which he survived in part by making use of Gnostic lore echoed in his fantasies and dreams, he modified that lore into the beginnings of what he and his colleague and companion Toni Wolff referred to as Complex Psychology. Less gifted followers would eventually shrink its research agenda and refer to what they practiced by its therapeutic name of Analytical Psychology.
Jung saw the unconscious as both personal and collective, and he taught methods for being mentored by it. He also insisted that “Earth has a soul.” He is usually dismissed by other psychologists as a mystic. Marie-Louise von Franz enriched Jungian psychology with alchemical studies (alchemy as projected psychology) and with her own theoretical contributions and voluminous writings. Although her bulldog made the analytic rounds with her, she seems to have lacked Jung’s appreciation for the strength of our intimate psychological relations with the natural world.
Back in the fourth century BCE, Aesara of Lucania had written the first book On Human Nature, only a fragment of which survives. When I first became a student of psychology, her name never surfaced; founding women were rarely mentioned. That has changed, but only insofar as their achievements fit psychology’s 19th-century scientistic ideology. We now hear of Mary Whiton Calkins, for example, first woman president of the American Psychological Association and of the American Philosophical Association. She had been a student of James, John Dewey, and Josiah Royce. She trained at Harvard before they would admit women for PhD studies. In addition to psychology, however, she also taught philosophy, Greek and classical studies, and dreams. Her four books and 100 + papers included work on consciousness and emotion contra behaviorism, an article on the religiousness of children, and another on the philosophy of time.
We hear of experimental psychologist Christine Ladd-Franklin, first woman PhD at Johns Hopkins, and of her work on color vision. Underemphasized remains her work on philosophy, logic, astronomy, botany, and women’s rights, all of which she taught. And mathematics: her truth table appeared four decades before Wittgenstein’s. Her PhD was granted in 1926, forty-four years after she had earned it. She was the first female member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was the founding president of the Association for the Advancement of Women.
Tsuruko Haraguchi had been a student of E.L. Thorndike and James Cattell, and she was the first woman to receive a PhD in psychology (Columbia U, 1912). But she also studied the humanities at the Japan Women’s College in Tokyo, put in five years of research at Columbia on mental fatigue, and wrote, taught, lectured, translated, and conducted research on independent women. Her reflections on cultural differences between Japan and the United States were published posthumously. Recognition of such differences has become a standard feature of therapeutic training, but in other areas of psychology, models of individuality foreign to cultures like Japan and unworkable even in the West remain dominant.
Margaret Floy Washburn, the first woman to earn a PhD in psychology, the second to become president of the American Psychological Association, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, contradicted the expanding behavioral emphasis on measurability by demonstrating in The Animal Mind (1908) how the mental states we share with other animals were fruitful and necessary areas for inquiry. Making use of observations and data from virtually every major area of social science, she challenged human supremacy by amassing an enormous amount of research on human and nonhuman cognition. Her work with hundreds of species helped tear down the barrier to appreciating consciousness as not exclusively human.
Mamie Phipps Clark is known mainly for three accomplishments: for being the first African American in the Columbia University psychology program (and the first to earn a PhD), for researching the development of consciousness of self in African American children, and for testifying on the psychological harm of segregation during Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) and in other legal cases. A list of her other accomplishments would require a book. To mention a few: Having counseled homeless girls at the Riverdale Home for Children in New York, she conducted the first doll experiments that demonstrated internalized racism in segregated children. Against the expectations of her doctoral adviser, her research also disproved the stereotype of black children as naturally slow learners. She opened the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem in 1946, where she offered community counseling and reading instruction. She was also an active community leader and educator, advising the National Head Start Planning Committee and Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited and serving on the Boards of Directors of Mount Sinai Medical Center, the American Broadcast Company, The Museum of Modern Art, and the New York Public Library.
The lasting influence of such achievements and the scope of such scholarship and practice show up attempts to limit and control what proper science is, who can license whom, and who can be a “psychologist” as petty machinations. Little wonder the fuller stories of psychologists who taught us deeply about human nature and its situation in culture and story and Earth have suffered such dismemberment. One would think they were just heads in laboratories or fingers on keyboards amassing data. What these mentors taught us about the possibilities of human wholeness stands in sharp contradiction to current psychological models of people as collections of rearrangeable parts.
Psychology Mutates Stateside
For the shallow and ambitious, the disciplinary source of such deep insights was too rich to leave in any hands but their own. They set about remaking it in their own image.
Edward Titchener’s rewriting of Wundt’s social psychology into “scientific” Structuralism, with its male experimenters, its labeling of participants as “reagents,” and its atomism, brought forth the counter-reaction of Functionalism’s focus on operations, holism (at first), and adaptive usefulness. William James had been an early Functionalist because of his philosophical (and American) predilection for pragmatism.
By the 1930s, however, Functionalism had joined Herbert Spencer’s biologizing of predatory capitalism as evolutionary “fitness” and Francis Galton’s statistics-based eugenics panacea. Psychology then mutated into “scientific” and industrial management (James Angell, Lillian Gilbreth), mental testing (Alfred Binet and eugenicist Lewis Terman) and psychometrics (Henry Goddard, eugenicist, whose tests of immigrants at Ellis Island didn’t take languages into account), statistical analysis (James Cattell, eugenicist), mass advertising (Edward Bernays, Walter Dill Scott, John Watson), employee selection (Cattell, Scott, and Hugo Munsterberg), combat troop selection (Terman), educational testing (Carl Brighan, eugenicist and developer of the Scholastic Aptitude Test), and of course the study of behavior (Harvey Carr).
According to psychologist Oksana Yakushko’s paper “Eugenics and its Evolution in the History of Western Psychology: A Critical Archival Review,” 31 presidents of the APA between 1892 and 1947 were listed publicly as leaders of various eugenics organizations. Furthermore, many other APA members either produced or openly supported eugenics books and papers. Mental tests developed and published by psychologists such as Goddard, Yerkes, Brigham, Terman, Thorndike, and Watson openly drew on eugenics principles and policies. Goddard’s work, used to support involuntary sterilization, deportation of non-Nordic immigrants, enforcement of traditional gender roles, school segregation by race, development of asylums, and removal of voting rights from certain populations, inspired the racial purity campaigns of Nazi scientists.
In summary, eugenic ideologies about human differences as well as eugenic methodological and epistemological values were foundational in Western psychology, including in approaches that became central to practices of psychotherapy. Determinations of what constitutes mental health and human fitness, acceptance of normed assessment and testing practices, minimization of history, social context, or subjectivity, use of animal models of behavior, and focus on self-control and resilience may be among many eugenics-related values that remain dominant in Western psychotherapy practices.
And not only psychotherapy. Recipients of financing from the Pioneer Fund hate group include many prominent psychologists. Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, whose books cite Pioneer Fund studies, demonized the rejection of eugenics as “anti-scientific propaganda.”
This commodification and racialization of psychology provoked protests from African American scholar Horace Mann Bond at the University of Chicago, where his research showed how external influences skewed IQ scores touted as internal and permanent. Florence Goodenough also criticized how intelligence was measured, and Clark Wissler found little correlation between intelligence and mental testing.
Abandoning her psychology studies, journalist Grace Adams wrote “The Decline of Psychology in America” in 1928 to criticize the abdication of the field’s scientific mission and its selling out to popularity and prosperity. In a later work she compared psychology to a schism-wracked religion pretending to be objective. Psychoanalyst Franz Fanon linked “scientific” research on the mental inferiority of black people to reinforcement of racist colonial beliefs which led to unconscious internalization: an example of what sociologist W.E.B. DuBois would identify as “double consciousness.”
By World War II, lucrative military contracts enabled the APA to mutate from a research and academic organization to one dedicated to what its governing members thought of as social, industrial, and political application. In line with this new functionalist mission it began absorbing other psychological associations, eliminating competition as it did so.
All this time psychoanalysis had been under development, although afflicted with its own schisms as theorists of ego psychology fought with the Kleinian emphasis on internalized objects and unconscious phantasy life. To a new generation of analysts, some of them Nazi-opposing immigrants newly arrived in the United States, the Freudian focus on pathology and biological drives seemed not only irrelevant to the times, but blind to the full range of what it meant to be human. Especially for women. The divergence had begun with Alfred Adler leaving Freud’s circle; soon it spread to feminist Karen Horney’s criticism of the penis envy concept as “womb envy,” gay psychoanalyst Harry Stack Sullivan’s rewarding emphasis of interpersonal relations over theoretical inner drives, and studies on authoritarian psychology conducted by the New School for Social Research.
In her book The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, Horney had suggested that societies tend to promote certain kinds of psychopathology: narcissism in the States, for example. Extending this observation, Erich Fromm asked in The Sane Society: What if an entire society were mentally ill? If a patient exhibited warlike aggression, blind consumerism, greed, and self-alienation, would we not consider this person in need of help?
What was psychology doing to help society? Or was it psychomalignantly making things worse?
Case Example: The American Psychological Association
The APA was founded in 1892 at Clark University. The primary purpose of this new organization was to advance psychology as a science. One of the founders, G. Stanley Hall, invited Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung to Clark to visit and lecture. But this spirit of free scientific inquiry was about to change drastically beyond any hope of restoration.
Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays had set the tone by transplating psychology into modern advertising, an endeavor Walter Lippman referred to as “the engineering of consent.” It was Bernays’s campaigns that convinced women to start smoking, previously an activity restricted to men. Such effective techniques were admired and imitated by Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.
In the U.S., John Watson, at one time president of the APA, taught behavioral techniques to mass marketers after losing his professorship at Cornell University. Hugo Munsterberg, an early APA member, started industrial psychology by writing Psychology and Industrial Efficiency in 1912. “The psychological experiment,” he wrote, “is systematically to be placed at the service of commerce and industry.” Walter Dill Scott directed psychology into personnel screening and wrote The Theory and Practice of Advertising. Scott, who had arrived at the idea of workplace efficiency while plowing a field, also advocated appeals to emotion to override reason and heighten consumer suggestibility.
By 1915, a clothing manufacturer in Cleveland used psychological tests to select workers, in effect corporatizing a now-common invasion of privacy. As a result, by 1917 companies sponsoring psychological research on salesmanship included Ford, Goodrich, Westinghouse, Heinz, Prudential, and Carnegie Steel. In most cases prospective and current employees had to submit to being tested, nor could they learn the test results afterward. Psychologist Lillian Gilbreth extended employee selection schemas and workplace efficiency methods to management training.
Reacting to all this, journalist Grace Adams wrote “The Decline of Psychology in America” to criticize the field for so shamelessly selling itself out. At a meeting of the American Psychological Association, William Montague protested the psychomalignant overemphasis on behavior and efficiency with a paper titled “Has Psychology Lost Its Mind?”
During WW I, the APA had secured funding by mentally testing soldiers and, eventually, by helping the U.S. Army develop psychologically friendly battlefield equipment. Scott won a medal from the Army for helping them select soldiers. Watson served as a military psychologist. By 1924, he was vice president of J. Walter Thompson, one of the largest advertising agencies in the U.S. There he pioneered celebrity endorsements, brand loyalty (with Yuban first, then Camel Cigarettes, Johnson’s Baby Powder, and Ponds), impulse buying, timed obsolescence, and methods for conditioning consumers to want ever-newer products. In her book Breaking the Silence, actor Mariette Hartley described the emotionally devastating impact of Grandpa Watson’s obsessive behavioral regimentation of her family. This included putting everyone, including infants, on a rigid schedule and limiting the amount of time spent in physical contact.
Meanwhile, fed by military and government contracts, the APA continued to expand. In 1951, the U.S. military established HumRRO, the Human Resource Research Organization, to develop methods of psychological warfare under the direction of psychologist Meredith Crawford, the former APA treasurer. By 1952, psychologists and other social scientsts were funded by the CIA—in some cases covertly—for conducting research on psychological warfare. According to Patricia Greenfield, Carl Rogers sat on the board of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, a front for CIA interrogation research. An internal CIA memo he never saw circulated in 1960 to note his research as useful for evaluating techniques that influence human behavior. The Society gave a grant to professor Martin Orne to explore research on hypnosis.
From the Korean War onward, in fact, the CIA paid for decades of social science research on mind control. The results landed in the agency’s interrogation manual and, from there, spread to repressive Latin America regimes who made effectively murderous use of it during the 1970s and 1980s.
This is D. O. Hebb, whose sensory deprivation research was funded by the CIA, justifying his torture of research subjects:
The work that we have done at McGill University began, actually, with the problem of brainwashing. We were not permitted to say so in the first publishing.... The chief impetus, of course, was the dismay at the kind of “confessions” being produced at the Russian Communist trials. “Brainwashing” was a term that came a little later, applied to Chinese procedures. We did not know what the Russian procedures were, but it seemed that they were producing some peculiar changes of attitude. How? One possible factor was perceptual isolation and we concentrated on that.
Hebb was elected president of the American Psychological Association in 1960, and he won the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1961.
In The Dark Side, Jane Mayer describes how former APA president Martin Seligman was invited by the CIA to speak in 2002 at the Navy’s SERE (Survival, Resistance, Evasion, Escape) school in San Diego. In the 1960s, Seligman had found that by shocking a dog unpredictably, he could brutalize it into total, helpless passivity. His theories were adapted for use in CIA prisons. In 2010, Seligman won a $31 million contract to provide combat resilience training to U.S. soldiers. Reporter Mark Benjamin argues that Seligman’s work also laid the basis for the Bush Administration’s torture program.
Seligman was not the only accomplice. Former APA president Joseph Matarazzo worked with psychologists Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen to design a new CIA interrogation regimen, much of it based on techniques employed by Chinese Communist torturers. According to the New York Times, these two psychologists were part of what Defense Department officials nicknamed the “Resistance Mafia” of experts on how to survive enemy interrogation. The two directed the torture of Abu Zubaydah at a secret CIA detention site in Thailand. Zubaydah was stripped, subjected to sleep deprivation, and waterboarded thirty-eight times before the interrogators decided he didn’t know anything of value.
These methods were then used on dozens of other prisoners in various locations around the world: on underage prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, for example, the brutality of which has been publicly minimized by psychologist and former APA president Patrick DeLeon. After visiting Guantanamo, APA president Ronald Levant claimed that psychologists were present during interrogations to “add value and safeguards.” Subsequent documentation shows plainly that the psychologists—members of so-called Behavioral Science Consultation Teams—were actually full participants. By 2007, the Pentagon was relying on psychologists rather than on psychiatrists for interrogation work because so many of the latter refused to be involved.
At the Bagram detention facility, psychologists like Morgan Banks, Bryce Lefever, and Larry James have overseen prisoner treatment programs operating in flagrant violation of international law and of the Geneva Conventions inspired by the ghastly revelations of the Nuremberg Trials. In 2011, however, James, former interrogation overseer at Abu Ghraib as well, was picked to serve on the White House Task Force for “Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family.” According to ethics complaints filed against him by the International Human Rights Clinic of Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, during his tenure at the prison boys and men were threatened with rape and death for themselves and their family members, sexually, culturally, and religiously humiliated, forced to remain naked and cold, deprived of sleep, subjected to sensory deprivation, over-stimulation, and extreme isolation, short-shackled into stress positions, and physically assaulted. The evidence indicates that abuse of this kind was systemic, and that BSCT health professionals played an integral role in its planning and practice.
The great majority of psychologists and other practitioners of social science do a world of good every day, psychologically, scientifically, and ethically. Hundreds have protested the psychomalignancy of their own profession: psychologist Beth Shinn, for example, who after watching president Gerald Koocher denigrate dissenters from APA policy as “opportunistic commentators masquerading as scholars” resigned from the APA in 2007 because “the American Psychological Association continues to condone psychologists’ work in detention centers that violate international law and because of actions by APA’s leadership to discourage dissent from its policies in this matter.” That year psychologist Mary Pipher protested by returning her APA Presidential Citation award. In 2008, psychologist Jeffrey Kaye wrote an article on “Why Torture Made Me Leave the APA.” Because of such public push-back the APA finally issued a belated condemnation of psychologists’ involvement in torture.
The APA has also been busy on the home front. A significant percentage of clinical psychology doctoral students cannot find internships because the APA now owns them through further legislatory acts of predatory self-promotion. APA continues to use the academic term “accreditation” to confuse and redirect graduate students of psychology interested in authentically accredited schools lacking the APA blessing.
Having ignored ecological destruction, extinction, and climate change for decades despite the urgent warnings of ecologists and ecopsychologists, the APA finally studied the problem in 2009 and came up with a solution: condition people to recycle and to buy more green products. They have decided to get into the climate change counseling business which decades of psychologically informed mass marketing did so much to make necessary in the first place.
As for psychiatry, it is usually considered a branch of medicine, but the American Psychiatric Association regularly updates and publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders used by psychotherapists, insurance companies, and government agencies. The listing of disorders has proven controversial for decades; by ignoring underlying dynamics below sets of symptoms, the DSM implicitly endorses a surface view of psychological suffering. The psychiatrists who maintain it might never have heard that two people can have the same symptom or pattern of symptoms for completely different reasons.
In any case, most of the psychiatrists on the committees that oversee which illnesses go into the DSM continue to have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, the most controversial disorders are those for which drugs are the first recommended intervention.
In 2013, the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health announced that the entire symptom-based DSM system was invalid; therefore “NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.”
The Organismic Protest
There are in this country several undertakings to systematize psychoanalytic theory in terms of forces, dynamisms, and energies. The approach I propose is the exact opposite of this. I hold that our science must be relevant to the distinctive characteristics of what we seek to study, in this case the human being. I do not deny dynamisms and forces—that would be nonsense—but I hold that they have meaning only in the context of the existing, living person.
—Rollo May, The Discovery of Being
Reacting against “prediction and control,” Nazi escapee Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Köhler had melded field theory from physics with Franz Bretano’s call for the study of directed psychological acts (“intentionality”) through memory and imagination, Köhler’s chimpanzee learning studies in the Canary Islands, and Christian von Ehrenfels’ and Ernest Mach’s work with optical patterns (“gestalten”) and illusions to argue for the psychological study of emergent patterns of perception not reducible to their elements. In opposition to atomistic behavioral approaches, this Gestalt Psychology interested itself in fields, patterns, and wholeness. Consciousness, they maintained, is comparable to music, its components related like notes. (Wertheimer showed up again later as an example of one of Abraham Maslow’s self-actualizers.)
Kurt Lewin, coiner of the term “action research,” applied this field orientation to group interactions to create a psychological topology that would help parent Family Systems. Kurt Goldstein (another influence on Maslow and coiner of “self-actualization”) brought a holistic perspective to his study of biological organisms. Karen Horney and Erich Fromm began using the word “humanistic” in their seminars and writings, and Abraham Maslow referred to humanistic psychology as a Third Force that included but transcended behaviorism and psychoanalysis.
Maslow was a child abuse survivor who started out in primate research and ended up looking into self-actualizers: individuals creatively living up to their potential. Why, he asked, do we only study pathology? What might we learn from health? Maslow was criticized more-rigorous-than-thou fashion for the looseness of his research design, but nobody remembers his critics. Instead, we remember self-actualization and the Hierarchy of Needs. His was a psychology of inspiring ideas that brought generations of readers (including this one) into the field.
Early humanistic psychology should probably have learned more from Freud and Jung about the dark side of life. Maslow shared with Carl Rogers an inability to deal with anger, especially in himself, as his journals reveal. Although a master of empathy, authenticity, and positive regard, Rogers needed to refer his more sadistic and retaliatory clients to other therapists. In an exchange of letters, Rollo May criticized him for underestimating the power of the “daimonic” dimension of human nature. Elsewhere he wrote, “The Greek concept of ‘daimon’—the origin of our modern concept—included the creativity of the poet and artist as well as that of the ethical and religious leader, and is the contagious power which the lover has.”
May brought existential psychology to the U.S. in 1956 by editing the anthology Existence with Henri Ellenberger and Ernest Angel. Existentialists were less interested in self-actualization or optimal health than in squarely confronting the conditions of human existence, including death, without resorting to defenses or self-numbing. The authenticity of the therapeutic encounter mattered more for real healing than any array of techniques, let alone measurements. May, Ludwig Binswanger, Medard Boss, and other existential therapists had been influenced by Husserl, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and, unfortunately, Heidegger. Concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl emphasized confrontation with the existential “vacuum of meaning” at large in collective life with conscious decisions by which individuals create and recreate themselves. He quoted Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
James Bugental and Tom Greening stated the following as premises of humanistic psychology:
- Human beings, as human, supersede the sum of our parts. We cannot be reduced to components.
- Human beings have our existence in a uniquely human context, as well as in a cosmic ecology.
- Human beings are aware and are aware of being aware - i.e., we are conscious. Human consciousness always includes an awareness of oneself in the context of other people.
- Human beings have the ability to make choices and therefore have responsibility.
- Human beings are intentional, aim at goals, are aware that we cause future events, and seek meaning, value, and creativity.
Existential psychology’s premises include:
- Inner conflict is due to confrontation with the four “givens” or ultimate concerns of existence: the inevitability of death, freedom and our responsibility for it, existential isolation, and no predetermined meaning of existence (Irv Yalom).
- Therapy should be a direct I-Thou encounter between two people. An overemphasis on roles and techniques can block this therapeutic authenticity.
- What clients seek is not solutions or love, but meaning through encounter.
All the points in both lists had been made long before by Jung, who had also written and lectured about authenticity and individuation, but he was seldom cited. The humanists in particular were more into what was new, as Americans so often are. Jung was not only “mystical,” but passé.
These organismic psychologies opposed mainstream psychology’s reductive materialism and mentalism and the resulting metapathologies (Maslow)—shallowness, cynicism, passivity, disenchantment, lack of fulfilment—with ideas and practices for fostering growth, wholeness (another Jungian goal), courage, integrity, freedom, and relationality (perhaps a better translation than “social feeling” of the proto-humanist Adler’s goal of Gemeinschaftsgefühl).
To therapy and inward transformation humanistic psychology brings the playfulness of the Puer (Divine Child) archetype in search of lost individuality, hope, and creativity. However, the emphasis on individualism can lend itself to ego inflation, and preoccupation with growth can self-infantilize, as the infamous antics of Fritz Perls amply demonstrated. His childishness alternated with parental authoritarian demands that clients eschew phoniness (social politeness) for authenticity: “No, say ‘I’ and own it!”
In an address at the San Francisco Unitarian Church on Sept 14, 1967, Abraham Maslow announced a “Fourth Force” in psychology, a new “transhumanistic” approach beyond that of behaviorism, Freudianism, and humanism/existentialism. Stanislav Grof suggested using “transpersonal” instead. By June 1969, the first issue of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology was published. In 1972 the Association for Transpersonal Psychology was founded.
Why? Because psychology (as William James and Jung had shown) needed an active curiosity in spiritual experience which, being mediated by the psyche, always included a psychological dimension. Transpersonal psychology would be psychology beyond the ego, integrative in approach and welcoming of the entire human being. Spiritual psychology focused on self-transcendence and exalted states: this was the core identity of the new field.
Mariana Caplan offers this definition: “Transpersonal psychologists attempt to integrate timeless wisdom with modern Western psychology and translate spiritual principles into scientifically grounded, contemporary language. Transpersonal psychology addresses the full spectrum of human psychospiritual development – from our deepest wounds and needs, to the existential crisis of the human being, to the most transcendent capacities of our consciousness.”
Primary assumptions in addition to those of humanistic psychology:
- The deepest aspect of human nature is spirit (not necessarily religious).
- The tools of modern science can be used to study spirituality and chart the spiritual life.
- Synthesizing wisdom from many traditions gives us a fuller picture of the human beings and of our relationship to the higher ranges of spirituality.
- Human development proceeds in phases or stages from lower states of integration to higher ones.
However, when pleasant or joyful states are made the norm or the goal, fragmentation, conflict, and trauma are inevitably seen as “lower” and relegated to unconsciousness, thereby repeating the original wounding. Height as a literalized direction puts depth into the shadow along with the ordinary human failings, which then resurface in the field itself as intense competitiveness, unethical practice, and flagrant greed, all justified as service to “higher” goals.
The humanistic correction of an overemphasis on darkness and pathology can swing to the other extreme, a tendency carried over into transpersonal psychology. I saw an entire school get taken down by one unscrupulous administrator while its experts on spiritual experience and extraordinary states of consciousness remained in denial until the layoffs began. (As May put it, “The ultimate error is the refusal to look evil in the face.”) The psychology program I chaired at the time of this disaster was able to absorb some of the dissertation students abandoned by their own school.
Until now, all but the original founders of psychology had almost entirely ignored the fact that humans are part of nature and always situated within and supported by it. Finally, in the early 1990s, a group of psychologists, activists, and ecologists met in the San Francisco Bay Area to discuss why their disciplines were not on speaking terms.
From this emerged the field and movement of ecopsychology, whose central assumption is that human wellbeing is inseparable from that of the planet. In 1995, Mary Gomes, Allen Kanner, and Ted Roszak published the anthology Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. From this work emerged reconnective practices, critiques of destructive consumerism, new ideas about how to live in health on Earth, appreciation for indigenous ways of honoring the world, and a nod if not more to the importance of environmental justice, which became its own movement thanks to the work of Robert Bullard and Linda McKeever Bullard and, outside the U.S., Wangari Maathai, Vandana Shiva, and many others.
By 2007, a definition emerged:
Ecopsychology is the effort to understand, heal, and develop the psychological dimensions of the human-nature relationship (psychological, bio-social spiritual) through connecting and reconnecting with natural processes in the web of life. At its core, ecopsychology suggests that there is a synergistic relation between planetary and personal well-being; that the needs of the one are relevant to the other.
— Robert Greenway, Amy Lenzo, Gene Dilworth, Linda Worcester, and Linda Buzzell-Saltzman
Because of the variety of viewpoints and practices, ecopsychology has lacked a unified program. It also continues to lack diversity. As J. Phoenix Smith expressed in an interview with the journal Ecopsychology,
….The voices and perspectives of people of color have been consistently underrepresented in the literature. If the field of ecopsychology is to remain relevant and maintain a commitment to social justice, we must begin to acknowledge our own blind spots. The environmental movement has been criticized for a lack of attention to racial and socioeconomic issues of the poor and people of color. The field of ecopsychology would also benefit from critical reflection in this area.
Ecotherapy, an application of ecopsychology, is an umbrella term coined by pastoral counselor Howard Clinebell for approaches that reconnect human beings with the natural world by turning the culturally sanctioned split between humans and nature into conscious dialog and mutual healing. These approaches include horticultural therapy, animal-assisted therapy, time/stress schedule management, wilderness excursions, “green exercise,” indoor nature design, and community-focused dream work.
Goals of ecotherapy include:
- To deeply transform our psychological and behavioral relationship to a generous but fragile living world we have learned to see as inert, objectified, or unimportant.
- To alleviate human suffering by including aspects of nature in the healing.
- To allow human healing to be a part of the natural world's.
- To hold all deep healing as relational and organic rather than passive or mechanical.
- To promote collective “eco-dreaming” of new and desirable forms of sustainable community.
According to Clinebell, what makes ecotherapy different from simply mining nature for its curative benefits is its tending of the Ecological Circle of listening to and giving back to the natural world, whether through simple acts of appreciation and respect or actual advocacy.
Research for the healing power of ecotherapeutic methods, whether called such or not, is impressive and continues to pile up (for examples see Buzzell and Chalquist’s anthology Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind). Contact with plants and animals and natural scenery lowers anxiety and high blood pressure, relieves stress, stabilizes mood, and helps alleviate a number of traumatic conditions, including post-traumatic stress. Physicians outside the United States have begun searching for ecotherapeutic replacements for mood-altering drugs and anxiety meds.
Within the U.S., organismic approaches like psychoanalysis, Jungian, humanistic, existential, and transpersonal psychology, ecopsychology, and ecotherapy remain clinically and academically marginal. Although they reinfuse psychology with soul and purpose, they receive little funding or exposure in psychology departments. Dominant paradigms like CBT sell themselves as quick fixes designed by experts. Symptoms are treated as obstacles or inconveniences rather than as signals of unsustainable life path decisions or as messages of what has been silenced within.
History is replete with examples of how diehards left over when a worldview or movement is discredited take it underground, from where it eventually resurfaces with a shiny new surface. White supremacy, for example, is now touted in the U.S. as a movement prizing the “traditional values and achievements” of “Western civilization.”
The hubris and eugenics of early American functionalism caved it in but did not kill it off; it rose again as behaviorism on a wave of military and corporate funding. (B. F. Skinner designed a missile guidance system steered by a pigeon reinforced to peck a control console, but radar supplanted the system before it could be field-tested.) After the organismic protest, behaviorism died back for a time, then reinvented itself as cognitive-behavioral therapy. A key problem with CBT was that it tended to work only temporarily by alleviating symptoms and boosting mood by training clients to think happy thoughts. Its ministrations left entrenched inner conflicts, deep-seated depression, and outer societal injustices fully intact.
The latest rebrand of functionalism is Positive Psychology, the self-proclaimed Fifth Force. Martin Seligman, former electroshocker of helpless dogs and consultant for CIA prison protocols, called for “positivity” as a theme for his tenure as President of the APA. This was packaged, promoted, and funded into an “evidence-based” effort that purports to counter traditional psychology’s focus on pathology with “hard” research on what makes people happy and successful.
Those who claim the goal of happiness to be “universal” seem unaware that relational trauma needs relational healing; that injustice needs repairing rather than working through inwardly; and that all around the world, most people locked down under the political and financial systems Positive Psychology ignores in its message while selling itself to them want first of all to survive (Maslow’s pyramid). Aside from that grim reality, happiness would seem to be a byproduct of living with fullness and integrity, not a goal to be pursued like rising stocks. The kind of highly privileged happiness, satisfaction, and contentment Positive Psychology promotes sounds like what social apologists of brutal regimes always demand of their citizens to keep them from using their discontentment to change the system that injures them.
Positive Psychologists have gone to a lot of trouble to shame social justice and trauma recovery advocates for being gloomy and “negative.” But denial elevated to the status of a service delivery system erases injustices that need correcting. Even for a privileged minority, exalting the positive encourages emotional self-mutilation by shaming people—customers, rather—for not smiling their way through life. If things go wrong, the problem must be in them; injustice, oppression, and poverty are now what we make of them rather than dehumanizing conditions to highlight, oppose, and change.
Nor have the promoters of such programmed cheerfulness learned from the great dramatic and tragic stories of humanity, as though Shakespeare’s only use was to improve self-esteem. No quantity of empirical data will ever replace what the humanities tell us about how we live.
Particularly troubling are parallels between Positive Psychology goals and the core strivings of eugenicists: to blame sufferers for their sufferings; to restrain “negative” emotions and thought; to reduce psychology to biology, character, heredity, and “evolutionary fitness”; to objectify research participants; to claim scientific backing for cultural and psychological stereotypes; to shame women for supposedly possessing an evolutionary propensity for loss of emotional control; and to found what Skinner had the nerve to name in his aptly titled Beyond Freedom and Dignity a “master culture” of fit, friendly extraverts controlled by positive reinforcement. He meant his ghastly book to improve on Huxley’s Brave New World but instead confirmed its warnings.
With breathtaking callousness, Seligman mused out loud that after a Katrina-style hurricane hit, it would be interesting to study the motivational difference between victims “passively” lying in the mud and go-getters who set about rebuilding. He also claimed in Learned Optimism that race was not related to happiness in any meaningful way (a relief to police shooting victims everywhere, no doubt) and that racism and poverty were growth opportunities. His claim that warfare too could be “meaningful” and “growthful” helped secure him funding from the U.S. Department of Defense. It’s lucrative to tell people what they want to hear, especially if it can be sold, charted, and tracked.
The founders of Positive Psychology routinely disparage all but empirical, “evidence-based” research, as though humans could only be understood from the outside as objects. When this research works, it yields information only about what is quantifiable and object-like in us: a machine’s view of what we are made of. Here we deal not with science but with scientism, the absolutist ideology that only what’s measurable counts.
Often, however, applying natural-science research methods to human beings—a practice criticized for centuries by thoughtful people in many disciplines—does not work. In 2015, for example, a report in Science described an effort by 270 psychologists to replicate 100 experiments published in top social science research journals. Only 40% of these studies held up. Similar failures have cropped up in other areas of social science and been published in similarly reputable journals.
Commentators and scientists are so entranced by their mechanistic-scientistic worldview that their response to this “crisis of representation” has been mainly to call for more rigor in research. They seem unable to grasp that the worldview is the problem, and that clinging to it generates absurdities. One study that failed to replicate sought to decrease religious belief in participants by instructing them to stare at Rodin’s statue The Thinker. Even the designers admitted later that this was a dumb idea. What were they thinking when they set it up? (They must have missed that The Thinker was intended to portray a fully embodied poet. They tried to dispel religiosity with him, only to be mastered by him.)
Ashamed research psychologists who doubt their findings can, however, submit a form and “come out” together through the Loss-of-Confidence Project at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. So far, the project is only for psychologists. Evidently, they are the researchers most in need of it.
None of these thick shadows—of objectification, of ecologically destructive industry and mass marketing, of political propaganda, of covert imprisonment and torture, of restriction of psychology graduates’ rights to call themselves psychologists and practice as they have been trained to—should be dismissed as anomalies. Long-standing and systematic, they are inevitable expressions of the ideology of seeing everything from the outside, as separable parts rather than as living relations. Imagine psychologist Clark Hull spending his entire professional life trying to mathematize human nature, only to admit shortly before his death that his theories probably applied only to hungry rats. The work of cognitive ethologists like Marc Bekoff throws even this claim into doubt: unlike the research psychologists who manipulate them, rats and other primates show clear signs of empathy when their fellow creatures are being tortured in laboratories.
Techniques cannot be neutral. Those who talk of neutrality are precisely those
who are afraid of losing their right to use neutrality to their own advantage.
— Paulo Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness
As Viktor Frankl pointed out, the foundations of satanic mills like Auschwitz are laid at the drawing boards and lecterns of nihilistic reductionists who see living beings as automata. “Expectations that are only statistical," wrote analyst James Hillman, "are no longer human.”
Sometimes it’s not a matter of differing paradigms, but of refusing to sanction the colonialism, ambition, and inhumanity of institutions that seem incapable of waking up. As Nietzsche put it, no organization survives if only hypocrites work for it. Withdraw that energy and it collapses.
In looking back over this deeply troubling case history of psychology, we might find ourselves wondering: Have psychologists learned anything important from their own repeated mistakes? Is psychology still capable of redeeming itself? Can psychology overcome its iatrogenesis?
Beyond Greed, Torture, Ecocide, Prediction, and Control: Engaged Psychology
All my knowledge of the world, even my scientific knowledge, is gained from my own particular point of view, or from some experience of the world without which the symbols of science would be meaningless. To return to things themselves is to return to that world which precedes knowledge, of which knowledge always speaks, and in relation to which every scientific schematisation is an abstract and derivative sign-language, as is geography in relation to the countryside in which we have learnt beforehand what a forest, a prairie or a river is.
—Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
These questions cannot be answered on the level of schools or disciplines. Despite its mechanistic assumptions about human nature, CBT definitely works in certain situations; I have used it to good effect in men’s groups, for example. On the other hand, as deep as Jungian psychology can go, its more traditional followers hold it rigidly, and its founder was so racist that Jungian societies have had to publicly acknowledge his prejudices. Transpersonal psychology validates spiritual insight but ignores its own cultural preconceptions. The organismic protest, born of lasting humanistic values, wavers in its integrity and vitality and offers nothing for what G.A. Bradshaw calls a “trans-species psychology” of how to live with other creatures on our own planet. Ecopsychology’s American journal recruited readers from the technology, marketing, and heavy industry sectors in order to mainstream the field while blunting its critical emphasis. Some of the impetus for this came from APA members.
Back when I worked with psychotherapy clients, I invited them to explore how many powers, insights, and capabilities they could excavate from troubled origins, hose off, polish, and wield. As the ancient alchemists surmised, treasures await in the muck. How might we find them?
At the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, core faculty in the East-West Psychology Program are asking what a new kind of psychological practitioner would be like. Placing the ancient wisdom traditions into conversation with the best of what psychology offers, this practitioner would also receive education in social justice, ecopsychology, techniques of embodiment, storytelling for social change, neuroscience, and the creative arts. The fabulous amounts of time and money spent rolling the APA-weighted Sisyphus rock of licensure uphill could be used instead for crafting and testing the methods of mentoring, healing, and teaching now needed in an increasingly connected, frenetic, and overheating world.
Wholeness, creativity, relationality, mindfulness, diversity, and integrity would be key. Any graduate using their skills to commit ethical breaches like harming animals or designing state torture programs would lose their degree. Instead of selling themselves to mass advertisers, insurance companies, or arms manufacturers, practitioners would become known for the quality of beneficial difference they fostered wherever they went. Their non-intrusive interventions would include rounds of transformative ritual and storytelling, somatic movement activities, lessons in emotional self-management, relationship-strengthening mediation, ecoliteracy teaching, creativity mentoring, and guided reintroductions to plants and animals. These mentor-healers for the 21st century would maintain lists of ethical therapists to refer troubled people to when necessary.
Since 2005, I have taught such practitioners from out of my own blend of depth and clinical psychology, Family Systems, liberation psychology, ecopsychology and ecotherapy, qualitative and hermeneutic research, storytelling, mythology, and the humanities. My approach, terrapsychology, which gathers studies and practices for tracing how the world gets into the psyche (and vice versa), has also been used via Terrapsychological Inquiry for master’s and doctoral research both qualitative and theoretical. Terrapsychology cannot replace regular therapy or psychiatry, but it goes where they cannot in guiding us psychologically home to our homeworld, a homeworld reenchanted.
A “metapsychologist” is someone who theorizes about psychology itself. We imagine this new practitioner as a “mettapsychologist” who works within and lives out an “ethic of care” (psychologist Carol Gilligan’s term) in at least three spheres: care of self, of each other, and of the living world. Taking inspiration from Thich Nhat Hanh, we refer to this as “engaged psychology” (C. Chalquist, “Engaged Psychology: Past, Present, Prospects,” Journal of Holistic Psychology, Fall 2013).
However, it is clear from the nature of the social and ecological problems we now face—many exacerbated by marketing, war, and industrial psychologies—that no one who wishes to be a mentor and healer can confine their efforts to any single discipline. If psychology is to undergo renewal, it must enlist aid from outside itself.
That aid must include critical inquiry. If psychology is to return to serving the people so much of the discipline now pacifies and exploits, the institutions that go on warping psychology into a tool for positivist self-promotion, mind control, and oppression both outright and subtle must either commit to practicing more humane values or be depopulated of membership until they go under, replaced by more open, ethical, and relational organizations and alliances.
But psychomalignant institutions will continue to exert an almost numinous religiosity upon their otherwise secular members until they awaken to more potent sources of enchantment. Plenty of these sources glow within the wholeness emphasis of early psychology, within the humanities upon which psychology has always depended, and upon the new participatory and ecological worldview that dawns as we move out of mechanistic modernity and into the age of Earthrise.
Note: This article is an expansion on and update of “Why I Am Not a Member of the APA.”