eThoughts : April 1, 2009: Psychology Runs Through It


For those of you (such as Tom Cruise) ready to leap on the title as a product of a mental disorder, I’m not suggesting that psychology is really God. I’m suggesting that in any human endeavor that aspires to ascertain, create, or attach meaning, psychology is involved. Heck, even fact finding is about psychology, as in the motivation to find facts in the first place.

Okay, within those very broad borders, I just don’t see the way out of it, whether objective or subjective reality—relative to human beings at least—psychology runs through it. The subjective part seems rather obvious—psychology is within us. However, so is our biology. In fact, many would assert that our biology is objective, relative to our psychology and that no biology means no psychology, so biology trumps psychology. This might be true for insects and such, but when it comes to humans, I think those who make such an assertion don’t seem to realize the impact that psychology has on our biology. I’m not saying we can think/emote ourselves into a panda bear, but I am saying the range of human biology is heavily influenced by the range of human psychology. Yes of course our biology affects our psychology, etc., but all of these streams are reciprocal, influencing each other. Consider identical twins for instance. It is interesting that the older identical twins get, the more individual they become—genetics and biology seem to be influenced by experience and experience has a lot to do with psychology.

The point? Though all of the contributing components (biological, social, psychological, environmental) are part of the system and contribute to each other (including the psychology of psychology), it seems to me that psychology is the potential agent that can intend change. And consider this, those that lean towards social factors as more influential than individual ones, psychology has got it covered—as in social psychology.

And the importance of this? We can be the CEO of our own system. Oh, the system can run whatever role “we” have, but we have a lot of oversight. Think about the current economic meltdown and how an apparent lack of oversight contributed to that meltdown. Well, the meltdowns, and even the highs of our lives, have a lot to do with our psychology, perhaps a lot more than we ever considered—despite the hooks we attribute to those “outcomes.”

Are we talking about the secret here? Nope, not really. Our attention is not the only attention. Certainly the shape and orientation of our attention has something to do with what manifests in our life. However, there are many attentions—and many inattentions—and the manifestations of our lives have something to do with the interaction of these many things. Thinking is only one kind of attention, one kind of psychology. Appropriate psychology takes into account as many of our components as is possible and it knows that some things are about how we deal with what we cannot control (there are some hands we are dealt that we cannot change, only play them the best we can—or not).

Let’s take a few examples. Genetics—our biological heritage—for instance (the case of identical twins has already been mentioned). We are humans, we cannot fly—at least without technology. And there we are. However, psychology runs through both our humanness and our capacity for creating technology. Can we change our genes? Well, maybe—but the point is that we can influence them. This is also about our psychology. The study of genetics requires psychology. Our influence on genetics is about psychology. For instance, we can disrupt the genetic influence of PKU—phenylketonuria—by changing the diet until physical development is sufficient that the lack of enzymatic processes to metabolize phenylalanines will not cause toxic buildup and the resultant mental retardation. Can we get rid of Huntington’s disease—another genetic disorder? Nope, but you can bet it’s being worked on and not just to identify and eliminate fetuses with the genetic illness, but to learn how to turn the gene off.

How about our social influences? Well, there are real differences between cultures, but the barriers are psychologically created and they can be psychologically removed as well. I’m not saying it is easy, but barriers are barriers, not at all the same as trying to become a panda bear. Besides, are social connections dependent on our complete understanding of other cultures? Why? A healthy psychology does not require complete understanding of cultural differences to endorse civility, consideration, and constructive conflict.

How about environment? You’d have had to be in an extended sleep well past the Rip Van Winkle Syndrome to not know about human influence on our planet. Can we destroy life? Impossible I think. But we sure can alter it. In fact, the theory of autopoiesis suggests that environs are actually a mirror of our self-referencing system. This might mean that our environs become objective via our subjective system or it may imply that objective reality is really subjective and only appears to be objective. Still, I’m not running into any walls and calling that a strictly subjective phenomenon. In any case, psychology is clearly part of our self-referencing system, if not the part.

So here’s a thought: Psychology is not just about individual therapy and disorders. It is also about happiness. It is about technology. It is about history, sociology, philosophy, religion, math, chemistry, politics, sports, motivation, etc. Just where does psychology not run through it? Even in meditation or awareness without perception (awareness without interpretation), psychology is present to the extent that we understand the importance of creating and expanding the space in our thoughts/feelings. Let’s face it, without space, movement can be rather difficult—attributed to a Zen saying, one cannot put something into a full cup (at least without overflow I presume, which would be difficult in a closed system). Yes, the trouble with the one-can’t-put-anything-into-a-full-cup tenet is the shape of the cup has something to do with the space within it. Like water, awareness seeks its own level, and human attention to the shape of our “things” not only influences the shape of our space, but the very flow and shape of awareness. So, when it comes to human awareness, all sorts of configurations go into the cognitive/emotional and even biological shape of our individual and cultural cups—and hence the manifestation and availability of the space. For some, the shape of the cup and hence the space within can be influenced by a hierarchical bent in how we organize ourselves and our external structures—our “stuff.” Others may prefer a horizontal shape. For some the shape and space of our cup can be influenced by ethnicity, religion, sexual, political, and other orientations. And one must keep in mind that the shape of the cup is not static—the psychology of change is yet another psychological venue. The very real concept is that we are not being realistic when we don’t include more than just an emphasis on our stuff, we must also consider the manner in which we create the space that houses that stuff as well as the dynamics of motion and change. And how might that become more deliberate? Psychology of course.

So, fellow CEOs, step up to the position and let’s stop being crazy—as in losing contact with reality by ignoring the vast influence of psychology on our individual lives as well as our environs and our communal lives. Can you imagine a summit of true CEOs, recognizing and collaborating with a myriad of other CEOs and all of us recognizing the influence of psychology? We’d have to take a great deal of responsibility instead of acting like we’re forced to deal with others because they’re the only ones who are crazy—as though psychology is what we want to avoid.

Psychology cannot be avoided and it shouldn’t be. Whether it is our stuff, our space, our motivation, or the changing nature in all creation, it is through psychology that we can see ourselves, apprehend so much of our biological vehicle, recognize the psychology of community, the vast influence we have on our environs and so on and so on. No further evolution is required to get it, just the ability to see that we’ve limited psychology as a particular discipline relevant to a particular facet of our lives. In short, psychology is not a discipline devoted to one facet of being, but an inseparable part of being itself. And if we wish to deliberately create, contribute, and navigate our being, we might want to pay attention to our psychology. If a critical mass of us deliberately pay attention, while we are not likely to be of one mind, we are likely to create a new ethic that is less about conquering and more about cooperation.

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