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Junk psychology (II)


"Typically the parenting style is characterized by hostility and deficient parental modelling. Or the parents might have provided such good modelling that the child could not or refused to live up to the high parental standards”.


That statement is from a supplementary handbook for the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) “the Bible of mental health” that tells psychotherapists how to deal with personality disorders—in this case “anti-social personality disorder” (aka psychopathy). The statement violates the law of the excluded middle.


This logical rule means that statements should either be wholly true or wholly false. What the statement effectively says is “The typical parenting style is characterized by hostility and deficient parental modelling and also by parenting that provides such good modelling that the child could not or refused to live up to the high parental standards.”


The statements need to be split into two hypotheses—then each one needs to be tested to see if it is supported by evidence. In the interim, it would be more helpful not to put the two sentences in at all because both sentences provide no information. It’s like if I said to you, “Mr. Brown, your heart attack was caused by the fact you didn’t exercise enough, on the other hand it was brought on by your regular jogging round the park.” ???? Thanks, Doc.


To include the statement above in the handbook causes active damage, because it means the professionals (sic) who read it will parrot either statement, as convenient, to themselves, to their colleagues, to their clients—to their family (and, worse, to journalists). Cruel Mums Spawn Psychos—a potential headline in The Daily Mail, after an interview with a consultant psychotherapist (of course).


So, you know, someone who was properly scientifically trained, not someone with a degree in African Studies, like me, would leave the statement out—and say “we don’t know what parenting has to do with anti-social personality disorder, actually” (Socrates got this, over 2,000 years ago).


The previous post notwithstanding, I do think there are things like “defence mechanisms” and “coping strategies”—it’s just I don’t think they belong to the realm of natural science. I think, like Freudianism itself, from which these derive, that these are metaphors for processes in the mind—Freud created a mythology, and its gods were “ego”, “superego”, and “id”. He was like Kepler, who started to talk about “the Sun as God the Father” to develop heliocentrism, but didn’t have a true a scientific account mapped out yet.


CG Jung was actually more scientific than Freud, though many would say he was less so. He was more scientific because he realised that Freud had developed a mythology and so ran with it (he also realised that the dualism inherent in Freudian psychology made it impossible for it to be a real science).

So Jung just shifts fully back into a mythological reference frame for the psyche, which was basically religious—which was the appropriate conclusion to draw from Freud’s work (it was the scientifically honest conclusion to draw, whereas Freud continued to portray his new religion as a natural science—which it never was).


Incidentally, when I read Marx’s comments on the Jews the other day I had an epiphany about Freud. Marx mentions that religious Jews even have very elaborate rules for the toilet—and it suddenly hit me that that was where Freud got his “anal stage” from, the obsession with toilet training as being vital to personality formation (and also his association of money with shit).

It was just the Jewish religion, the prohibitions on the toilet, transferred into the idiom of 19th-century natural science (and, of course, the Freudian obsession with the Oedipal complex is due to the notorious “Jewish mother”—all-enveloping, dominating, castrating). So Freudianism was really Judaism recreated in a new form, just shorn of God. As I say, Freud did notice real things about the human psyche—it’s just he wasn’t doing science, and he wasn’t transparent about that.


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