Unpublished letter on psychology, Procrustes and the Ptolemaic universe

Reply, Guardian Weekly

26th March 2013

Dear gentleperson

May I add an ex-client’s perspective on the industry to Keith Laws’ ‘It’s time for psychologists to put their house in order’( 8 March)?

I’d been in lifegiving therapy with a skilful, compassionate psychologist for three years, before I realised how much energy I was expending in order to be not corralled into her paradigm. If my lived experience, in all its muddled, mysterious and labyrinthine ecology, didn’t fit her scientifically justified system, then it kept being excluded.

A template which promised liberation was in fact based on subordinating others to itself. Expedience was trumping truth. I was in the presence of Procrustes, the giant of Greek legend who had only one bed, which he lopped tall guests and racked short ones till they fitted. I began to understand what it might be like to belong to an indigenous population whose self-definition is usurped by colonising, pontificating, reductionist experts.

The experiments on which psychological praxis is based are conducted almost entirely among the WEIRD (Western educated industrialised rich democratic) subset that makes up just 8% of the global population, with most of the guinea-pigs being psychology undergraduates. Is psychology, with its insistence on left-brained, reasoned, scientifically validated data, in fact imprisoned in a Ptolemaic world-view?

One of the issues I’d been most struggling with during therapy was how to break free from power misused, and how to use it wisely and well myself. When I challenged my psychologist with the ways I felt she was controlling me, she was so trapped in dogma that in order to save her own skin, she had to sacrifice mine, and I was excommunicated.

The more I plumb my psyche the vaster it becomes. As yet there are no instruments capable of measuring it. We accept the mind-boggling facts of 21st century cosmology; that we live in a multiverse, many dimensions folded in on each other; that humans are midway in size between the universe itself and the smallest sub-atomic particle; that what we see, what light discloses, is 0.05% of what actually exists. Might it be that our awesome, mostly unknown physical universe is mirrored by an even more unknown and equally vast metaphysical dimension? Do we know as little of our psyches, as we once knew of the TB bacillus or a Higg’s boson? My lived experience suggests the answer is yes. ‘Psyche’ after all means both soul and butterfly.









One response to “Procrustes

  1. this is very interesting. thanks for that will. we need more sites this way. i recommend you on your great content and excellent topic selections.

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