Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where is the Soul 9?

The Beauty and Thrill of Decent Debate

Tree bark: Ardgillan Park, last Sunday
Good debate has little equal in humankind's intellectual life.  Even at school I enjoyed the cut and thrust of argument, reasoned argument, even if it arrived at no particularly practical conclusion, once it clarified ideas and thoughts.  And so I was involved in debates both in the Irish and English language.  At college also I was enthralled by the vibrancy of good debate, and delighted in public speaking, debating, asking questions, deepening and sharpening one's own questions and so on and so forth.  This type of thing is what makes Hillman's and Ventura's little book: We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy And The World's Getting Worse (Harper, 1993) such a good read.

Ventura acknowledges this where he admits that "what started off as me interviewing you ended up as the two of us goading each other into deeper, or at least wilder thought.  Pushing it, pushing it, like two jazz musicians trading riffs back and forth." (Op.cit., p. 56)   I believe that our author's contentions here are true of all good debate, and I love his musical analogy.  Mostly Ventura clarifies Hillman's more abstract thoughts for this writer at least.  He repeats quite clearly that their joint contention, as a result of their goading debate, is that therapy's theoretical base has simply just not gone far enough, has not really connected with the world or the collectivity out there, and that without that connection it is incapable of treating the whole individual.  Individual psychology, even family psychology is only part of the problem, indeed part of the mystery of life.  What's needed is a collective psychology or a world psychology.  Now all this may seem somewhat fanciful.  However, that is the beauty and thrill of pushing one's thoughts, of pushing one's thinking, be that in mathematics, science, literature, psychology, philosophy and even in theology.  There has to be a place for lateral thinking or "thinking outside the box."

An idea I'd throw into the mix here is one I learned from the history of psychiatry and I believe I may have learned it from one of my favourite psychiatrists Dr Anthony Storr is that the idea or notion of individuality is one that has emerged only in the last 200 years or so, and that before that human beings felt themselves to be merely integral parts of a greater community.  So, in a sense capitalism with its emphasis on private property and more and more of it, along with as much trappings of individual wealth as possible thrives on this myth of individuality.  In this regard, then, modern psychotherapy with its emphasis on the interiority of the process bolsters up the myth.  Think about it!

Pathway, Argillan Park, last Sunday.
Ventura uses examples, images and metaphors from many disparate areas: music, computing, the arts in general, paintings, films, the sheer velocity of life (and one could aptly add Toppler's notion of the acceleration of change which astonishingly dates back to the late 1960s), and drama.  Ventura mentions Jung, obviously enough as being the first to take the concept of collective psychology seriously and refers explicitly to the concepts of the collective unconscious and that of synchronicity.

In short the tenor of all these thoughts above is that we must find better and better ways to think about the collective and further to learn to differentiate between collective and individual impulses and then trace and understand their interplay. 

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