by Bruce Davidson
Recently it has become rather obvious that the psychotherapy world often stands ready and willing to create new mental sicknesses and abolish older ones in the service of progressive ideology. After gender ideologues minted the notion of “toxic masculinity,” the American Psychological Association obliged them with the corresponding pathology, stigmatizing a lot of typical, traditional male behavior.
Soon after homosexuality and transgenderism had become trendy causes, these behaviors suddenly lost their APA designation as mental illnesses. Instead, opponents of gay marriage and transgenderism suddenly found themselves classified as mental defectives in thrall to phobias. None of this should surprise anyone, since the leftist bias in psychology has been well-documented.
The Woke movement is largely the offspring of this unholy alliance of psychotherapism and leftism. It is no exaggeration to say that the father of Wokedom is Marxism and its mother is psychotherapism. The contribution of psychotherapism has been to greatly facilitate the creation of victims and villains for the leftist narrative of oppressed and oppressors. Psychotherapism now often functions as an instrument for delivering negative judgments against those whose views leftists do not approve of. In a typical instance of this role, last year a psychiatrist at Yale University condemned the current president via Newsweek and warned of the possible imminent extinction of the human race.
Proponents of psychotherapy have a long history of collaboration with leftists. One prominent psychologist and a member of The Frankfurt School, Erich Fromm (1900 — 1980), explicitly synthesized Freudian psychology and Marxism. He believed that Freudianism and Marxism were truly scientific, though the philosopher Karl Popper more accurately described both as pseudosciences that cannot be empirically proven or disproven. Furthermore, Fromm blamed late-stage capitalism for creating authoritarian personalities. Also drawing on the ideas of Freud and Marx, Frankfurt School comrade Theodor Adorno and his collaborators seconded Fromm’s views in The Authoritarian Personality, which reports on a research study that focused only on the threat of fascism. The book seemed to paint many traditional, conservative people as potential despots. This analysis flies in the face of the obvious fact that the most murderous despots of the last century — Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong — were all socialists.
In later years, the acclaimed humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow showed a decidedly leftist orientation. In her book about the history and problems of humanistic psychology, Joyce Milton remarks that Maslow’s list of self-actualized, model human beings “tilts heavily to the left of the political spectrum” and includes few religious figures. He lauded Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson as probably a self-actualized person but rejected Dwight Eisenhower. Milton wryly observes, “Thus, an unsuccessful politician who made speeches about world government ranked above a United States President who in his role as general merely organized the defeat of Adolf Hitler.” Time and again, conservative politicians have suffered from the hostile judgments of psychologists and psychiatrists, while the bizarre behavior of their opponents has received far less attention. In 1964, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was judged mentally unfit by over 1000 psychiatrists, which later led to the “Goldwater Rule” forbidding psychiatrists from diagnosing a person they have never met. Nevertheless, Donald Trump has been plagued by similar psychiatric abuse. Actually, rather than a crazy conservative president, we probably have more to fear from what psychiatrist Thomas Szasz calls The Therapeutic State, supervised by psychiatrists and psychologists with coercive power over the behavior and beliefs of citizens.
In line with leftism’s obsession with victimization, psychotherapism has vastly expanded the scope of victimhood claims. Now almost anyone can lay claim to victim status simply on the basis of wounded feelings. In the eyes of many these days, even hearing an unwelcome expression of contrary opinion qualifies as victimization. In her book, Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry Is Doing to People, former psychologist Tana Dineen comments that although many real victims have chosen not to identify themselves primarily that way, the psychotherapy industry aggressively encourages people to take on this identity and then profits from them.
Likewise, the world of traditional Christianity has been infected by this mentality. An essential requirement of Christianity has always been identifying oneself as a sinner with individual responsibility for personal guilt in the eyes of God. That stance makes possible real repentance and the forgiveness of sins. In contrast, some Southern Baptist institutions and the American Bible Society are promoting a novel malady named “post traumatic slave syndrome,” which somehow afflicts the descendants of people who were slaves a century and a half ago. In this scheme, the road to healing for those sufferers is for other people to repent of their “original sin” of slavery.
Certainly there are psychologists and psychiatrists who dissent from such thinking. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist, is a notable example. However, his insights appear to stem more from his commitment to common-sense rationality and objective truth over feelings and current psychological orthodoxy.
Peterson clearly understands something that many psychotherapists these days evidently do not: The worst forms of authoritarianism usually come from ideology, not personality. Claiming to be curing us of our authoritarianism, psychologists like Erich Fromm have actually been promoting malevolent forms of it. Psychotherapism has often joined with leftism in fabricating politically useful victims and villains. This destructive marriage of psychotherapism and leftism definitely poses a serious threat to everyone’s sanity and freedom.
1 “Woke” is “the latest version of political correctness. A ‘woke person’ is someone who has the proper level of hypersensitivity to the subtle, semi-hidden prejudice and discrimination that supposedly pervades Western societies.”“Wokedom” is a term made up like “kingdom.” It means ”the realm in which ‘woke’ thinking holds sway nowadays, which includes most academia, the mainstream mass media, and leftist politics.”
Bruce W. Davidson is a professor at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan and a contributor to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia.
(PALV28N2, March-April 2020)