Psychology – Individuals, Groups and Improved Society



I distinguish between “real” and “pop” psychology. I find the first has value, the second not so much. The second is much more popular – thus “pop” as part of its label!

I define “pop psychology” first – by describing it: Pop psychology is behind media articles and revelations with headlines like: “How to keep your guy”, “What gals really want”, “Understanding the wars between the sexes”. (Gender war topics are among the most common in pop psychology.) Pop psychology means to entertain as much as it means to inform. It offers “information” but does not challeng the reader to ask questions, to dig deeper, or to learn more. It is casual. Its purpose is to “quickly satisfy” a reader. Pop psychology satisfies by telling you “the facts” of “how humans work”, what you can do about it. It encourages you to “accept” its casual attitude. “Lick and promise” answers, and on with real life.

Pop psychology encourages manipulation of self and other. Even if at ‘gut’ level you don’t like what’s going on in a relationship, you bend yourself to “pop wisdom”. You make some changes. You use pop solutions to more successfully relate to your mate, or to accept your mate’s “shortcomings”. 

A  ‘gut level’ response should raise questions – yet you shove deeper questioning out of the way by use of “pop” answers. This shoving is self-manipulation. To shift practices with your mate (or any other person in any relationship) for sake of the relationship, without further question, manipulates everyone: you and the other. You work hard using pop answers to show a “new you”, which, if you questioned more deeply, may not be “you” at all!  Pop psychology encourages you to define yourself as “all women” or “all men” of a certain age group or interest. On a different issue than mate relationship, it encourages unexamined statements about who you are in that concern.

Pop psychology over-generalizes. It encourages “shallow” views of who you are, of who the Other is. It dismisses a critical reality – that you, and others, are fundamentally unique personalities, with deeply personal histories. Histories that minute by minute, event by event, shape who each of you has become. Generalization can be useful, but it is also dangerous.

The reason pop psychology works so well to sell articles is that we, across the board, find it easier to assign characteristics based on what “group” an individual “belongs to”. The war between the sexes may be “fun” a good part of the time. But our enthusiasm for generalization as “revealing all truth” spreads into areas not so fun.

Based on “reassuring truth” from pop psychology we ask few questions of ourselves, of others. The view that “pop psychology” is “sound understanding” of ourselves and others, our entire culture, is a gross general “understanding” of “what it means to be an individual human.” We comfortably and freely accept generalizations about individuals based on race, gender, age (teens are well generalized), the poor, the unhealthy, the rich, the healthy. We assign characteristics to members of a group: “poor = lazy”, “unhealthy = irresponsible”, “rich = intelligent”, “healthy = responsible”, “enemy = not human”, “suffering (in silence) = noble”.

In our comfort with over-generalized “truth” about ourselves and others, we shape social behavior. We accept a society guided unexamined beliefs of who we, and other, are.

It is time for me to interject a disclaimer. There are many involved in addressing individual and social change, and government policy, who are not shallow or casual in their understanding of individual and group behaviors. The rest of us “generalize” and call these people “do-gooders.” We do not use this description in admiration. We find “do-gooders” annoying at best, dangerous at worst. Certainly we want to “keep them in their place” (Church suppers, local fund raising by “do-gooders” is “OK”; arguing for anti-poverty policy is not.)

If I may “generalize” for a moment! … I suggest we do not display genuine curiosity about “who we are” and “how we (as humans) operate” – “we” in this case, our individual selves and groups to which we do or do not belong.

Questions we do not ask include these about individual being: What is an individual and how is she/he different from any group to which she/he belongs? Who am I – really – who am I? What do I really believe? Where did I learn to believe what I believe? What is “self-manipulation?

Questions of groups we do not ask include: What are my beliefs about my group, about any other group? Are my beliefs based on over-generalization of “the human condition”. What is a paradigm? What is “pre-supposition?” What is manipulation? What is language and how does it work in the human psyche? Who are we – really – who are we?

Real” psychology explores and offers direction in answering these (generally) unasked questions. “Real” psychology does not name itself as “real”. It merely calls itself “psychology”.

Psychology directs us to explore common needs, wants, and experience of individual, and therefore of group. It fosters genuine understanding while it keeps the questions going. It has few “quick” answers. It can be “entertaining” if approached with curiosity. But its style of entertainment is different, often less “snappy”.

When people delve into questions studied in psychology they can enjoy themselves! They often smile and laugh. They have some good jokes. Occasionally they can be heard making quips, “snappy” remarks. But the laughter may be quite different from laughter of casual understanding. Laughter arising from “deep understanding of the human condition” may come from depth – from “gut level”.  The laughter may include tears. Deep understanding of the human condition “marries” the realities of suffering and courage.

It is my “belief” we cannot shape ourselves, our government, into one genuinely responsible to individual and “whole citizen body,” when we do not acknowledge “the human condition”. We need to examine and understand how individuals come by their beliefs, by learning how “I” come by mine. We need to acknowledge and understand how “fear” operates within the individual and therefore groups. We need to understand “vulnerability” at its most fundamental level of experience, and how “manipulation” addresses “vulnerability” (snake oil marketing in commerce and in politics – but how does manipulation develop?). We need to understand “greed”, “neglect”, and “abuse” as potential human attributes, available within any of us. We need to understand “compassion”, “justice”, “freedom”, “responsibility”, “respect” (for self, for other), and creativity, as also available within any of us – underlying capacities “innate and unalienable”, rich with promise.

Casual operation by unexamined generalization, (I generalize!), will not get us “there”!

My Best To Each and All!   MaggieAnn


About maggieannthoeni

A description once given of me was "rooted in the earth while roaming the stars" - and this has felt 'right'. I believe in something akin to this for each of us. I am a passionate supporter of discovering the autonomous self while serving the whole as primary intent. I believe in discovery of innate principles, clearing the overlay of socialization that obscures this from us. I believe it is our responsibility to leave no one behind - most particularly to respond to suffering as best we can whereever we find it, whenever we are made aware. I believe in this for the insect as well as the most magnificent form of humanity. I believe in brother/sisterhood without boundary. I believe in righteous indignation when it is appropriate, but do not believe in an enemy. I believe in consciousness, in intelligence, in logic, in rationality, in emotion, in transcendence - and am convinced until we generally practice explore and honor all this in ourselves, we remain profoundly immature. (I believe real maturity is known and practiced by many young children, and not enough adults!)
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