The perspective that guides articles at shrinkpage.com mainly arises from psychoanalysis, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and neuropsychology. Psychoanalysis itself, as an approach to understanding the human condition, has many flavors. The psychoanalytic approach particularly significant for understanding is the “cultural school” of psychoanalysis, represented by the works of Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, and members of the Frankfort school, because the approach recognizes the importance of culture in the genesis of maladaptation and unhappiness. Taking account of culture is particularly relevant when socialized attitudes, values, and roles are at variance with biologically disposed drives and social definitions and expectations.
In particular, understanding of human health and well-being is holistic. The psychoanalytic method is empirical and inferential, based on case-by-case investigation, and not ruled by a method which divorces single factors from the complex of nature and human life. The application of “single factor” research design has advanced some interests, but, in the aggregate, at extraordinary cost to food and farmland, human health, and social harmony. Single factor research as the via media to “truth” is flawed because life arises and exists in complex systems.
The reductionist/statistical methodology is an ideology that operates as a “common coin” among professional classes and students steeped in “Statistics 101” and its sequel. The ideology acts as lens that organizes the framing of questions and “validation”. What is not appreciated is how the framework operates like a strait jacket that constrains discovery and appreciation of the world that humans occupy. The reductionist method is akin to studying the broken pieces of Humpty Dumpty. No sooner is one piece discovered as important as another piece is found essential. But the recognition of importance (significance) is not equivalent to putting Humpty Dumpty together again. That’s why the psychoanalytic and multidisciplinary approach to understanding the human condition is so important.
Psychoanalysis as a Critical Science
Psychoanalysis is a method of investigation that relies upon the study of feelings, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors of participants in psychoanalysis. The basic rule of psychoanalysis is to tell the analyst “whatever comes to mind (free association)” with the participant bound by the rule to be truthful. Psychoanalysis is conducted three to five times a week, so the emotional connection between participant and analyst often becomes laden with feeling and emotion. Short-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a derivative of psychoanalysis, but relies upon the analyst to speed the process.
Psychoanalysis as a method has proven to be a powerful technique to uncover hidden connections, motivations, desires, fears, distortions, illusions, and sources of human unhappiness. Psychoanalysis invites broad familiarity with art and legend, history and economics, religion and philosophy, and even current affairs since these areas bear so significantly upon individual purpose and preoccupation. Therefore, psychoanalysis, as a discipline stands outside the narrow strictures of scientistic psychology. Since the method is an open inquiry, the method is not bound by narrow technical requirements.
Editor’s Psychoanalytic Perspective
Karen Horney recognized that social roles and expectations condition psychological malaise. However since her death more than sixty years ago, little revision or expansion of her theoretical perspective has occurred –even though society has undergone dramatic changes. In the years since her departure, knowledge about how the brain processes information has vastly increased, along with new insights from behavior biology and evolutionary psychology. The risk with a strictly social perspective about mental processes is that the biological is ignored, and conversely, the risk from a purely neurological or biological perspective is that social determinants get left out. Just as mind and body are inextricably bound-up, so also are self and society.