Why I am not a psychologist

What is this particular blog, a negative manifesto? Why should I write about why I am not a psychologist, and why would anyone care?  Well, yes, quite so.  Here’s the beauty of blogging for the blogger; it sometimes becomes journaling.  And yet it has the added dimension of inviting dialogue.  Have you ever had the experience of thinking something is a good idea for you but then learning in practice that it is not?

I am attracted to medical and psychological professions at first blush, but then part of me balks.  I have never been able to get past taking some courses, and when I get near to practicing, I run the other way.   The truth is, even the coursework gives me a headache.  Am I dumb?  Terribly resistant?  Or is it something else?

For sure something won’t let me work as a psychotherapist.  It feels like the gods to me, or as if my wires are crossed.  Maybe I’m just one hell of a rebel, a contrarian.  Perhaps I belong on the fringe, and here I sit here in the way the Buddhist does, listening, learning, watching the world go ‘round.  Looking for my way to participate in the art of healing.

Though I’ve attempted to work in the field of psychology several times, I am not doing so for the following reasons:

  1. These professions require an immersion in a system of thought that I am in the process of examining, evaluating really.  It’s true I do not feel qualified to guide others over their emotional terrain.  Call me rebel or explorer, perhaps time will tell.
  2. I am on a mission to explore the nature and circumstances of healing.  It isn’t as though one day I had the thought that this is what I must do and embarked on the endeavor; it took me over.  I’m insatiably curious about the nature of life, the human condition, and how we find wholeness in any circumstances.  Partly this orientation comes from being exposed to suffering children  through my dad’s work, but I also believe it is my daemon, my driving motivation in this life to explore these things.
  3.  I want to pull myself back from the textbook, the table, the clinical orientation, and look at the larger system in which we are embedded.  Where do some of our assumptions come from, and how do they strike us at this time in history?  We made fast progress in medicine:  From the creation of antibiotics to brain imaging, we have learned a lot about function and disease, no denying, and many lives have been prolonged.  But we are also missing part of the picture.   We’ve been coming from a materialist perspective, a reductionist perspective for a long time. As a follower of trends in psychiatry and mental health therapies, I see a movement that has traversed territory from locking away the crazy, to looking for ways to help, to applying harmful “treatments,” to deinstitutionalizing, to fearfully clinging to chemistry and treatment.  In this relatively new science, we have been like a blind man walking down the wrong hallway and into a dark dangerous alley.
  4.  I am deeply curious about the traditions and knowledge we virtually lost touch with in the industrial and information technology ages.   Those things we buried so well during the Salem witch hunts in our own country or distanced ourselves from in our quest for technological advance.  I need to know about the holistic, naturalistic approach in which we saw ourselves as part of nature and plants as medicines and foods.  Such a view is slowly returning to our Western consciousness:  Others seek such knowledge as I do, often when they come up against the limits of Western medicine or psychology.
  5.  My personality, temperament, and turn of mind make me predisposed to seek an overarching cosmology in which we see ourselves as part of the natural world.  My more global bent of mind draws me toward this perspective when comes to questions of healing and wholeness.  I want to explore the world through yogic practice and philosophy, through plant medicine, through an ayurvedic worldview about the creation of the earth and man’s place in it.  Within this view we discover ways to find balance within our bodies and with our environments.  We see the environment as part of ourselves and treat it with more respect.
  6.  I believe in the art of healing.  I also believe in the science of healing, but my daemon orients me to a full embrace of the art:  the story of the human encountering illness or injury, the communication between the man and his gods or God, the connection between the woman and her mother earth and father sky.  I see poetry and deep truth to medicines based on the theory of five elements (Indian, Chinese, native).  I intuitively relate to the idea that my bodies is comprised of air, ether, water, fire,  and earth (or metal and wood in Chinese medicine).  I can sense when one is out of balance:  my water element causing sinus headaches, or the element of air (wind) contributing to anxiety.
  7. I need to examine the role of our societal dysfunction in illness.  Economics and social demographics contribute to habits and even addictions that cause diabetes, obesity, and cancer.  Our lack of wisdom about emotional difficulty contributes to the psychological reliance on food and drink for numbing, for comfort, for protecting ourselves from others.  A myriad of issues affect an individual’s psychology, and we need more awareness of that fact so we don’t get to buried in blaming our family dynamics.
  8. Psychology leaves out the spiritual dimension.  I am interested in the role of spiritual practice in our emotional health, mindfulness as central to this practice, and the body as a conduit to this dimension.

After making this list and carrying on a bit, I feel the need to state my manifesto in more positive terms.  I am a journalist and psychological anthropologist, an explorer into other realms of explaining and depicting our mental and physical challenges.   A writer who covers mental health paradigms.   A yoga practitioner and teacher involved in a process of finding greater physical and emotional freedom.  Writing and yoga are professions in tune with my mindset and temperament; they call me and engage me and connect me with the world.

I talk to healers, dialogue with doctors of Chinese or Indian medicine, with native American shamans, medical doctors looking into integration of perspectives.  Listen to people who’ve tune into their internal wisdom and recovered from challenging illnesses.  Explore with others in a yoga class what it means to be human and how to hear our own bodies’ messages about health.  Learn about food and herbs that work synergistically with our bodies to make us more whole.  I want to bring back some of what we lost.

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