Reflections on Silos in Neuropsychology, Hoffman &Dash’s Using neuropsychology to enhance existential psychotherapy, Motschniig-Pitrik & Lux’s The person-centered approach meets neuroscience, and Taylor’s William James and the humanistic implications of the neuroscience revolution

Existentially and in every other way, I see everything as connected. But philosophically? Yes. Since my immersion into the social sciences a few years ago, I have noticed that the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) divide themselves into several divisions each. Even with major philosophical differences, I can still see points of agreement as I look at both of these worlds and their myriad divisions. While there is some need for subdivisions, their separation also perpetuates the bureaucracy of corporations and government. I’d like to get away from that.

While not everyone is interested in clinical psychology as a profession (including me), there is value in reading and applying ideas from a variety of disciplines that can help each of us in some way. Hoffman & Trash (2010) explore this division in miniature with the neuropsychology and existential APA divisions and their several commonalities, including cognition and emotion, and the intersection of the interpersonal and intrapersonal that can certainly benefit clients in the clinical space. While not every division can meet and join with another, certainly we would all benefit from more of this exploration, resulting in a more socially and emotionally healthy society.

Motschniig-Pitrik & Lux (2008), intriguingly, take this into a whole other direction where I can embrace my earlier mantra, “everything is connected.” Having recently read James Glieck’s Chaos (1987), I have been intrigued by this application of crossing multiple sciences and the study of chaos theory in the social sciences, especially psychology, but I have yet to find any definitive academic literature. What’s intriguing here is the intersection of neuroscience with the person-centered approach where in proposition I (of the commonalities between the two), “Every individual exists in a continually changing world of experience of which he or she is the center,” essentially signifying that personal reality is subjective which verges into Buddhist philosophy., roughly interpreted as reality vs illusion. However, in proposition IV where, “The organism has one basic tendency and striving—to actualize, maintain, and expand the experiencing organism,” does not resonate with me. Or rather, it resonates with me, wholeheartedly, but I have encountered many individuals who just seem to be maintaining and nothing else (granted, this is my personal perspective). Intuitively, I suspect that those actualization desires are present, but they seem to given up on embracing life. The intersection of these perspectives is something I would like to research on a deeper level, but I don’t see myself employing them in my research unless it becomes a joint study with a clinical researcher, which I can see happening at some point in the future.

Taylor’s (2010) analysis of William James’ influence on consciousness and humanistic psychology bring this full circle, back to the beginnings of psychology in the United States, by James, and not by Freud who was introduced to the United States decades later. Given his New England Transcendentalist legacy, I can see why humanistic psychology and consciousness studies reached back to James for some inspiration throughout the last 100 years. It’s interesting that it took 40+ years for humanistic psychology to rediscover him, but due to a massive promotion propaganda campaign of Freud several years after James’ death in 1910, it’s not surprising that he is not as well know beyond his, Principles of Psychology (1890) and Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).

Taylor (2010) also mentions the not-so-surprising influence of James’ humanistic leanings on Western psychology figures such as Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley among others during their exploration of consciousness in Eastern philosophy. Taylor also revives a theme that began this paper that the different division of Psychology don’t really communicate with one another, when he mentions that James called for the “development of an objective, crosscultural and comparative science of religions.” In 2016, if we are to accomplish anything of any life-affirming quality, we must communicate as colleagues and not as rivals. In one way or another, we can all work together.

References:

Gleick, J. (1987). Chaos: Making a new science. New York, NY, U.S.A.: Viking.

 

Hoffman, L. & Dyer Trash, J. C. (2010, August). Using neuropsychology to enhance existential psychotherapy. In L. Hoffman (Chair), Neuropsychology, health psychology, and existential psychology: Creating dialog. Symposium presented at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, San Diego, CA.

Motschniig-Pitrik, R. & Lux, M. (2008). The person-centered approach meets neuroscience: Mutual support for C. R. Rogers’s and A. Damasio’s theories. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 48, 287-319. DOI: 10.1177/0022167807306044

Taylor, E. (2010). William James and the humanistic implications of the neuroscience revolution: An outrageous hypothesis. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 50, 410-429. DOI 10.1177/0022167810376305.

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