Thoughts on the decline of Psychology, Self-Help, and Personal Development.
Today is America’s Birthday and as it happens mine as well. (See the latest Lee Greenwood tribute video at the end of this article) While cause for celebration I confess to wondering how well America will survive the Twin Towers of the Repressive Pandemic and the recent outbreak of Marxist Socialism whose foundations have been laid in recent years but now have sprung forth in sheep’s clothing.
I recently realized these recent themes run counter to the main thrust of Psychology and in particular Myers-Briggs Personality Type.
Myers Briggs is about Personal Empowerment
I view the underlying theme of Isabel Myers seminal book “Gifts Differing” as empowering individuals to recognize and utilize their unique gifts to improve their happiness and their lives. The theory of Personality Types and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator promotes these ends by better understanding self and better understanding others.
The focus is on self and self appreciation and on appreciating the differences between ourselves and others, seeing the positive in these different perspectives and shedding unhelpful perceptions that handicap our own development as well as block a more harmonious relationship with others.
I understand that among the social sciences, in general the field of Psychology believes the solution to greater happiness and success lies between our ears. While the world outside might contribute to one’s misery, Psychology teaches us skills, knowledge and techniques to compensate for these disadvantages. I don’t see psychologists prescribing external solutions like grabbing a poster and protesting, or pulling down an offensive statute, or striking out against others whose speech we find offensive. Such prescriptions would be especially unlikely coming from a professional user of the MBTI and a serious student of Myer’s work. The emphasis on the positive is one of the unique features of Myers use of Jung’s theory to create what has essentially become a discipline of Personality Type within the field of Psychology.
Other Social Sciences have a Deterministic View of Human Nature
In contrast to Psychology, the fields of Sociology, Political Science, and Economics offer a simplfied, less nuanced view of human nature. Each explains human behavior through the lens of being impacted by much broader forces studied by their disciplines. Individual differences are little recognized, apart from the influence of these societal factors. None recognize the significant normal genetic and physiological differences in personality that exist in any population of people. These other disciplines see people as being manipulated by these broad social, political, and economic forces. This orientation seems to be the perspective gaining ground in society at large. People are looking to re-shape the environment around them as cures for whatever ails them.
I don’t discount these external forces exist, for sure these elements push and pull us and affect our behavior and our self-image. But my point is it is only Psychology that offers every individual a route for self-determination in the face of what may be opposing forces.
Freedom and Personality Type
So I see Psychology (and the subset of Personality Type) as supporting the classic American psyche of freedom and independence. Our historic heroes are Can-Do people who overcome long odds, who rise above poverty and disadvantage, who dare to dream big. We play the hand we are dealt with the idea we have a chance to win. No matter what are our roots or bad hands we are dealt, we have an opportunity to win happiness and success. Yes, in reality we may not overcome disadvantages, but the belief in that opportunity is the most powerful agent for change each of us has available.
But on this American anniversary it seems the psychological perspective of individual opportunity and freedom is being lost. Sociological, Political, and Economic prescriptions are being foisted upon Americans. While this is not new they are now so much more powerful and dominant.
Orwell’s Big Brother is looming not just in our government manipulating our lives but also aided by mass media and academia censoring and prohibiting free speech and the exchange of ideas. Big Tech invades our privacy and to rub salt in the wounds also uses their technology power to control what we know and manage our understanding. These entities believe they know what is best for us; they protect us by filtering what we ought to know and what we ought not to know. Everywhere we are being told how we are supposed to act and think. We are having history re-written and destroyed.
As a person who worked in LBJs “War on Poverty” program in the 1960s, believed in the message of Dr. King, and has in my professional and personal life promoted equal rights and opportunity I find the current movements undoing fifty years of progress. Black empowerment is focused on destroying historic symbols and promoting bigotry instead of celebrating and educating the history of significant contributions many Americans of African heritage have made in numerous fields of endeavor. The focus is on tearing down instead of building up.
Today in the mainstream media, education, and society institutions we seem further from Dr. King’s dream than the day he spoke of it.
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Hope for the future America
However there is hope in some sectors of Social Media termed by some the Intellectual Dark Web. Among those standing against this sociological tide of anti-freedom and anti-free speech are a couple of academic psychologists. You can easily find them on YouTube (but this may be increasingly difficult given it is run by one of the Big Brothers: Google.)
One is Jordan Peterson, perhaps the most well-known psychologist opposing the anti-freedom forces. You can find on YouTube his early lectures on general psychology and lectures on the psychological implications of biblical stories. More recently he has become more widely known for his best selling book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. A few years ago when I first discovered Dr. Peterson he was most known for his theories of personality development utilizing the Big Five. It was only when the Canadian government became more tyrannical and restricting free speech that he became more widely known and then also for his Twelve Rules book and series of speaking engagements. The book and his message is about personal empowerment.
Gad Saad is another psychologist, also Canadian, who has risen against this sociological tyranny. Dr. Saad’s specialty is evolutionary psychology. His channel has some longer form interviews and lectures, as well as short form commentaries on the news of the day. Because evolutionary psychology integrates with some related fields such as evolutionary biology and social psychology Dr. Saad’s perspective has long included observing economic consumerism and social trends. Among his current interests are the anti-freedom forces at work in academia. His forthcoming book (to be released in October 2020) is entitled “The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas are Killing Common Sense”
In terms of keeping Dr. King’s dream alive and making it a reality, one of many rays of hope in Social Media is Larry Elder. He is an attorney, author, radio and social media host, and film maker who can introduce you to the great minds and influential leaders past and present whose roots trace back to Africa. He also introduces common sense and clear-eyed vision on the developments of the day. While you can tune into Larry daily on YouTube or Radio/TV his most recent film production ( “Uncle Tom”) brings many of these important people and history of blacks in America together in one serving.
Happy Birthday America – Let Freedom Ring
Ross Reinhold, Editor & Publisher and a Yankee Doodle Dandy!