Psychology and Modern Problems - PDF book by Morris Ginsberg

Psychology and Modern Problems

Psychology and Modern Problems

From the introduction:

Delivered as a course of lectures at the Institute of Medical Psychology, the material here presented appeared to be too valuable and suggestive to be left to resound only on the walls of that Institution, or in the minds of the few who were privileged to hear. 

They cover a wide range of interests and no claim is made for a complete presentation of the subjects treated, no finality for the views expressed. But the reputation of each contributor is sufficient to guarantee the soundness of these views. It may seem a little surprising to those who have already scanned the table of contents of this book that there is no chapter on Psychology and Medicine since it is in the field of Psychopathology that the greatest advances in Psychology have been made during this last generation. 

No doubt the reason for this was that regular courses of lectures are already given at the Institute on Psychopathology and Psychotherapy. But the fact remains that it is this aspect of the subject that has given such an impetus to recent psychology. 

For generations, past psychology was studied as a subject of philosophy in which the maximum of theory was based on a minimum of observed fact. Valuable and necessary as was that philosophic approach, it tended, on the whole, to hinder the study of psychology as a science, especially in the insistence on the doctrine of free will which emphasized the incalculability of human behaviour, and, therefore, put it outside the realm of experimental science. 

This philosophic phase gave place to that of experimental psychology, which was scientific in its methods and so laid the foundations of modern scientific psychology, but unfortunately, it had little reference to human life. But when the physician was called upon to face the problem of human lives, with their morbid anxieties, hysterical attacks, pathological ideas, sex perversions, obsessive thoughts, compulsive actions, and terrifying dreads, he was compelled by the sheer necessity of treating his patients to face these problems and attempt to discover the causes of their disorders for the sake of freeing man from their terrible curse. 

So the philosophic and the academic phase gave place to psychopathology, and there is no doubt that the important advances in psycho- logy during this generation from psychopathology would certainly not have taken place had it not been for this practical need. 

For one thing, few people would have voluntarily submitted themselves to undergo the unpleasant process of analysis and reveal all the hidden motives of their life and conduct, except under the urgent necessity of having themselves cured of some illness. 

Originating in a practical therapeutic measure, the cures that it has brought about have given the science of psychopathology a place amongst the recognized methods of medical treatment. But the influences of these new discoveries have spread far beyond the scope of psychopathology and the uses of psycho-therapy. 

It has thrown light upon the ordinary processes of the human mind; thus, the discovery of mechanisms underlying pathological processes, like repression, projection, identification, displacement of effect, are found to be ordinary processes of the mind, common to what we regard as normal life. Moreover, by the newly discovered methods of investigating deep-seated processes of the human mind, we are now able to explain the hidden motives of ordinary human conduct; so we can discover why a man marries a particular type of woman, why he chooses a particular profession, why he becomes a philosopher instead of a businessman, why he loves pleasure or is ascetic, why he is genial and sociable, or why he is reserved.

 On the other hand, we can explain why this marriage goes wrong; why he is a misfit in his occupation; why he fears isolation, or why every step in life he takes is fraught with anxiety. The chief credit for these advances in psychopathology is due to Freud, though one must not overlook those clinical researchers who, as always happens, made the discovery of the genius possible. Freud, like all other great discoverers, has his antecedents. 

Now, if modern analytic methods of investigation in the individual reveal to us the hidden workings of the human mind, it is bound to throw light upon every science or aspect of life that deals with human conduct, and the time must inevitably come when the knowledge so gained must be applied to every study of human activity as in anthropology, in art, in education, and in religion. 

The effort has not been without result. To mention but one obvious example: some psychoneurotic patients suffer from obsessions which take the form of performing rituals and ceremonial acts, and avoidance of taboos like the “ contamination complex.” Psychopathology has investigated those curious conditions in the individual, and their source is now well-nigh discovered as the conflict between forbidden unconscious self-willed desires and the fear of consequences. 

These ceremonial acts are in part the attempt to propitiate for these desires and to avert their evil consequences. But these neurotic compulsions of civilized man are of precisely the same nature as the curious customs, ceremonial acts, and taboos of primitive man, the meaning of which we can only guess at in observing him, and which he himself cannot, as a rule, explain, except by some plausible but shallow rationalization, since he cannot, any more than the neurotic, understand their real significance, but upon which psycho- pathology can now throw considerable light.

Some contents:

J. A. Hadfield Esq., M.A., M.B., Ch.B., Lecturer in
Psychopathology and Mental Hygiene, University
of London. Director of Studies, Institute of
Medical Psychology.

Professor Morris Ginsberg, M.A., D.Lit., Martin White
Professor of Sociology, University of London,
London School of Economics.

Professor C. G. Seligman, M.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.S.,
Emeritus Professor of Ethnology, University of

Ramsay Muir, Esq., Litt.D., late Professor of Modern
History, University of Manchester.

H. Crichton-Miller, Esq., M.D., M.R.C.P., Hon.
Senior Physician and late Director of the Institute
of Medical Psychology.

Professor J. C. Fliigel, B.A., D.Sc., Assistant Professor
of Psychology, University College, London.

the book details :
  • Author: Morris Ginsberg
  • Publication date: 1935

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