Martin LeFevre: In the old days it used to be said of the newspaper business: “Don’t pick a fight with an industry that buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.” With regard to psychiatry, one might say today, “Don’t pick a fight with an industry that pushes antidepressants by the billions.”
Even so, truth be told, psychology and psychiatry have done more harm to the individual and the culture, with as little accountability, as any sector of society in the last 40 years.
At best, the psychological industry has utterly failed to stop the progress of the pandemic of despair and depression that have overwhelmed America and the West. At worst, by encouraging people to adapt to a sick culture, and then prescribing anti-anxiety and anti-depressants profligately, the pharma-psychological industry has contributed to the increasingly miserable state of people’s mental and emotional health.
It’s not just because they deal with disturbed people every day that therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists are some of the most screwed up people in society. Never has the dictum, “physician, cure thyself” been more applicable, and more ignored.
Psychology as a field of study is mostly pseudoscience: it separates for study as objects what is inherently inseparable as subjects. It externalizes what the individual can only adequately address internally. And the vast majority of therapy reinforces the illusion of the separate self, and overemphasizes individual agency over social influences.
There are effective therapists (one in five at most in America), but the psychological industry as a whole has been misleading people from a misguided philosophical foundation for decades.
For example, a supposedly rigorous scientific survey about attitudes of moral decline across cultures and time sets up a straw man – “the susceptibility to golden age myths” – which it then predictably knocks down with a blizzard of statistics.
“We collected 235 surveys with over 574,000 responses total and found that, overwhelmingly, people believe that humans are less kind, honest, ethical and moral today than they were in the past.”
The foregone conclusion: “Our biased attention means we’ll always feel we’re living in dark times, and our biased memory means we’ll always think the past was brighter.”
Beware of the word ‘always;’ it almost always reflects unexamined premises and prejudicial thinking. Is attention always biased? No, the human brain has the capacity to non-judgmentally, passively observe what is, and in doing so, gather non-directed (and unbiased) attention.
There are two ‘tells’ in the author’s report on this study, and his tongue-in-cheek quips are the indicators of how he really sees people and society.
The first is, “maybe we’ve been changing from angels into demons for centuries, and people have only now noticed the horns sprouting on their neighbors’ foreheads.”
That’s a very strange thing to say, even as a set up for his conclusion: “But I believe there’s a bug — a set of cognitive biases — in people’s brains that causes them to perceive a fall from grace even when it hasn’t happened.”
Whenever you hear someone, including and especially an expert, refer to “people,” you can be sure they’re separating themselves from people. Couching psychological separation in terms of scientific study does nothing to clarify confusion, and everything to increase division.
Besides, the phrase, “fall from grace” is a religious reference, a not so subtle way of dismissing the Genesis story of man’s fall from grace. Using the colloquialism of a “bug,” and trying to frame it in terms of neuroscientific notions of how “people’s brains cause them to feel” this or that, is deeply disingenuous.
The other tell is more explicitly revealing of the author’s worldview:
“When you’re standing in a wasteland but remember a wonderland, the only reasonable conclusion is that things have gotten worse.”
There’s a clever combination of true and false in that sentence. “When you’re standing in a wasteland” is accurate, even as the author then tries to avoid the truth by combining it with “remember a wasteland.” His real target however, is the perception that “things have gotten worse.”
Instead of questioning whether they have, and in what way, the author falsely and arrogantly again stands on science: “While previous researchers have theorized about why people might believe things have gotten worse, we are the first to investigate this belief all over the world, to test its veracity and to explain where it comes from.”
Given the mental health crisis in young people at the individual level, and mass shootings every week at the social level, how can someone who calls himself a psychologist, pronounce: “The good news is that the breakdown hasn’t happened. The bad news is that people believe it has?”
Hugging his straw man, the author concludes: “As long as we believe in this illusion, we are susceptible to the promises of aspiring autocrats who claim they can return us to a golden age that exists in the only place a golden age has ever existed: our imaginations.”
The truth is that as long as we believe psychologists telling us that what we see and feel is an illusion, and that we cannot trust our own perceptions, we will continue to be susceptible to autocrats, as well as experts backing their biases with “scientific studies.”
Studies that make no mention of mass murder in America and the psychic toll it’s taking, and don’t even footnote the ecological decimation and decline of the Earth, should be ignored.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org
Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.