This is the first part of a multi-part series criticizing the theory and profession of psychology. I will also be criticizing the related field of psychiatry.
While many of his specific theories have fallen out of favor, modern psychology ultimately descends from the thoughts of Sigmund Freud. While the details of psychology’s origin are somewhat complicated, the simple version is this. With the coming of the enlightenment and the scientific revolution, and the successful (prima facie anyway) description of the natural world in terms of strictly mechanistic explanations, according to rigorous mathematical equations, some people wondered if the human mind could also be thus explained.
The result of this wondering was Freudian theory, the idea that our various emotional reactions and feelings are the result of repressed desires and fears, that supposedly exert a sort of pressure on our minds. Chief among these repressed desires and fears, on Freudian theory, was his belief that as children boys develop s desire to commit incest with their mothers, and a fear that they will be castrated by their fathers, which desire and fear later become repressed. As s compliment to this, was the practice of psychoanalysis, whereby a person educated in how the human mind supposedly works could help liberate people from their complexes by bringing their repressed fears and desires to the surface, where they could be confronted head on.
Now, let’s consider the problem with this. Leaving aside the plain absurdity of things like the Oedipus Complex, the principle of suppressed desires and fears is demonstrably absurd in itself. Because after all, what is a desire but something you want? And wanting is s conscious act, this the notion of non-conscious desires is absurd. By the same token, fear is something which troubles your mind with worry. But again, what sense does non-conscious fear make? If I’m not aware of something, I can’t be afraid of it.
Now, modern psychology has for the most part rejected the specifics of Freudian theory, but the same underlying materialism remains. And the same refutation is valid for non-Freudian theories as well. Because however you put it, the notion of non-conscious mental processes is simply incoherent.