After doing some light reading on philosophy, I realized that my lifelong search for the truth in the form of the truest knowledge of people and the world could be considered the philosopher’s mission.In my admittedly anemic reading of the Oxford introduction to On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietszche’s rejection of science pushed my mind into action to see that he views truth as the pursuit of artists, the catalyst of my thought that perhaps science is merely another religion by way of rejection of religion. I had never articulated it before, but I do believe that art is more truthful than science.
One particular field strikes me as falling folly to the religion of science, that of psychology. It is a study of the human mind, a living organ in its own right. For the longest time, there have been plenty of folk who find the study of the mind to be a sham. Many cultures find certain aspects of psychology to be either nonsensical (and thusly not worthy of respect) or self-absorbed. To many people, the value of psychoanalysis is questionable. In fact, some consider psychology to fall short of the mark of a true science, relegating it to the status of pseudoscience.
The field of psychology appears to have made efforts to gain respect and acceptance in the scientific community. The creation of the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D) degree is an appeal to the egos of the psychology community, an attempt to establish its credibility as a science.
But any grounded professional will tell you that there are no hard answers and no laws in psychology, only tendencies. There will always be aberrations and deviations from the norm, if one could establish a norm in the abnormal. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is rife with errors in its assumptions and rigid criteria. In fact, the creation of the DSM is in itself another attempt to gain the respect of scientific community.
Take for example cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). As I understand it, evidence-based therapies like CBT are gaining momentum as the status quo for those seeking mental health care on an HMO’s dime; the reasoning being that it can be planned and structured in order to deliver results within a given timeframe (i.e. within a set number of sessions). CBT, focusing on tangibles and observable behavior, is more scientifically oriented.
I am not discounting the value of the sciences, but the truth is that psychology, like anything that is delightfully complex, is farmorean art than it is a science. I find that it’s a mistake to try to assert so much scientific method to something that is inherently intuitive and intangible. In the digital/analog paradigm, psychology is definitely analog. The conversion of psychology into a science is the conversion of an analog waveform into digital bits and bytes: there will be a loss of quality in the translation. We ascribe so much importance to hard numbers and science in this day and age. It’s no wonder that psychology is being made to fit into such values. But what if psychology were treated as more of an art?
Take for example the art of design. Even in the creative world of design, there are rules and guidelines that are defined by numbers. Typography follows certain conventions based on ratios. The rule of thirds in the visual arts is a rough guideline to follow when composing an image. Beauty can at times be ascribed to Da Vinci’s golden ratio. All of these rules aid an artist in creating aesthetically pleasing images. Yet there surely are beautiful works that do not follow these rules.
So perhaps psychology should not be confined to the hard and fast rules, laws, and theorems of the sciences. I believe that those who are practitioners of psychology (i.e. those who actively engage clients in the mental health industry) should aspire to become more than someone who abides strictly by the text in their books. Rather, the field of psychology should be viewed as one in which the craft is governed not by academics but by practitioners; not a science, but an art.
It is in these beliefs that I posit that psychotherapists are like artists. There are those who are talented: the ones whose intuition and beautiful clarity of vision guide their clients down a path of self-discovery and mental and spiritual healing. And then there are those who are terrible: the ones who are clueless, limited by their education.
Because I deem psychology to be an art, I find it appropriate to say that it is a field where true success lies greatly in talent. As with anything worth pursuing, there will undoubtedly be those who are attracted to the profession despite their talents lying elsewhere. It is akin to those who wish to become a musician or a painter or any other creative professional. Few people actually have the talent necessary to be any good at their desired pursuit.
But what exactly is talent? This I will cover in a different piece that I have also been working on.