August 17, 2021 11 min read

A medi-cynical reflection on the malpractices in psychology today

No knowledge of human nature. - Nowadays, even our psychologists are not worth more than the living numeric apparatuses, they have become statisticians, who shoot eternally with questionnaires fully past the life, which has now by far nothing to do with knowledge of human nature. Statistics and its grammar, i.e. the number and its operators are the principle or the means of representation of the mechanical, i.e. the calculable, which in turn describes the dead. But what should a psychologist know to grasp, if not exactly the opposite of it, ergo the becoming instead of the become, the unpredictable, the urging in contrast to the solidified, considered as a whole the vital function of life? Today's psychologist has nothing in common with a connoisseur of human nature and the training does not provide for exactly this. Instead, he is trained to be a blind and dumb abacus; he runs out of words and is left only with "exact" numbers. So he is essentially a brain tank that could ultimately be replaced by a machine itself. He functions by having made himself and his method "controllable", that is, by having given the little finger to natural science, which, after all, merely describes and does not explain.

The philosophical approach

We, on the other hand, looking with a philosophical eye, touch here the principle incompatibility of mechanics and organics and realize that, considering the number, the whole life is undermined by death and that it is exactly this banishing of the living into dead forms that we call "exactness" and "efficiency". To understand something organic, however, is far more than the mere act of recognizing and describing and, quite unlike mathematics, presupposes an enormous wealth of experience, a certain degree of erudition and, on the whole, a knowledge of human nature that cannot be taught at school or university. A psychologist trained on knowledge of human nature will be something extremely rare, an exceptional phenomenon, which one calls not without reason in other cultures guru, on whom one looks of course from the mathematical-western side with derision, because he cannot prove his methodology finally and all his doing could be traceable to pure suggestion. However, if one has understood the connection between the number and the principle of the dead and if one consequently subtracts the results of the empirical research from the western psychology, what remains then more than a psychology, which gives itself anyway limping forward without the support leg of the philosophy, only to the excusing autosuggestion: "We only wanted to help"? Empiricism, i.e. the belief in probability and its scientific ethics of listening to probability, which has replaced the belief in mechanics, is itself merely the cultural expression of a few decades and that it has thereby missed its claim at least within psychology, it has also already proved, because also the human scientist rather still wants to draw a metaphysical redemption from his causal conclusions by putting his physical reality to a becoming.

Words versus numbers

The basic mistake here is that the object of investigation of physics is a being, but the organic is always a becoming or a having become. Certainly, the words may be as meaningless as the numbers. The difference lies alone in the fact that the words can inspire the life, while the numbers handle on the side of the death. However, every honest physicist knows in contrast to the psychologist that he can only isolate phenomena mathematically and idealizes them with it. But on which side is our human science now? We must become more concrete here: Jean Améry gives us an example related to the mental illnesses, which are the main topic here: "We speak of the échec (I translate this as existential crisis) and of the world disgust, which embraces the death disgust. Both are phenomena from which the sciences of psychology and psychiatry have robbed their dignity. They present them as diseases, knowing and agreeing that disease is shame. The branches of research think that they know a lot about the states of disgust and échec which are pathological for them. In truth, they only know behaviors. No more than Konrad Lorenz understands of his dear gray geese, they know of man."

What is illness, what is virtue?

Another example comes from ancient philosophy: The ancient notion of ataraxia would certainly be the epitome of an affective disorder today, somewhere between depression and mental brain death. To this I would like to be completely silent about the connotation of apathy. Sociologically, its highly antisocial component would be added, and if one would still claim to be a philosopher in this condition, the next mental hospital would certainly not be far away. One takes over from antique virtue ethics the terms, which one transfers today into the diagnostic manuals of mental disorders. Apathy, ataraxia, alexithymia (emotional blindness), these are stoic ideals of a sage! Not to mention the benefit of the person who is capable of silence, that is, someone who suffers from mutism nowadays.

One could take the whole thing to the extreme by looking at the behavior and teachings of the ancient Cynics and comparing them with the symptomatology of an antisocial personality disorder. What was then a doctrine is today no more than a disease of the mind. This means for me now a radical restriction of the spirit and with it a moral prohibition of thinking and acting. Where at that time still the philosopher held the soul lore, today sit those who know exactly how to separate between fit and unfit for the benefit of society, because only on this benefit illness is defined today. Anyway: If you want to play the madman in this world, then make sure that you earn money with it, because otherwise only psychiatry is open to you.

Because what the philosophers once could not explain, that was considered to them as divine, and later they themselves suffered from their illness, which they called God and sacrificed themselves to their "ideas". Even the diagnosis of a madman is handed down, of whom one said quite concretely that he had the gods, which probably corresponds to a schizophrenia of today. Today, what cannot be explained or can be explained only badly without just this interpretation detour is regarded as ill. Thus a profoundly negative connotation is now attached to the entire phenomenon of illness. The masses have won, because they are no longer amazed by the exception, but are striving on all levels to get this other, that is, the new, that is, the strange, under their control.

The deviation as a necessity for progress

Thereby the disease has always had its meaning within the history of mankind. We only deal with it very ungratefully. I call this: "The survival of the sickest": and designate with it the fight of the non-conformists who get their label in each case and lead in the end nevertheless the masses in subtle way. Fitness, on the other hand: Already with Darwin this does not mean strength and assertiveness, but simply an adaptability to what already exists. I see therefore in the conformism, i.e. the influence of the adapted no contribution to the evolution, but straight the opposite: An involution. Why should one also promote what is already massively available? In an overcrowded garden it does not hurt anything if something remains lying and withers and becomes with it again the fertilizer for the following harvest. Therefore rather pay attention to your sick ones, your cripples, your crazy ones, because they are the really non-conformists, the completely non-conformists, who show new forms, because they have no other choice than to invent the new niches, which can be made houseable for the masses only substantially later.

Necessity has always been the mother of invention, and the struggle with non-conformity is always a pioneer's work, on whose shoulders the only possible progress of life rests. This is admittedly a lonely way and by no means a task for whole sick groups like for example the religions, which do not let the sick be sick and deprive them all of their creative power by putting off their sheep like children to a tomorrow or an afterlife. Only the Janus-facedness of the exception, in which both the illness of today and the health of tomorrow are reflected, accomplishes this.

Are the sufferings worth it?

The so-called "automatism of suffering" corresponds exactly to that of happiness; even in that point that one can find it at every corner. But isn't suffering already an act of cognition, understood as a questioning of its causes? Where else should a phenomenon come from, which psychiatry calls "depressive realism" and which means, as it were, a hymn of melancholy as well as a rejection of higher cognition to the happy, that is to say to the human being persisting in stagnation by his self-satisfaction pretended to himself. "The world of the happy is different from that of the unhappy," so far as one of Wittgenstein's few important sentences. In this context, it means, above all, an ethic of sincerity, which the depressive pursues and which is to be talked out of him for his good (as well as the good of society). Less reality means to the doctors less depression and consequently less suffering. They are cured, but sometimes they have also sacrificed their own essence for it, which manifests itself as so often in an illness. But why not integrate this ambivalence of existence and become something like a productive Oblomov or at least a less fabulating Hamlet? In this, of course, I also consider the unproductive Oblomov to be a genius, while psychiatry actually misused his name to describe a parasitic, lazy and weak-willed personality structure. However, I find this also parasitic, lazy and weak-willed, stealing terms from literature and thus relating a fiction to reality and charging it morally.

Psychology and its influence on society

(Clinical) psychology must therefore act on the problems of society and not the other way around, make society's problems its bread and butter by being oedipalized again and again. What is the achievement in terms of public health, if one merely broadens the general concept of disease and fills the diagnostic manuals page by page with rather arbitrary symptoms. In truth, the physician, like the priest, needs his sick flock, and for this reason alone he will have no particular interest in dissolving the insane asylums (analogous to the church parishes) and thus devoting himself to an occupation that is actually medical: The education of man in dealing with his mind and body. In this way, however, he would actually have expanded the concept of health. As a philosopher, at any rate, one can no longer keep up with finding new healthfulnesses to go with all the invented pseudo-diseases. Thus, even before the diagnosis, we ask: What does the client gain from his illness? We clearly expand Freud's concept of "gain from illness" and ask further on a moral level: Is a cure in the sense of liberation from the illness at all justifiable? Can substitutes be found, for instance? But this is already part of a philosophical therapy that has not yet been written at all.

What is to be done?

First of all, this would finally discard the chapter of the polar opposites "sick" and "healthy" and instead try to sound out the intermediate worlds that are possible here. Moreover, it would first form the plural of "health" from the outset, in order to find a counterweight to the excess of diseases in the first place. For we simply do not learn from the sick what health is! We learn at the healthy ones that there are at least as many healthinesses as diseases and in the measure as the psychologist nowadays operates his disease-mongering, the philosophers must invent new healthinesses as mental stimulus and therefore healing method.

Psychology would then have to learn once again to question rigorously its own subject and to acquire the consciousness of its temporality, namely that it will have an end also with the empirical method once. For this, however, it would have to return again to the bosom of skeptical philosophy. In general, the angina animi of philosophy, that is, the disease of having the feeling of being in the process of dying, is a most ridiculous modesty. Seneca has already brought this to the point by stating: "Without philosophizing, the mind is sick." We now have to become "doctors of culture" again in the sense of Nietzsche.

One must not misunderstand the whole thing: I do not want to deny by any means the possibility of the illness as such and to fall with it into an extremely dangerous nonsense, as this was for example the case with Mary Baker-Eddy and incubates until today particularly in the United States or the so-called "vaccination opponents". However, I also do not want to deny the possibility of the health as this is done nowadays so gladly! Has it noticed, for example, that there are actually no more natural causes of death? One always dies at something! But for me it is only about the quantities, the weighing up of illnesses against possible healthiness, because sometimes behind some illness still a deeper health lies hidden, which is talked out of the person, however, as a rule. In this way, however, he is actually made ill and deprived of his possible incubation period. How should he have a chance to find his specific health? And here I am not even talking about the sociological repression that makes an equation of the attributes "sick" and "useless".

So what needs to be considered? (Clinical) psychology needs to incorporate much more philosophy than it could bear at present. "Medicus philosophus, deo equalis!" The scientific claim of psychology, at any rate, negates itself at this point concerning its actual task, which itself cannot be tackled with scientific criteria, because it represents nothing else than the education of man himself, i.e. philosophy. And man still prefers to heal himself than to trust in gods or doctors! One only took the means, the competences and the self-confidence for it from his own hand! I make this at present by the fact that the border between medicaments and drugs, thus between foreign and self-medication becomes ever softer. One thinks here only once of the department of semi-soteric active substances, which sells meanwhile each supermarket. Thus, the ad usum proprium has long been found not only on doctors' prescriptions: it is taken at its word. It is the intention alone that distinguishes between drug and medicine, stimulant and remedy. Thus every self-medication is a drug intake, the will of the other person, however, is medicine. Where does the word "pharmacy" come from again? I want to remind you that it comes from the Greek φαρμακός and once designated the human sacrifice which served the others as purification ritual! So what is it that is lacking? Certainly not of those who are sacrificed even today, but of philosophers who go out into the world and find us new healthiness! We keep forgetting that "illness" and "health" describe only two extremes and that between these words there are possible worlds for which we only lack the words.

In summa:

One must also celebrate the Saturnalia, and at least semi-annually, within psychiatry. As long as the clinical psychologist tries to adapt people to society, as long as the philosopher must undertake to shape society so that it corresponds as closely as possible to what being human means.
The psychologists, on the other hand, have elevated themselves, and often without even being aware of it, to the new kind of guardians of virtue, and have thus taken over the office of the priest. Has it been understood, for example, that the so-called personality disorders in particular can be resolved not only in a semi-arbitrarily constructed pathogenesis, but also in the fact that their type of appearance cannot be reconciled with the mores and conventions of the masses: that these "clients" are not sick in quite human terms, but quite simply immoral?

The old question of whether we should conform to morality, which, as has been shown, can be tied to the common definition of illness, or whether we should try to tie morality to our needs, is hereby decided. Ethics always follows from anthropology and not the other way around! We do not ask, for instance by means of psychiatry, "How do you want man?", but it goes much more modestly, much more fundamentally, if we ask: "What is man and what can we expect from him in the best case?"

The shallow "either-or" of psychiatry must therefore be countered with a more profound "both/and" by pointing out the numerous intermediate worlds under, above, and in the midst of the prejudices of "sick" and "healthy." If we are also sincere, we hold that an illness is to be understood first and foremost as a possible path of life, while the meaningful change on this very path may in many cases be considered more important than recovery itself.

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