The Drive Against Responsibility Supports Psychology without a Mind

by | Dec 19, 2000

It used to be a raging debate in psychology: Are human beings primarily determined by physiology — or by other factors such as environment, family, thinking habits, etc.? Today, such a debate is nearly non-existent. Instead of looking for the role of non-physiological factors in human behavior and emotions, as psychology should be doing, it […]

It used to be a raging debate in psychology: Are human beings primarily determined by physiology — or by other factors such as environment, family, thinking habits, etc.?

Today, such a debate is nearly non-existent. Instead of looking for the role of non-physiological factors in human behavior and emotions, as psychology should be doing, it is now simply taken for granted by modern psychology that physiology is everything. Therapists, I find, now rush to send their patients for psychiatric medications not as a last resort but as a first resort.

Are you not accomplishing your desired goals? Then you must have attention deficit disorder.

Are you overweight? Then it must be the fat gene.

Are you an alcoholic? Then it must be the alcoholic gene. Turn on CNN’s health report any day of the week, and you’ll see what I’m saying.

Researchers now form hypotheses and develop experiments as if the debate were already settled. It’s not a question of whether physiology is the only factor — or even a factor at all — in human behavioral or emotional problems. It’s only a question of which physiological variable causes us to be fat, alcoholic, depressed, lazy, unmotivated, anxious, or whatever.

A willing media, happy to sell the idea that people are not responsible for their actions, follows the lead of researchers by reporting on their “findings” almost daily.

A willing public, concerned with excusing away responsibility for everything imaginable, gobbles it all up too. Growing numbers of people appear in my office not wanting help to fix themselves — but rather to be fixed, with little to no effort on their own parts. I see a dramatic change in attitude merely in the last 5 years.

You might ask: are physiological factors totally irrelevant? Should psychology ignore them altogether?

Of course not.

We can’t get into this either-or false dichotomy. It’s not a question of “either” biology (our brains) determine us or mental factors control us. We are both mind and body at the same time. We are conceptual beings — who think, and, as a consequence of thinking, experience emotions; and, at the same time, we are also physiological beings.

I leave room for the possibility that there might be certain physiological predispositions to certain forms of behaviors. Certain individuals may be more genetically predisposed, for example, to like tobacco or alcohol than are others. It seems like an oversimplified stretch, but there might be something to it. I can see the value of spending some time investigating it. But, inevitably, those predispositions — if they even exist — must interact with one’s core values, philosophy of life (implicit or explicit), and psychology.

Take a simple example: Joey might be born liking to smoke more than Suzie; but Joey might have stronger discipline and love of a long-lasting life than does Suzie, and as a result he might quit smoking while she continues to smoke.

In short, there’s no way to over-simplify the issue and there never will be. There’s no way to pretend that minds exist without bodies; and there’s no way to pretend that bodies exist without minds. We are both consciousness and brain. The job of psychology and psychotherapy is to focus on the mind: emotions, ideas, premises, behavioral patterns, family influences, and so forth. It’s disgraceful that researchers and clinicians in the field of psychology increasingly ignore this fact.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Have a comment?

Post your response in our Capitalism Community on X.

Related articles

Are the Democrats betraying Israel?

Are the Democrats betraying Israel?

Both Biden and his predecessor, President Barack Obama, promised that they had Israel’s back, but it now appears that they are painting a target on its back at a time of its greatest vulnerability.

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest