Freud and Faith

200px-Sigmund_Freud_LIFEI did something this week that I’ve always wanted to do. I picked up a book and started reading Freud. Now many people have chosen to disregard Freud, because he rejects the scientific method and talks openly about taboo topics.

I believe though that Freud peaked exactly in his time. There is rich symbolism in Freud’s theory, which people cannot understand until they pursue some real depth of thought.

I wonder about the interaction between Freudian psychology and religion. I am not talking about whether Freud had a religious conviction himself, but the more salient role of symbolism driven by religion in his time.

Carl Jung as a lecturer referred to Christian teachings during his elaboration of certain psychoanalytic concepts. Indeed, due to increased engagement with religion, and the symbolism found in the biblical account, the church of England, and of course the growing field of philosophy, I believe people understood (at least if they wished to) what Freud was trying to do.

And the theme of digging into your past and looking for repressed issues is prevalent in all sorts of program today that hold high repute. Alcoholics Anonymous invite their attendee’s to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves’. It helps people delve into their subconscious, understand themselves and find closure to past experiences.

I’m going to go into some very unscientific territory here. If certain therapy does or has involved seeking a connection with God, then surely the success of that therapy depends on whether that faith is true. Since the nature of faith is that it is placing confidence in something without empirical evidence, science will never establish cause and effect. But if there were a spiritual principle at play, those who embrace it would surely find success in the treatment.

Freudian theory was devised in a time of more religious excitement than we find today. Psychoanalysis has strayed away from that, in order to seek to acquire more scientific reputate. But if the religious principle were true then the therapy would have greater use for those engaged in practising those principles.

I believe there is some worth of Freudian theory. Is it empirical? No. Is it even in anyway medical? Not really either. But they are interesting.

Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory

  1. In the beginning, there was Freud. And Freud did give utterances, and the word was with Freud.

    Yeah, that’s Freud who used crack cocaine to bolster his creativity as he formed theories, and yes, it was Freud who came up with the oedipus complex. Not the fellow who I would be inviting round for dinner.
    Fortunately, over a century of research later we have been rescued by other paradigms, one of which came from George A. Kelly. Standing out from Freud and the ideas from the Learning Theorists, Kelly maintained that we are not passive learners, determined by inner processes and our environment, instead we are active little ‘scientists’, using our experiences to make sense of our world. We form hypotheses, and life tests them until we have beliefs that predict outcomes.
    These belief’s are called personal constructs, and how they are formed depends on a number of sub theories, called ‘collories’, which explain how and why we might reach certain constructs. Kelly measured these personal constructs in people using the ‘Role Construct Reporatory Test’ (see below).
    I really like this principle. On moral grounds I do not believe in determinism. There is no way that our actions can be down to factors beyond our control. The implications of such imply that human driven punishment need not exist. Practically applied, I can see these principles in action. I do see how we try to predict what others do, and how at times one gets it wrong, and experiences a shift in judgement. It lays on people the responsibility to choose their own destination, and embraces the reality that then external factors affect the journey.
    Below I have tweeted the details of what I read about Kelly’s research.
  2. Psychoanalytic’s say learning is implicit. Learning theorists say happens through the environment. Both say the learner is passive #pid13
  3. Psychoanalytic’s interpret distrust as a characteristic, learning theorists see it as a learnt response #pid13
  4. George A. Kelley’s 1955 theory gives a role to our inner processes and and external environments. #pid13
  5. People function as scientists, trying to understand and control the world around them #kelly #pid13
  6. Unlike scientists we do not have objective data to work with #kelly #pid13
  7. We make hypotheses, but only occasionally share them. Sharing them makes us realize others see the world differently #kelly #pid13
  8. Personal Constructs: the different perceptions of why things are as they are #pid13
  9. We are free to change our constructs, therefore we are free to change our minds #pid13
  10. That being flexible to change ones mind is called ‘Constructive Alternativism’ #pid13
  11. Superordinate construct: Long term goal #pid13
    You choose it, then it determines some of your choices
  12. A persons psychological processes are channelized by the ways in which he interprets events #kelly #pid13
  13. Identifying similarities necessitates identifying differences #pid13
  14. Construction corollary: the process we use to understand what is going on #pid13
  15. Certain forms of psychological help aid the construction corollary. #pid13
  16. Individuality corollary: Individual differences exist, and we each see them differently. E.g. aggressive or assertive? #pid13
  17. Organisation corollary: a hierarchy of constructs, determining which should be processed first #pid13
  18. Dichotomy corrolary: how we see it, e.g. good or bad, happy or sad. All corrolaries are dichotomous #pid13
  19. Choice corrollary: people are free to choose what best fits with their world. People will choose what helps them grow #pid13
  20. Range of convenience corrollary: some constructs will be more used than others. A convenient construct is more usable #pid13
  21. Experience corrollary: we can change our constructs according to experience. E.g. If someone we call polite is then aggressive. #pid13
  22. Modulation corollary: Permeable and impermeable. Those with impermeable constructs will condemn selves for violating own constructs #pid13
  23. Fragmentation corollary: People don’t always keep to the rules #pid13
  24. Community corollary: People with similar constructs will behave similarly. #pid13
  25. Sociality corollary: We work better with others when our constructs are similar. Good social interaction is build adapting constructs #pid13
  26. Pre-emptive const.: ball is a ball
    Constellatory const.: Stereotype > you do this
    Propositional const.: All open to change
  27. Kelly’s theory based on an innate need to accurately understand the world #assumptions #pid13
  28. CPC cycle: we examine all available constructs, and narrow down to select the one believed to me most beneficial, and then use it… #pid13
  29. Ideally one will develop with a set of accurate and flexible constructs. This development is lifelong. #pid13
  30. Kelly used normal participants. He researched through introspection #pid13
  31. No scoring system on rep grid test. Just provides insights. #pid13
  32. Bieri (1955): Similar rows = client does not differentiate others = cognitive simplicity (opp. cognitive complexity) #pid13
  33. Cognitive complexity = better at predicting others and more sensitive to others’ views #pid13
  34. What if we hand out rep tests to do for our presentation? #pid13

Was it Freud?

Today I speak of the Psychodynamic approach to psychology. It may not be regarded as empirical, the idea of subconscious drives and the like, but when I hear that being said, I can’t help but feel it has something to it. Do you have full control over your thoughts? Has anything ever ‘just’ popped in to your mind that you did not at all summon? There is definately something beyond our consciousness that has a say in the content of our minds.

So, along came Freud back at the turn of the 19th century, and made some sensational suggestions, to which science gave a tolerant smile before moving on to behaviorism, the cognitive approach and others. But recently, a new approach has been constructed towards these psycho dynamic principles.

The origins of this approach come from Bowlby and Ainsworth, who suggest that instead of subconscious drives, perhaps for food or sex, which become satisfied from contact with the mother, the bonding known as attachment theory, comes from the needs of protection and security (Fonaby, as cited by Shaver & Mikulincer, 2005).

A recent study used modern methods to carry out psychodynamic research, using methods of subliminal unconscious priming, followed by tests in which participants had to discern whether a string of characters formed a word or not, where reaction time was measured. This test found that proximity related words were discerned with a faster reaction time (suggesting higher accessibility) (Mikulincer, Birnbaum, Woddis & Nachmias, 2000, as cited by Shaver & Mikulincer, 2005).

Another method employed to study accessibility, used either a lexical task, or a Stroop colour-naming task, during which a subliminal threat or neural prime was presented. The ability to recall names of people whom participants considered as providing security were recalled quicker during this time (Mikulincer, 2002, as cited by Shaver & Mikulincer, 2005).

Both of these studies suggest the workings of a subconscious thought, and provide evidence in a useful light. Admittedly, the results are by some means vague. At most, they suggest the presence of subconscious activity, and point us in the direction of some of its applications. A report by Shaver and Mikulincer (2005) does say that much of the psychodynamic work is still done through careful and strategic introspection.

I heard it said that if we could develop a computer that could perfectly simulate the brain, we have no further need to study psychology. Indeed, empirical studies readily answer questions based on variables comprehend-able to human-kind. But the reason people have psychological issues is because they don’t quite understand  the brain. Such empirical studies provide essential foundations for psychology, however a lot can be done for applied psychology using psychodynamic paradigms.