A Century of Insight

This blog is by Archie, a 21-year-old psychology undergraduate at Bournemouth University currently on his placement year.  Archie is volunteering with us, as well as with Portugal Prints – an art therapy/recovery project run by Mind. Over the coming year he will be posting a series of blogs which express his take on a variety of subjects.  The SAP is keen to give someone who is starting out as a psychologist an opportunity to share his insights and reflections.

I became inspired to study psychology after two years of studying sociology at GCSE level. I am now in my third year of undergraduate psychology and it was not until this past month that I truly understood the impact that dynamic psychotherapy and its theories has had on the field as a whole. Mainstream psychology teaching has seemed to distance itself from its roots in psychodynamic theory, and this has been done for a number reasons.

Over the course of the past century, psychologists have actively aimed to take psychology from being a ‘soft science’ to a ‘hard science’. The modern, ‘hard science’ approach leans more toward the positivist epistemological framework, meaning knowledge can only be gained from what can be observed through the scientific method – an idea the psychodynamic approach is mostly in conflict with. The scientific method cannot observe phenomena such as the ‘psyche’ or the ‘ego’ or complexes and archetypes, meaning they are not taught to students.

Objectivism is also important in modern psychology. For studies and experiments to be reliable they need to be objective, however analysis is almost entirely the opposite. For example, it is based on the transference and countertransference experienced between a person and an analyst over an extended period of time. These experiences are subjective and will change depending on the client and the analyst.

As these ideas have been ingrained into my understanding of psychology it was always going to be a struggle to read and accept the ideas of the prominent analysts of the past. Even the common practice of qualitative research is looked down upon by the majority of psychology for being too ‘soft’, so how could I wrap my head around Freud and Jung?

Century of Insight book cover

Century of Insight book cover

Well, this came down to a book: Century of Insight: The Twentieth Century Enlightenment of the Mind, written by Dr Derry MacDiarmid. MacDiarmid was a NHS Psychiatrist, Jungian Analyst and member of the Society of Analytical Psychology before he passed away in 2006. His book offers an approachable overview of the ideas, findings and theories of many of the prominent psychodynamic theorists who are sparsely taught to students. Beforehand, I knew Freud only as the ‘sexual stages guy’, Jung as the ‘metaphysical guy’ and Horney as the ‘woman who hated Freud’. I was taught that Bowlby was almost entirely wrong, yet somehow Ainsworth was predominantly correct, whilst Donald Winnicott’s name had never left my lips. The book gave me a new-found respect for many theorists and showed me how integral they were in shaping modern psychology.

It is difficult for an undergraduate psychology student to understand or agree with all the ideas proposed by the theorists in the book (often I do not), but there are countless occasions where it is clear to see just how forward thinking the theorists were and how their propositions still hold true today. I would advise any person interested in the field of psychology, especially the younger generation, to glance at this book if they get the chance.

2 thoughts on “A Century of Insight

  1. Mike Clark says:

    Hi Archie, a lot of what you say resonates deeply with my own reasons for completing a purposely scientific experiment to see if it would be possible to bridge that gap between psycho-dynamic processes (phenomenological data – as, say, in Jung’s Psychology & Alchemy, and what you’ve termed qualitative analysis) and ‘hard science’. Jung’s volume concludes that one day, physics in the form of the atom and psychology, in the form of the archetype will draw closer together as they independently converge upon transcendental territory. Quanta are today’s physics but the archetype still holds good. And my own assumption, given that in Jung’s above volume the ‘squaring of the circle’ is an a priori archetypal image (a psychic fact, not an idea) brings us immediately to mathematics and pi, which is an a priori universal constant, and perhaps more importantly here a transcendental number in whose infinite trail of decimal places we would eventually be able to reach and plot the equivalent size of quanta. Such mathematical transcendental territory it was argued – should therefore facilitate a measurable convergence of physics (quanta/atom) and archetype (squaring of circle – or even tail-eating serpent or world clock – see the dynamism in the imagery?), – Did the experiment work? In short, yes. The results are empirical and falsifiable. The data allows the perfect replication of the same experiment. Jung’s prediction came true. It’s as if ancient alchemy never died, never just transmuted into chemistry and psychology… the psycho-dynamism we began with sees it re-emerge only this time in physics and – I hope – one day in mainstream rather than the extreme periphery of analytical psychology, or even of physics. Why is it important to psychology- all of this? – because it is these same dynamic processes that are also at work in the individuation process – a matter of life and death, darkness and light, the unconscious and consciousness. My own prediction, however, is that this will probably be for the psychology of the next century – thanks mainly to Jung’s vision that left the clues on the trail to be followed. I simply carried out a scientific experiment. Ironically, ‘hard science’ (maths and physics) are yet to discover that the territory explored is actually open to re-appraisal and improved understanding, because hard science has viewed mathematical transcendental territory (such as pi) as an impenetrable fog, just as physics sees so much of the landscape of quantum dynamics obscured from view. So what begins as ‘qualitative’ psychological analysis of the phenomenology of psycho-dynamic processes – also, ironically – ends by presenting a new key to understanding transcendental mathematical territory to math and physics. Really quite simple – so imagine the resistance such ideas are going to generate…

    Good luck with the blog.

    Rgds Mike Clark MBPsS

    1. Archie Bell-Carfrae says:

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the reply and the good wishes. I’m glad my post resonated with you and generated some discussion. I would be very interested in reading your study if it is written up or published anywhere. I will be posting more blog posts over the year, so keep an eye out if you’re interested.

      All the best
      Archie

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