Psychology Sources

I’ve often deliberately not referenced the sources of my writing in the body of what I’ve written. It breaks up the flow of the words and puts the focus on where an idea came from rather than on the idea itself. But I certainly don’t believe that I am saying things that have not been said before. That would be arrogant and incorrect. I am trying to put together ideas that I believe are true and that, in their ensemble, make sense of human experience.

The ideas I’m putting together, to go back to this point, germinate from several powerful influences on my thinking. They are:

Freud: From a course in the unconscious at U.C. Berkeley in 1965 or 1996 to reading through many things in graduate school and beyond, a fascinating system of thought to grapple with. Freud’s thought is an interesting paradox: Profoundly rejected during much of Freud’s most prolific period, briefly soaring to near domination of psychology and psychiatry of the late 1930’s, absorbed into the popular culture by the fifties and then rejected again by most of academic psychology and educated laymen from the 1960’s until today, its fundamental thesis is nearly universally accepted: Repressed thoughts, feelings and experiences dramatically and insidiously shape our conscious experience and our behavior. While most may ridicule his psychosexual theory and sharply criticize his views on female psychology; while both behaviorism and neuropsychology have dominated psychological explanation for decades, few doubt that repression plays a significant role in aberrant human thought and functioning.

Erich Fromm: A man I met when he met with a group of 20 NYU Clinical Psychology graduate students in the late 1960’s. He was in his late sixties and wanted a sounding board for ideas he had about democratizing American democracy. He envisioned decision-making by simultaneous town meetings across the nation to decide important topics. Most of us found his ideas stimulating and idealistic but essentially irrelevant in that era in which the struggle against the war in Vietnam was the far more salient concern.

Fromm brought a socialist perspective to bear on human psychology, arguing that human psychology could not be properly understood outside of its social conscience. Having witnessed the horror of the rise of fascism, he could not accept the notion that the norms of a society dictated what was normal psychologically. His concepts about the effects of the market-oriented culture on human psychology are incorporated in many of the propositions I present here.

Versed in psychoanalysis, Fromm tried to bridge the divide between psychoanalytic to humanist-existential thinking. While abstruse and wordy, Fromm’s work, The Sane Society, influenced me profoundly. Many of the ideas here stem from this book.

Harry Stack Sullivan: Whose books I read and taught from over many years. (I even taught a course using his text in Spanish: La Entrevista Psiquiátrica, when I taught in Chile in 1972.)

Jane Pearce & Saul Newton’s The Conditions of Human Growth. Pearce and Newton founded a small therapy institute. The book is largely unknown outside of a small, cultish group of people but it is undeniable that it influenced me significantly.