Category Archives: psychology

Try to be objective about this

“…without a subject, nothing at all would exist to confront objects, and to imagine them as such. True, this implies that every object, everything ‘objective’—in being merely objectivized by the subject—is the most subjective thing possible.”

— Medard Boss, in The Analysis of Dreams (1958), quoted in this intriguing overview of phenomenology

The Boss quotation could explain a lot of things, especially, in terms of this blog’s typical themes and audience, the world’s 8,196 Protestant denominations based upon the same Bible.


Nothing Against Logicians! Promise!

A properly functioning mind can destroy itself. It can think itself, in a logical and rational pattern, into madness. But that’s really more about the motive than the mode. It’s not logic and rationality themselves that are the source of the problem. In that respect, my recent quotation of G.K. Chesterton might have been misleading in regards to my outlook. Chesterton wrote, “The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” But I don’t have anything against logicians! Promise! I have no campaign against logic or rationality. From classical Stoicism to contemporary psychological therapies like logotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and rational emotive behavior therapy, logical and rational thinking has been a sturdy pattern for healthiness. But logic and rationality also could be used in an unhealthy way. In quoting Chesterton there, my point was to identify a problem that was once explained by an evangelical psychologist, Larry Crabb. “There is an enormous difference between the joy of discovery and the passion to explain,” Crabb wrote. “The former gives life a sense of adventure. The latter makes us hate mystery.” And, I think, as Chesterton suggests, that passion to explain gets exhausting, overwhelming, and eventually, devastating. So his single metaphorical dichotomy provides me inexhaustible help: I’m not trying to get the heavens into my head; I’m just trying to get my head into the heavens. And by heavens, I’m thinking figuratively. I’m thinking about all the questions and all the data and all the good theories and all the history and all the apparent unknowns—better to sit within it all than to insist upon a perfectly systematic account for it all. The former is wonderful; the latter is exhausting. I think someone could simultaneously say discovery in any field is an amazing, exhilarating journey, and logical, rational methods help discovery on its way. Motivation makes the difference.

The Latest Self-Help Advice? “F*ck Feelings” | Acculturated

Old Stoic psychology can be a good thing — Saint Paul probably was influenced by it — and in that vein here’s a contemporary, popular book, reviewed by Acculturated:

A new book called F*ck Feelings is, well, all the rage.

On its face, the volume cries out for disdain…. The genre—self-help—practically invites ridicule. And the bloated text, which oscillates between tough love and outright fatalism, could be boiled down to Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

There just isn’t much original material here. Are you wondering if a problem is not what happens, but your reaction to it? Marcus Aurelius got there first: “If you are distressed by anything external,” he observed, “the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

If the issue is a false perception of reality—and isn’t that so often a plausible diagnosis?—well, this news was delivered in the middle of the last century by Albert Ellis, who emphasized unrealistic thinking when he pioneered cognitive behavioral therapy…. Ellis in turn got the news from Socrates, who found ignorance (and perhaps worse yet, ignorance of one’s own ignorance) to be at the bottom of various ills. People did bad things out of ignorance about what is good, for instance, or succumbed to cowardice due to ignorance about the nature of death.

Yet lots of people who never got the memo from Socrates or Ellis can still benefit from this message, and that is where a book like F*ck Feelings establishes its usefulness. Why sneer? It should be clear by now that self-help books aren’t necessarily bad; they aren’t even new. Ben Franklin, Samuel Smiles, and Arnold Bennett wrote interesting self-help manuals long before any of us were born.

Read the rest of this review: The Latest Self-Help Advice? “F*ck Feelings” | Acculturated

Narcissistic and/or Psychopathic Church Leadership |

From the news and from first-hand experience, I’ve witnessed this problem. It has hurt me, too.

Bill Kinnon, remaining charitable toward Christianity, writes,

‘We need to acknowledge that narcissistic & yes, psychopathic leadership is a problem in the Church — and figure out how to deal with it. This requires educating ourselves to the realities of psychopathy and NPD. Books by Robert Hare & Kevin Dutton are good places to start. If you’ve been an unintentional co-conspirator with an NPD/psychopath or a “commender” as my friend Futuristguy Brad Sargent puts it — admit it, apologize & make restitution — learn from your mistakes. If you aren’t a book reader, then at least read this on NPD and this on psychopathy. Too many Christians are now “dones” because of the actions of leaders with NPD &/or psychopathic traits. This needs to change. Too many NPD/psychopathic leaders have been protected because of the size of “their ministries”. A trail of broken bodies is NOT the Church. Too many narcissistic/psychopathic theologians have been protected because of their supposed “insights”. Victims be damned.’

Source: Narcissistic and/or Psychopathic Church Leadership |

Knowing and not knowing stuff about God

Philosopher Charles Hartshorne apparently had a strong belief in divine love. However, he questioned the historically mainstream idea that we should think about God in terms of what He is not.

This excerpt is from an article entitled “Charles Hartshorne: Dipolar Theism,” from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“Many theologians, eager to affirm the transcendence of God, emphasize what cannot be known of God and argue that, in view of this ignorance, the most appropriate theological language is by way of negation (via negativa): God is not finite (infinite), not changeable (immutable), not affected by anything external (impassible), not contingent (necessary), not in time (non-temporal), and so forth. Hartshorne also emphasized what is not known of God and he did not deny that negations play an important role in religious discourse. In A Natural Theology for Our Time, he comments that our knowledge of the concrete divine reality is ‘negligibly small.’ He argues, however, that as the sole or even primary approach to religious language, ‘the negative way’ is a case of false modesty. Negative theologians are supposedly being deferential to God by stressing what cannot be known or said of God, but this masks the fact that they consider themselves privy to enough knowledge about the divine reality to know what cannot be attributed to it.

(Boldface added.)

As far as that boldfaced section goes, I have a vague recollection of reading something similar in a Norman Geisler book. His characterization of knowledge, at least in one respect, went something like this: Does it make sense to say we know we can go up to a certain point and go no further? Is it possible to know exactly where our knowledge stops without knowing something of what’s just beyond? Figuratively speaking, am I standing at an opaque wall or am I standing in a fog in which some objects and items are easily identified and others are harder to recognize?

I like the fog analogy because of something I recently re-read in G.K. Chesterton, not that Chesterton had the academic credentials of a Hartshorne or a Geisler. Chesterton said, essentially, the logician tries to get heaven into his head (and his head splits), while the poet just wants to get his head into heaven (and he is filled with wonder). I’m trying to re-route my own mind along those lines: do I want to sort everything out and explain everything and nail it all down, or do I want to discover and enjoy and immerse myself? One mode tries to get everything into one’s head, and the other mode tries to get one’s head exposed to everything.

Granted, ignorance is the mode that allowed bad religion to influence so much of history, and so much of my own life. A guy at least needs tools to protect himself, just as a farmer needs a fence around his flock and a rifle for the larger predators. Knowledge can be real light when it has real meaning for our lives. But once reasonable defenses are built against arrogant ignorance and manipulative control, maybe a guy can settle down and get back to enjoying life, the cosmos, even God.

Preventing a repeat

FT Magazine has as regular feature entitled “The Shrink & the Sage,” written by therapist Antonia Macaro and philosopher Julian Baggini. A recent topic for their column was, “Should we ‘get over it’?

Here are two excerpts.

reasons to choose differently next time

“A big part of getting over something is learning from past events so that we can act differently in the future.” — Antonia Macaro

The Prosecution looks to the future

“Think, for example, of the friends and relatives of people who have died due to the negligence of others. They may embark on tortuous legal processes, usually with the aim that no one else should have to go through what they did. Sometimes, it might be true that their persistence is indicative of a failure simply to accept that things happen. But often this is a principled move that has real benefits for others. The fact that life might have been easier for all concerned if they had tried to move on quicker is besides the point. Justice needs to be done, more to prevent future tragedies than to try to fix what can’t be mended.” — Julian Baggini

‘Subliminal Perception: Just How Fast Is The Brain?’ – Neuroskeptic


Psychologists and neuroscientists are fairly skeptical of any grand or sinister claims for the power of subliminal advertising or propaganda, but on the other hand, many of them use the technique as a research tool.

So what’s the absolute speed limit of the brain? What’s the minimum time that a stimulus needs to appear in order to trigger a measurable brain response?

In a new study, Swiss researchers Holger Sperdin and colleagues say that they’ve detected neural activity in response to images presented for just 250 microseconds – that’s 1/4 of a millisecond, or 1/4000-th of a second.

(via Subliminal Perception: Just How Fast Is The Brain? – Neuroskeptic, a Discover Magazine blog)

So your brain could respond to a stimuli even when you are not conscious of the stimuli.