Two years ago I came across an article that I will share with you now. It is titled, "Freud or Fraud?" by MercatorNet. It came out shortly after Freud's 150th birthday in May 2006. The article is an interview with psychologist Gerard Van den Aardweg who has been in practice since 1963. Certainly long enough in the field of psychology to know the field.
My research into the theories of Freud began about eight years ago. What stimulated my research was my curiosity as to whether or not Freud's theories were compatible with Christianity since it seems that pop Christian psychology has thrown itself head-long into Freudian theories even while secular psychology at large has distanced itself from many of Freud's often...shall I say insane...ideas.
One of the aspects of this interview/article that I found intriguing (and relevant to the subject matter of my blog) was the description of some of Freud's character traits. I have excerpted below the more negative descriptions of Freud as a person for your particular perusal. Who this man was as a person is very relevant to his theories on human psychology. The character of a man devising a new way of thinking about the human mind is completely relevant. This is a man who claimed that the human mind is the cure to the ills of the human mind. And that this cure is effected through talk. So let's look at the evidences of his mind, shall we?
He presented himself as having the answers to the problems of living devoid of any spiritual context. He was not bashful in making it clear that he intended to demolish Christianity with his theories. This is relevant to Christians. There is particular peril in adopting the theories of a man who was antagonistic to the very belief system, Christianity, that you claim to believe in.
Dr. Van den Aardweg makes this statement which I know is the truth from my own extensive and independent research on this point:
he presented his “discoveries” as a doctrine of salvation promising to free the mind -- and even mankind as a whole -- from its troubles, and posed as a great prophet, on the same level as Copernicus and Darwin."Doctrine of salvation". Precisely. This belief often infects those who accept his theories. They, too, talk of the salvation only found on the couch with heaping servings of self-focus. This is why I was particularly alarmed when I saw the "ministry" of two psychologists in my Christian denomination making overt statements that their Freudian-based theories and exercises were essential to salvation, both temporal and eternal. An augmentation of the Gospel itself. You know...the part God forgot to mention (though they didn't say it that way it was the logical conclusion if you followed their lines of thought). What inevitably happens when someone tries to meld pop psychology "salvation" with Christian beliefs on salvation is that the Christian beliefs take a back seat to the psychology. They are competing doctrines, not complimentary belief systems.
I have pointed out on this blog the conclusions of some of the most well-respected researchers into the character-disordered that psychology and its therapies make the character-disordered worse. Not better. Quantifiably worse. This conclusion is based on the scientific approach of observation, not on antipathy toward psychology as a body of thought. These doctor/researchers are within the psych community and tried to apply the doctrines of psychology on their subjects only to be defeated and befuddled time and again. They came to recognize the need for a new basis of thinking where it concerns the disordered character. They were forced to conclude that psychology was missing some huge and important pieces of the disordered human mind puzzle. This is quite a revelation and admission considering that the field of psychology is specifically supposed to know how to deal with disordered minds. "Mental health" is their venue, yet when confronted with the "unhealthiest" among us psychology is seriously out-gunned. Largely clueless. Dysfunctional.
It is logical to conclude that the theories of Freud, and the derivatives of his theories as they've been morphed over the decades, are lacking in some essential realities concerning the psychology of the most disturbed minds among us. These are very minds psychology lays claim to the right to diagnose and treat. My research into the subject of psychology as a science has proven to me beyond all doubt that the majority of the field of psychology is not science. It is art at best. It is guesswork. It is philosophy. To quote Van den Aardweg, "The whole field of personality psychology and psychotherapy is chaotic and still highly experimental." Emphasis mine. (I think he is being gentle in his assessment.) His is a statement of fact that is easy enough to perceive even with a cursory examination of the field. This "chaos" and "highly experimental" state of the field after 150 years is a powerful argument against psychology being science, in my opinion. Held up against the continued and remarkable advancements of the hard (as in real) sciences in that same period we see the proof against the claim of the psych field being classified as being part of the sciences. The continued chaos and literally thousands of lines of thought in this field with there being little unity of opinion is little different from other areas of human philosophy. It resembles religion in its fundamentals much more than it resembles science.
I do not believe Freud was a malignant narcissist because I've not seen any proof of that, but what has emerged is a picture of a very self-centered man with strong narcissistic traits. I think this must be considered when you are basing your assumptions off of his theories of the human mind. How likely is it that a man with a demonstrated penchant for fanciful interpretations of reality was able to divine the essence, the truth, of human psychology? How is it that a man who could tolerate no dissent from his opinions was able to form a comprehensive and accurate view of universal human thought, motive and action from the machinations of his mind alone? How is it that his desire to throw out millennia of human wisdom based on a historical understanding of humanity, a desire which motivated all his theories, is now the right basis of understanding? What about his own personal delusions of grandeur?
With this preamble please read the descriptions below of the man who is the grandfather of modern psychology. A man who with all his years of self-analysis never managed to change even himself let alone others. A man who must be understood in light of his being "exceptionally self-willed, proud and arrogant". The tendency of society and culture has been that of accelerated declension, not enlightenment. In this modern age of post-Freudian psychology we cannot point to a society filled with happy, balanced, moral and productive people. The claims of psychology fall flat in the face of reality. When tested against the most destructive and devious among us, the malignant narcissists, psychology is exposed. All they have is the prescription pad or refusing to 'treat' these human predators.
In the end people only change when they determine to do the hard work following honest introspection. That some people are able to use the devices of the couch to accomplish this doesn't validate psychology as being science. Nor does it prove that psychology cures anything. The dusty pages of history prove the determination and grit of the human spirit when it reaches higher than itself to accomplish that which is difficult. Rising above nature is what gives dignity and spirituality to humanity. Freud and his intellectual offspring tend to encourage the baser drives of our natures because it chooses to ignore the spiritual aspect of humanity. Whatever is "natural" is considered good. This type of philosophy degenerates into the "law of the jungle" and "survival of the fittest". Morality is the first casualty of Freud's philosophies.
I have only copied most of the article's descriptions of the man that was Freud. I encourage you to follow the link to read the whole article in context. I want to state upfront that my 'take' on this article is not that of the author or interviewee of the article. I do not want to misrepresent their views. The views in this post are mine.
"...Freud seduced readers with his brilliant style."
"...he presented his “discoveries” as a doctrine of salvation promising to free the mind -- and even mankind as a whole -- from its troubles, and posed as a great prophet, on the same level as Copernicus and Darwin. So he had the charisma of a guru. A profound thinker, however, he was not, neither as a psychologist nor as a philosopher. What he proclaimed sounded thrilling, especially of course the sexual stuff, but it was not at all “deep”, even though it is known as “depth psychology”. Mostly it consists of far-fetched fantasies, several of which are positively bizarre."
"Throughout his life he remained immaturely attached to his mother in an ambivalent way. As a boy, he could not make friends and felt disliked by them."
"Freud was a neurotic and cynical man, probably somewhat feminine, a chronic complainer who felt all his life that he was an unrecognised genius and a victim of a hostile world. He was an outsider who was angry with society. He was very self-centred; in his relations with friends he had to dominate; he could not tolerate dissent from his views -- which is actually the reaction of a person who feels that he has not been accepted."
"Incidentally, you cannot understand Freud if you do not see that he was exceptionally self-willed, proud and arrogant."
"Here is a curious thing. Freud pretended to be very accurate in his observations and descriptions, but in fact it was often a mix of observation and fantasy. That has been solidly proven by now."
"Patients he described as cured turned out on later examination not to have been cured at all. Studies of the effects of analytic methods, which are often hardly really Freudian any more, do not support them. Talking and analysing does not change people. One of the first disciples of Feud, sexologist Wilhelm Stekel, long ago remarked that “if psychoanalysis does not find something new, it is doomed”. And Freud never managed to change himself despite all his self-analysis."
I have been upfront on this blog that my opinion of psychology as a body of thought is a skeptical one at best. The studies that have been done by the psych community to judge itself have consistently disproven its theories and opinions of itself and its efficacy in helping people. These studies are usually buried and hidden. The few honest and outspoken critics which have arisen from psychologists and psychiatrists inside the hallowed halls of the "mind sciences" are buried under an avalanche of media driven pop psych drivel which is far more attractive to people than the harsh realities these honest few have tried to bring to the fore.
Do I believe that all that falls under the label of psychology is non-scientific? No. Some research adheres to basic scientific approaches which means it stays away from speculative and unprovable theories. Science is only science when it is based on what is observable, when it can be tested and proven or disproven, the results of such tests being reproducible. An untestable theory is not science. An unprovable hypothesis is of no scientific value. When psychology confines itself to observing and describing human behavior it can be rightly called science. When psychology then delves into speculation, surmising and assignation of values it can't prove -- it has left science. It is now philosophy. Please learn to recognize when psychology is being scientific and when it is being philosopher. This explains why I am willing to use the psychological label of NPD: because it is based on a description of observable behaviors. This means it is a label based on observable behavioral fact.
I'm sure there are many who will want to attest to the wonders of psychology in helping them. You are certainly entitled to that opinion and I won't attempt to argue you out of it even though I would love to give you the credit for any positive changes you've made. What I am attempting to get you all to consider is that this body of thought is naked and helpless when forced to go up against the malignant personalities among us. This fact may very well be attributable to its founder, Freud, who himself was a very flawed man. Believing he had all the answers, his fantastical theories were transmogrified into science by sheer force of personality. He was openly antagonistic to Christianity in particular as he mocked God's ability to change or spiritually benefit human beings, yet his own theories couldn't even change himself. This must not be overlooked. Freud demonstrated many of the hallmarks of a charlatan. But because he presented a humanist theory that "intellectuals" were receptive to, his ideas gained ascendancy in the halls of academe and professional offices. And even though psychology has shifted and morphed from Freud's founding ideas his spirit still pervades. I am hoping you will seriously question psychology as having the answers for humanity's problems of living. When your common sense collides with it...please, go with your common sense.
A good definition of common sense is, 'wisdom which comes from being dedicated to reality and therefore ignores all that conflicts with reality'. Common sense discards the speculative in favor of pragmatism. I have much more respect for the hard-earned experiences and observations of people like you and me who have been in the trenches with the narcissist than I do for silly little theories which tend to turn the abuser into the victim. Any theory that does that is a fancily dressed-up turd, not science.
Do I believe there are good psychologists out there who have tangibly helped people? Absolutely. Interestingly, studies have shown time and again that the success levels of psychologists is much more correlated with their ability to emotionally connect with the patient rather than with education levels. In fact, studies have also revealed an inverse relationship between levels of education in the psych doc and how well they help their patients. More education does not equal better care. Interesting, no? Some studies have pitted regular college students against trained professionals in counselling people. Guess which group got better results consistently? Yeah, the college students. What keeps being revealed by these internal studies is that the elements of friendship and common sense are the essential ingredients in helping people get past their problems of living. So, in this age where so many are isolated and haven't got a good friend, psychologists can certainly fill this gap. You can pay for the benefits of friendship by hiring a shrink...assuming, of course, you can find a therapist you "click" with. It is clear from examination of multiple studies done by and for the psych field is that having a good friend who will be truthful with you is worth a handful of therapists.
When the narcissist in your life puts the screws to you to keep on keeping on by pointing to their being in therapy... run, don't walk. A narcissist in therapy is a narcissist who is honing all their powers of manipulation. They'll come out of it a more skilled narcissist. One that you'll find harder to deal with because she'll use all the right psych buzz words and 'feeling' phrases to anchor your feet in cement. She will have glombed onto the wonderful psych theories that make her the victim and you the abuser. She will point to her 'hurt' feelings as proof of the damage you are doing to her poor, poor self. Or she will use her childhood misfortunes to excuse her bad behavior and her abuse of you.
The medical profession has the motto, "First, do no harm". I wish this could be said to be case with the mind 'sciences'. There are far too many therapists who lack the wisdom or the will to hold a narcissist's feet to the fire. The rare narcissist who goes into therapy will shop around until they find the therapist who will only tell them what they want to hear. How is being suckered by a narcissist, or choosing to just accommodate the narcissist, doing no harm when we consider the long line of victims in the narcissist's wake? An empowered narcissist, one who is finding 'affirmation' for what they are and what they do, is a danger to society. Yet psychology seems immune to shouldering any of the blame for making dangerously selfish individuals even more committed to their selfishness and their destructive agendas toward their fellow man. Well, at least here on my blog, they will shoulder that responsibility to some appreciable extent.
"In general, few people are really interested in proving or disproving a theory if they like it for one reason or another. Most trendy ideologies are not based on scientific fact." Gerard Van den Aardweg, interview with Mercatornet.
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. 1 Tim. 6:20,21