10) Psychology

8/365 -- Prednisone: The Double-Edged Sword

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If you hear voices in your head, you need a psychiatrist and anti-psychotic drugs.  You likewise need treatment if you are clinically depressed.  But are the 27 million Americans on anti-depressants really mentally ill? If you’re in a nursing home and no on visits you, if your parents just got divorced, or if you see no meaning in life, you’re going to be depressed, not because you are mentally ill, but because you have good reason to be depressed. Going to a psychologist when you’re unhappy seems to presume: 1) that the psychologist knows the meaning of happiness or 2) you think that pills will deliver peace.

I’ve seen interviews with Axl Rose, Howard Stern, and the Beatles where they spell out how they are rich and famous, chicks dig them, and they have the power and freedom to do whatever they want.  Then later in the interview they say they see their psychologist constantly and need pills to face life.  Perhaps they are missing something.

Sigmund Freud

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Image via Wikipedia

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are the fathers of modern psychotherapy and they both admitted that they had very few patients who were practicing Catholics.  They both came to the same conclusion: that what other achieved in psychotherapy, Catholics realized by going to confession.  Freud, after 20 years of practice, attributed almost all emotional and even mental illness to guilt.  (Perhaps Shakespeare gave us a clue that, even in his day, an obsessive-compulsive disorder was a perverse reaction to guilt, like when Lady Macbeth tried to wash her hands of murder.)

Sakramentskirken, Copenhagen, Denmark. Confess...

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Guilt is a poison to the human mind and psychotherapy attempts to remit its effects with denial, by calling every vice a “disease”.  In a confessional Catholics admit their guilt, receive absolution, and leave with the intent to change.  Freud and Jung seem to have quantified that this works.  Jung even went a step further and claimed none of his patients was cured without regaining a religious outlook on life.  What a psychologist charges hundreds of dollars for, the Church will give you for free.

I think everyone assumes that when you go to a psychologist you are going to a doctor who is going to give you a medical treatment, but you may also be going to a philosopher who is going to give their personal beliefs…and maybe those beliefs are wrong.  Freud, Skinner, and Piaget were atheists.  Rogers and Jung dabbled in the occult.  Abraham Maslow was a Humanist who thought religion was useless and explicitly proposed his views as a religion surrogate.  Do I believe in Humanist Psychology?  If not, why submit myself to a Humanist psychologist?  I think it is fair to say that if your doctor’s values are antithetical to yours, you might not want to trust him with that most sacred of spaces, your mind.

The mind of a web developer

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There are certain questions a human being needs answered to be at peace:  Who am I?  Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  What is the meaning of suffering?  The answers to these questions are beyond the scope of Psychology.  Sigmund Freud committed suicide because he saw no sense in the suffering of his final illness.  He applied his atheism to his science, denied the spiritual, reduced man to the merely biological, and rendered himself incapable of answering those questions.

the first of the blots of the Rorschach inkblo...

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After a century of viewing Psychology as the panacea for all our mental angst, we are finding that many widely accepted theories were based on dubious scientific methods.  Freud would decide his theory and force a single case to confirm his presumptions, as he did with the Oedipal Complex.  Court cases have been decided based on the results of Rorschach inkblot tests even though they are not empirically tested to reach any verifiable conclusions.   We all take Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” as gospel, but it really is just one man’s interpretation of the world.  The famous stages of dying were written by a New Ager whose methodology remains unexamined.  There is no empirical evidence that Dr. Spock, a devotee of Freud, knew the best way to raise a child.   In our supposed rational age, unbelievable cruelty and downright kookiness have been done in the name of psychology – rebirthing, lobotomies, primal scream therapy. This mental hospital hoax doesn’t really surprise me.  Psychology can be based on empirical evidence but not necessarily.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Resized, renamed,...

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The very act of defining  “dysfunction”  has the potential to become a political rather than medical diagnosis – an excuse to send someone who disagrees with you to sensitivity training.  I’m not trying to denigrate the science of psychology; there are lots of Catholic psychologists out there, the most well known being Fr. Benedict Groeschel.  Mental illness is real, and psychologists do a job that would emotionally crush me. But in recent years the American Psychological Association has advocated for the normalization of pedophilia and has called Global Warming Denial a disease which leads me to believe they are serving a political agenda rather than science.

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I recently caught the movie “Splendor in the Grass” on TV and realized that the movie’s message was a Freudian one:  if you repress sexual feelings, you will become neurotic.  Well, the world has taken Freud’s advice.  Americans have greater sexual license today than ever before and yet more people are in therapy than ever before.  Shouldn’t the opposite have happened?  I read a book called Unprotected by a college psychologist who has seen evidence that casual sex is causing neurosis, but she could get fired for saying so.  I seems obvious to me there is nothing more mentally disturbing in life than getting your heart broken, being used by someone you love, to have your spouse serve you divorce papers, to have your dad abandon your family for his mistress, or heaven forbid, someone “unrepress” their desire to sexually abuse you.  But that is what naturally happens when people don’t repress certain sexual desires.  It is occurrences like these that people commit suicide over.  And it is Catholic moral teaching that aims to prevent this suffering.

It is the breakdown of the family the contributes to depression, anti-social behavior, and suicide.  Haven’t you ever heard someone say of a bad seed that they “had a screwed up family” and that’s all the explanation you needed?  I read an interview with Kirk Cobain shortly before he committed suicide where he said he was a happy kid until his parents divorced, and it was all downhill from there.  Amy Winehouse started cutting herself at the age of nine when her father left her mother for another woman.  Most men in prison have never even met their fathers. I think millions of kids are written prescriptions to help us in our denial that any family arrangement we want is fine with the kids.  Contrary to the cliche, children are not resilient.

Light at the end of the tunnel

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You remember that chart of deaths in the 20th Century?  If I were to put a dot on the chart to represent the number of abortions in the 20th Century, the dot would be bigger than the entire chart.  The American Psychological Association says that “no legitimate study” has found a link between having an abortion and negative emotional/mental effects.  Yet you can go to this website and see that abortionists are posting their own rebuttal:  their customers’ letters about how they are being coerced into abortion and are emotionally and psychologically torn apart by it.  The Catholic Church acknowledges what the APA won’t, and offers emotional support for these women.

Shiny happy people

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Imagine you visited a town where everyone was laughing and hugging each other and you asked them why and they said, “Oh, no reason.”  You wouldn’t think, “Wow, I want to live here”, you would think they were nuts.  You need a reason to be happy.  If your reason is temporary and imperfect, then your happiness will be temporary and imperfect.  The Catholic Church teaches that our hearts were made for perfect, never-ending happiness – that is why we crave it.  The reason we don’t find perfect happiness in the here and now is because perfect Goodness, Truth, and Beauty lie outside of time and space.  A Christian believes that the happiness we can acheive in this life comes from self-sacrificing love.   Some psychological theories promote a cult of narcissism and self-worship that just leads to more misery.

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It’s a popular New-Agey idea that a positive attitude will get you through life, but there are times when a positive attitude is downright inappropriate.  Life is full of suffering, but if you have the Christian virtue of hope you can face anything.  A Catholic views himself as a soldier in the war between good and evil, and a solider doesn’t just have a “positive attitude”, he goes boldly into battle because he knows his cause is worth fighting and dying for. “The ways of the Lord are not comfortable. But we were not created for comfort, but for greatness” to quote Pope Benedict XVI.  St. Maximillian Kolbe was a Catholic priest who, as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, voluntarily gave his life in exchange for another man’s. When he was thrown in a dungeon to starve to death, he led his fellow prisoners in prayer and song before they died. He didn’t sing because he had a positive attitude. He had joy which stems from hope in God and in heaven. The Nazi’s could kill his body but they couldn’t touch his soul.

Pona's Prayer

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The people I know using anti-depressants report numbness, paranoia, addiction, and withdrawal-induced suicidal tendencies, just like street drugs.  From what I have been reading in the news lately, they might not be all that effective in curing depression anyway.  Perhaps there is something that needs to be addressed in the human condition that can’t be drugged away.  I experience intense fears and anxieties in life but they are tempered by peace and joy to spare.  I’m not trying to be smug; I could have nervous breakdown tomorrow.  But I believe some people going to therapists are expecting something doctors can’t deliver: the meaning of life, happiness, and peace.  Psychology is no substitute for a worldview, for morals and ethics, for having your spiritual and emotional needs met – in short, for a religion.


One Comment to “10) Psychology”

  1. Becky, Thank you so much for putting into writing what I have come to think and believe in my Catholic faith journey. I plan to share your writing with my family and friends. You are an inspiration. God Bless you. Keep up the good work. From a fellow thinker and believer in Jesus Christ and His church.

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