Monday, August 08, 2016

Fascism in Psychology

For a long time psychology was seen by conservatives as encouraging vanity and permissiveness. In recent decades however, there have been psychological trends that were nothing less than fascist.

The worst of these has been the claim that some people – in particular people with personality disorders and “sex predators” – are evil and can only be evil however hard they work, whatever good they do and whatever work they do on themselves. This goes against what we know about choice and about will. If people are responsible for their actions then anyone, even a “sociopath” or a “borderline” or a “narcissist,” can act in a rightful manner; and if some people cannot act rightfully whatever they do then people are not responsible for their actions. This is a worthless ideology, useful only for conducting witch hunts. And that is exactly what we have seen.

Another of these fascist trends has been the infantilization and pathologization of romantic love. Something beautiful was portrayed as something ugly, and people were robbed of one of the best experiences that a person can have. This was done in the name of reason, but once again there is nothing rational about this. Romantic love happens in every culture, including ones that forbid it. Some of the most brilliant minds in the Western civilization spoke in favor of romantic love. And while many in baby boom generation did not have it work for them, it worked very well for many in the World War II generation – people who cannot be portrayed as in any way irrational or infantile or irresponsible and who, now in their 80s, continue to love their partners. Romantic love is one of the greatest accomplishments of liberty; and attacking it is an attack on one of the greatest achievements of the Western civilization.

I have an undergraduate degree in psychology, and I know a number of psychologists who are excellent human beings. But even some of them have been swept up in this fascism. So it comes as no surprise that this fascism begat further fascism from the other side.

One of these is the fictitious “Parental Alientation Syndrome” that is used in courts to pathologize women who report abuse by their husbands against their children. According to the inventor of PAS – Richard Gardner – the only cure to it is taking the child away from the woman. So now, any number of wife-beaters and child molesters get full custody of the children by using PAS.

Another has been the claim, by psychologists of the Christian Right persuasion, that homosexuality is narcissism. Their claim is that narcissism is vitiated by direct exposure to God; which is actually a much more humane claim than that it is a lifelong condition that damns a person for life.

Which brings me to my central contention, and that is that in face of psychological fascism religion is a wiser and more humane alternative. According to both Christianity and Islam, any sinner can be redeemed; and that includes “sociopaths” and “sex predators.” While I am not against homosexuality, I have known homosexual people who converted to Christianity and stopped being homosexual. And that means that someone with “personality disorders” or disordered sexuality can likewise become a good citizen through embrace of religious beliefs. On this matter religion is light years ahead of psychology; and until psychology catches up and realizes that anyone,including a “sociopath,” can be a good person, religion will continue to attract people whom psychology damns – as well as people like me, who see the irrationality of these psychological theories.

There are of course problems with some of these religious beliefs as well. Turning someone from a predator into a terrorist is not an improvement; but giving someone designated by psychology as garbage a chance at a life is. If Paul – a tax collector who killed Christians – could become a righteous man of God through following Christ, then so can a “sociopath.” The mechanism behind this is choice and will. Qualities of which everyone, even a “sociopath,” is capable.

Religion can also be a force for fascism, and we continue to see that all the time. But whereas psychology damns some people for life, religion believes in redemption of all sinners. Until psychology has similar realizations, it will continue to lose power to religion; and it is only when it does have similar realizations that it will regain its place in society.


Post a Comment

<< Home