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Modern psychology is predominantly one of linear relationships and evidence-based approaches. We have grown suspicious of subjective experiences, however powerful, that cannot be quantifiable. We distrust the language of reverence, intuition, and mystical connection. Clients are provided treatment plans and medications and 8 sessions to feel better. In today’s model of managed care and quick fixes, there is little room for a soul’s journey through psychic pain and finding solace and new possibilities in a new season.

One of the reasons for psychology’s split from the subjective and psychic reality has been the attempt to make the field more scientific, and thus legitimize our work. But with the fast changing environment and shifting of the ground beneath us, how do we today define the borders of this field? With new personal connections and changing borders influenced largely by technology (refer to Connection in 140 Characters or Less), how can we establish the limits of psychology?

Through the lens of Depth Psychology, to grasp disorders in any subject we must study the environment of the disorder. Symptoms are viewed in the context of an individual’s culture, ecology and social status as well as relational and physical influences. Depression, for instance, would be viewed not only as a description of one’s mood, but it may refer to a natural response to the manic condition of one’s surroundings. The jammed freeway on which we commute on, the cubicle where we spend hours daily doing work that feels inauthentic, the modern subdivision where we sleep, can be just as important as repressed memories and traumatic reactions. James Hillman, a Jungian analyst and originator of post-Jungian “archetypal psychology”, has stated: “alterations in the external world may be as therapeutic as changes in my subjective feelings.”
As long as we cannot differentiate where “me” ends and “you” begins, treatment of the inner requires attention to the outer. How do I differentiate myself? Is it with my skin or behavior? How many of you have spent time with a depressed or anxious friend, only to find yourself in a negative mood? Or after being confined to your desk or a computer screen for hours and feeling exhausted and out of balance?

As human lives become increasingly structured by mechanical means, the psyche restructures itself to survive. As fresh food gets replaced by fast food, spiritual connection moves from nature to inside church buildings, participation in community is defined as the number of online friends, the psyche finds temporary satisfaction in secondary sources like drugs, violence, food, sex, and material possessions and thus the addictive process is born.

I believe today we are experiencing change on both the personal and collective level. Our need for an economical overhaul, educational reform, corporate restructuring and alternative sources of energy, all bring forth our collective desire to make space for community and nature in our lives. Perhaps then we will no longer need addictions to numb us from pain and feed our momentary desire for belonging.

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11 Responses to “A Collective Pathology”

  1. Kathy Peres says:

    I have not worked in a psychology practice for the past fifteen years, but as a retired feminist therapist the notion of context and psychopathology was centralto the work I did. A feminist analysis allows one to understand the functions of social status and oppressions on the individual and to help the individual understand their own process through that lens. I am less likely to view the patterns of an individual as psychopathology and more likely to view them as reactions to the world in which they live than are many psychotherapists. Thanks for sharing your blog, Rashin.

    • rashin says:

      Hi Kathy, I wish more psychotherapists thought in the way you've outlined for us. Pathology is inaccurate if it's not viewed in the context of one's social environment. Thanks for reading and offering your feedback.

  2. Brad White says:

    Beautifully and efficiently written Rashin.

    The global community effect is accelerating rapidly, affecting our perception of what is to be expected and accepted. As technology increases, we will expect easier and more convenient solutions to arise, as well as bigger and better distractors. How will this affect the individual and collective psyche? It will be fascinating to see how the next 5, 10, 15 years unfold. :]

    • rashin says:

      We will be there to witness the unfolding and hopefully play a positive role in how the collective psyche is impacted. That's why we are studying at Pacifica, to gain the tools we need. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Very good points made here. To boil it down further: one could say that there are only three ways in which mental illness can occur in anyone:
    1) They are in a toxic environment or situation that prevents them meeting their emotional needs,
    2) They have not learned how to use their innate resources correctly to meet their emotional needs.
    3) They suffer from a genetic, biological or trauma based condition that prevents or damages their capacity to use resources to meet their needs.

    • rashin says:

      This is a good way to show the importance of environment as well as biological factors and learned behavior. It is not the nature vs. nurture, but nature, nurture and a toxic environment. Thanks for your feedback!

  4. Michael Grubb says:

    Very nice post, Rashin. This reminds me that scientific psychology is well and good, but I think applying the scientific method to individual people is like trying to do chemistry with individual molecules or physics with individual atoms or subatomic particles. There are tendencies one can experimentally determine (such as the "laws of Gestalt"), but ultimately the lone individual is not predictable or comprehensible in a deterministic way. This is in part because the individual always exists in a context: social systems, a culture, interpersonal relations, personal history, physical surroundings, bodily sensations, and more. Clinical psychology then is more of an art and a craft, or at least indistinguishable from them. In some ways, the arts are clinical therapy for the culture. The question for us in the arts and throughout the culture is, will we engage with each other responsibly, with awareness, choice and compassion? Which is a roundabout way of agreeing with your point (and Hillman's) that the outer and the inner are one, or should be, when looked at through a depth psychological lens. When I consider going to a movie, I ask myself, does my psyche need this right now? When I post to social media, I ask myself, does the world soul need this right now? My answers may be wrong, but it is important to ask the question. Peace and blessings, — Michael

    • rashin says:

      Awesome comment Michael! You've put it down beautifully. I think it would benefit us all on a collective level if we asked ourselves these same questions. Thank you for reading and offering your feedback.

  5. Jennifer Sandoval says:

    What you are saying is so important, especially regarding 'listening' to the symptom for its wisdom and guidance rather than blindly trying to eradicate it. Your points about our blind faith in technology and empirical science (where all the funding is!) reminds me of an excerpt from D.H.Lawrence in one of Hillman's books (called Suicide and the Soul):
    “I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
    And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly,
    that I am ill.
    I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep
    emotional self
    and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only
    time can help
    and patience, and a certain difficult repentance
    long, difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake, and
    the freeing oneself
    from the endless repetition of the mistake
    which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.”
    It seems that this "endless mistake…which mankind has chosen to sanctify" is the idea that you are talking about, Rashin – the belief that you and I are split and separate from one another and the world via matter and space, and somehow independent and unaffected by each other and the world. Wonderful article, thank you!

    • rashin says:

      Thank you for the quote Jen, and the wonderful comment. It is unfortunate how much funding is being given to research that "proves" theories that end up meaningless at the end. Do we really need proof that we are all affected by one another and the world in which we live in?

  6. […] of separating our symptoms, both physical and psychological, from the environment (refer to Collective Pathology). Today I’d like to pose the following questions to […]

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