I stumbled over a book on psychology while rationalising our book shelves. It has several names inscribed inside the cover so that I know at least three people in this family have read and annotated various passages. I speed-read it back in the day and on seeing it again, took umbrage at phrenology, and not for the first time. Umbrage is the right word. The dark shadow beneath a tree, the shadow that represents my doubts about the foundations of the ‘science’ of psychology (and especially psychoanalysis) that followed on from the bumps of phrenology.
Psychology: The Science of Mental Life by George A Miller (Pelican 1962 reprinted 1975).
‘The ego has no energy of its own, so it steals energy from the id by a process known as identification.’ This is the kind of Freudian terminology that has always confused me.
Let me admit that the rationalisation of our books means redistribution. Redistribution really means sorting and grouping as adjunct activity while we paint the house. Not so much Dewey Decimalisation as author alphabetical with poetry and children’s books separated. And Unix separated. And health, critical essays, photography … Oh no! I think we’re simply dusting, boxing, unboxing and putting things back more or less where they were.
However, we have had some success in that we found 100 kg of neatly classified accounts and related paperwork. Much of this was from our days of running a weekend VAT service for the government, a ‘job’ so onerous that we were all happy for me to ditch self-employed consultancy and return to the ranks of the employed. The old documents have been stored beyond modern records retention rules. They have expired. It’s not quite time to visit the industrial shredder because it is sadly a couple of kilometres beyond our current Covid halo.
Psychology is eating away at me.
‘Phrenologists not only constructed long lists of mental faculties, they located them on various parts of the skull. This attempted classification was a forerunner of the lists of instincts that psychologists adopted.’
Psychology is really annoying me.
‘The process of investigating instinctual energy is called cathexis. The id only has cathexes, but the ego and superego can use the energy at their disposal in either of two ways, for cathexis or anticathexis.’
The founding father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud may have been a celebrity but from today’s point of view, his theories don’t survive the kinds of statistical analysis that legitimatise science. Psychoanalysis – it seems his whole life is becoming a fraudian slip.
There’s a good read here on Wikipedia Phrenology.
I’ve been interested in the human brain for a long time. I’m not qualified to have an expert opinion so I use this journal series to share some first hand user experiences.