Thursday, September 15, 2011

Black & White, Nature vs. Nurture Debate & Sigmund Freud

Well, I've gotten Side Tracked from my Swedenborg Series (the Next Two Posts Below).  I was going to do Three or Four Posts on him, but Only Ended Up doing two.  There may be more Later, yet for now, I'm Focused on Sigmund Freud and am Amazed to what Extent People who Write about these Historical Figures are Black and White in their Thinking.  For example, why do People Think that when it comes to Nature vs. Nurture, we have to Settle for one or the other and that it can't be a little of both.

This Post is sort of a Critique of an Article that I've read about Sigmund Freud.  Here is the Link to the Article that I'm now Responding to.  It covers all sorts of things relating to Sigmund Freud, yet if you Found this Post by way of a Web Search and are Primarily interested in the Nature vs. Nurture Debate, please feel Freed to Skip Down to the Part that contains the Heading "Black & White Thinking in the Article (Nature vs. Nurture)".  To Answer the Very First of your Questions, though, Freud's Focus was Very Strongly on Nurture.

The Author of said Article is Anti-Freud & Anti-Nurture.
I Wonder if it will Surprise the Friend who gave me this Link, to Realize that when I Read it all the way through to the End, what I mainly saw was Bias and Black and White Thinking.  I'm not even Particularly a Lover of Freud, yet I still Found the Final Conclusions in this Article to be Excessively Anti-Freud, or Actually more Specifically, Anti-Nurture in relation to the Nature vs. Nurture Debate.

The Positives Relating to Freud
In the First Part of the Article, a lot of Freud's Ideas are Explained and Only Some of them are Argued against.  For Example, the Article Admits that "Most People, including many who Reject other Elements of Freud's Work, Accept the Claim that Part of the Mind is Unconscious and that People Often Act for Reasons of which they are not Conscious."  The Article Actually calls Freud's Idea about the Unconscious "A Ground Breaking Idea".

The Article also says that the Idea that the Mind is not a Monolithic or Homogeneous thing Continues to have Enormous Influence on People Outside of Psychology.

Ok, so the Id, Ego & Super Ego has been Questioned and Rejected by some and Freud is Criticized for giving too much Importance to One or the other of these Factors, yet his Contributions to the Field of Psychology were Significant and can not be Discounted so Easily.

The Negatives
The Main Conflict has always been Relating to Freud's Over Emphasis on Sex as the Motivator of all Creative and Productive Behavior.  The Fact that Freud Expanded his Sexual Idea to Include all of our Creative Instincts and the Idea that Children are Sexual Beings has been Under Attack since the Very Beginning and his Idea of the Sexual Instinct and the Death Instinct has been Challenged as well.  Ideas such as the Oedipus conflict; Oral, Annal & Phallic Fixations, as well as Penis Envy (Another one that was not Mentioned in the Article) were all Controversial from the Start.  Freud was just Plain too Focused on Sex, to the Exclusion of other Social Motivators and I would Add Intellectual Motivators as well.  This Part of the Conflict is in No Way New.  These Ideas were Rejected by Most Psychologists a Really Long Time Ago.

It also doesn't Surprise me to Read that some Guy named Lydiard H. Horton Claimed that Freud's Dream Theory was "Dangerously Inaccurate".

Towards the end of the Linked Article, the Author was quite Negative, Making all Kinds of Generalized Negative Statements against Freud's Over All Theory, Research and Practice and "a Large Majority of Freud's Work".

Freud's Model and Theory of the Mind and his Basic Methods and Theories are Rejected by Some Clinical Psychologists and by Most Experimental Psychologists and Psychiatrists.  Many Clinical Psychologists, though, have Modified his Approach and Still Use it.

When the Article begins to talk about Freud's Psychological Theories being "Hotly Disputed Today", that he is Regarded as a Charlatan by some, that Psychiatry and Psychology has been "Recast as Scientific Disciplines", that his Influence is Lessening in Psychiatry and that his Theories have been Repudiated and Replaced by the Ideas of Emil Kaepelin, some of the Positives that were said earlier in the Article seem to have been Forgotten.

Back to the Positives
What about the "Ground Breaking" Idea about the Unconscious Mind and how it Influences Behavior; an Idea that Most People do still accept?  And What about the Idea that the Mind is not Homogenius or Monolithic?  And What about the Fact that Some Clinical Psychologists have Modified Freud's Approach and Developed a Variety of Models and Therapies that are Similar?  And What about the Fact that even many of those who have Rejected his "Model of the Mind" have still Adopted Elements of his Therapeutic Methods and that even the Use of "Talking as a Form of Therapy" is Accredited to Freud?  And What about the Fact that some People, even Today, still Seek Out Freud's method of Psychoanalysis as Part of a Process of Self-Discovery?  Also, What about his Research in Relation to Cerebral Palsy, in that he disagreed with William Little about the cause of it and that his Opinion is the One that was Confirmed by Research in the 1980s?  Yes, Freud was the One who Discovered that Birth Complications were a Symptom, not the Cause of Cerebral Palsy.

Ok, so Most of Psychiatrists and Psychologists Today Reject Traditional Freudian Psychoanalysis the way it was Originally done, yet what about all the Positives?  This Article Appears to be Throwing the Baby Out with the Bath Water.  For Example, the Article Mentions how Experimental Psychologists and Psychiatrists Often Rely more on Drugs then on Talk in their Treatments and this is True, yet Considering all of the Negative Side Effects of these Drugs, the Total Emphasis on Drugs is way more Negative, than Positive.  Talking has never Stopped being a Good Idea, even to those Clinical Psychologists who have Rejected Freud's Model of the Mind.

Black & White Thinking in the Article (Nature vs. Nurture)
So what was it about this Article that I found to be inappropriately Black and White?  Well, the Statement "Freud's Notion that the Child's Relationship to the Parents is Responsible for Everything from Psychiatric Disorders to Criminal Behavior has also been Discredited." is Only True because of the Word Everything.  Never Mind, though, that the Suggestion that "Everything" is the Result of Genetics is just as Inaccurate.  Ok, so maybe we shouldn't always "Blame-the-Parents" for "Eveything", yet what I've Found to be Equally True is that Continually Blaming Oneself isn't Helpful either and also, to Suggest that Genetics and Biology Explains "Everything" and that there is no such thing as the Influence of Nurture is no more Accurate than the Opposite Extreme.

Just because there were many Decades, in which "Genetic and Biological Causes of Psychiatric Disorders were Dismissed without Scientific Investigation" does not Justify now Dismissing the Nurture Part of the Equation.

Yes, it is well established that Genetic and Biological Factors have a Great Influence on Human Development and Behavior and Sure, Psychiatric Disorders are Generally Considered Diseases of the Brain whose Etiology is Principally Genetic and many such Diseases have been Demonstrated to be Impervious to Psychoanalysis, yet none of that means that there is no such thing as Nurture.  Or that Nurture has no Influence what-so-ever.

To Use the Controversy Over the Excessive Sexual Focus of Sigmund Freud to Push the Idea of Genetic Influences, at the Exclusion of Equally Important Nurture Influences is Absurd.

The Only Reason that the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual" or the "American Psychiatric Association" Reflects the Neo-Kraelinian Scientific-Biological Approach to Psychiatric Disorders is because Psychiatry has always been the Biological and Nature Branch of PsychologyClinical Psychology is still alive and well, though, and is still Focused on Nurture, just as much as Psychiatry is on Nature and their Focus is on Talking, rather then Drugs.

It almost sounds as if the Author of the Linked Article is Holding some Kind of a Grudge because Biological and Genetic Etiologies were "Largely Ignored during the Earlier Freud-Dominated Decade of the Twentieth Century".

Anyway, though this Article Mentioned a Number of Positives at the Beginning, the Concluding thoughts were Excessively Negative and made it sound as if all of Freud's Ideas are Under Attack, rather then just a few of them, and that even Believing in Nurture and not just Nature is an Idea of the Past, but such a Suggestion is not at all True.

The Scientifically Observable & the Non-Scientifically Observable
One Last Black and White Thought is this one...

"Proponents of Science conclude that this Invalidates Freudian Theory and Proponents of Freud conclude that this Invalidates Science."  

Just because Freud Claimed that many of our Conscious Thoughts and Actions are Motivated by Unconscious Fears and Desires, this does not mean that this Invalidates Science.  Oh Come On!  Statements Like this sort of cause me to Shake my Head.  Why does it have to be One or the Other?  How does the Existence of Something that can not be Directly Observed and Studied Scientifically Invalidate that which can be Observed and Studied?  And how does that which can be Directly Observed and Studied Invalidate that which can not be?  Why is it so hard to Imagine that both the Observable and the Non-Observable are True Realities, that that which can be Studied Scientifically and that which can not be can both be Valid Realities and that both Nature and Nurture Exist and Interact with each Other and Why are some People so Very Very Blind to the Idea of NOT One of the Other, but Both?

I just don't get it.  Black and White Thinking is so Prevalent on the Web these days that I Wonder sometimes if True Reasoning has been Totally Lost.