“I believe we are a species with amnesia, I think we have forgotten our roots and our origins. I think we are quite lost in many ways. And we live in a society that invests huge amounts of money and vast quantities of energy in ensuring that we all stay lost. A society that invests in creating unconsciousness, which invests in keeping people asleep so that we are just passive consumers or products and not really asking any of the questions.”
― Graham Hancock, Fingerprints of the Gods, 2018
Contrary to Hancock’s (2018) statement on the unconsciousness, I believe instead that human society is deeply troubled by the vast amount of information that is granted to us through technology. We, as a result of this information overload, choose to stay within the privilege comforts of hedonistic society. We are largely conscious than we are unconscious. This development can be seen in the schools of psychology, each as a reaction to the former: functionalism to structuralism, behaviorism to psychoanalysis, humanism to behaviorism, and cognitive behaviorism to humanism. This development may also be blatant in social psychology as it progresses from the 60s to where we acclaim ourselves now with critical social psychology. How we rejected experimentalism, rather I believe its discoveries, and turn towards an illusionary social constructivism, which asserts that all things existentially matter, if not at all still within ambiguous identity-alienation (Jourard, 1996; Sloan, 1996).
Social Psychology is defined as the normative study of people in groups, their behaviors and interactions with other people. How we think and therefore communicate is partial to the domain of social psychology. Our cultures and beliefs in association with the group’s levies into this; further still is what is discriminated upon as abnormal, or outside society. Its possible mechanisms and lauded causes grants insights in experimental psychology, the likes of which include the Milgram study and Stanford Prison experiment. Critical social psychology would form in the latter years and break away from mainstream ‘American’ social psychology.
Psychology surmises the mind and thus its conceptions through behavior. As humans, we have the gift of reflection and choice. Our varied experiences in line with our backgrounds and characteristics make for this volatile spectrum of perspectives. To illustrate such a point, I shall use Freud’s unconscious theory (Wollheim & Goutallier, 1971, p.157-176; Journal Psyche, 2018) to support my claim. Freud asserts, while describing the iceberg: that the unconscious is the larger and unseen portion beneath the waves; whereas the subconscious occupy a partial position beneath and above surface; and the consciousness containing the least of portions, floating right above the surface. According to Freud (Wollheim & Goutallier, 1971, p.157-176; Journal Psyche, 2018), the unconsciousness governs most of our repressed memories and experiences, whereas the subconscious governs important circumstantial information, and the consciousness the data that would freely be accessed and retrieved.
To put things into perspective, we may draw that the unconscious is related to the past and the consciousness to the present. Where Freud’s model would have work in his time, the context now is drastically different. The past is largely irrelevant, we think little of it in our current time. Information is pumped out into overdrive with technology, the media and society. Tod Sloan (1996, p.9) in his book the Damaged Life, listed an account for the main problems people think about in modern life; It reports the pace of change, for which things are moving far too quickly; the decline of certainty and belief, where there are now numerous perspectives on a matter; unfulfilled expectations, that draw upon feelings of helplessness and victimization; the decay of morality, that feeds upon a nihilistic stance of life which follows; meaninglessness, an apparent empty or boring life.
Consciousness surrounds waking society. Sloan in his report (1996) surmises this apparent dissonance with the mechanic world that humanity is inclined into. Freud’s iceberg has been overturned. The consciousness is now much broader, in part due to the information overload from the media and technology, a crippling cultural foundation (Habermas, 1970, p.114), and the lack of self-initiative through dependency on authority. The unconscious that we may assume resonate from a time once of plentiful reflection has been shredded away, occupying but a portion of the now dominant and surface consciousness. A sense of alienation (Jaeggi & Smith, 2014) defers from the loss of personal integrity, to that which is expropriated and exploited to perceived powers beyond the individual. Sloan (1996, p.10) himself relates this “…the striking thing about modern confusion is that its locus is personal identity”. If we were to give further thought to Freud’s Id Ego and Superego, we would see that the societal narrative is driven by the superego’s adherence to normative structures, sought by hedonistic principle of comfort than pain; lo what is thus egoistically celebrated normatively, is also aggressively acceptable for the Id. Where the foundations of culture and tradition has been uprooted, we are presented a dissonance of conflicting roles; one towards the expectations of society and the latter towards our self-integrity.
In lines of the work of McDougall and William James (Rogers, 2011, p.13), the person that is at war to become the leviathan, finds himself a player amongst others on the board. A figurative chess piece that is socially constructed to the determinants not even to themselves who lord it, as all who believe it are made redundant as a result of it.
Perhaps nothing may illuminate this concept of depersonalization more than the experiments run by Milgram (McLeod, 2017) and Zimbardo (McLeod, 2018). Where Milgram sought to understand why people were so willing to obey authority, Zimbardo sought to investigate the tortures that follows a prison in Abu Ghraib. Supported by Asch’s conformity studies, Milgram uncovered that many people would relegate their moral obligations to authority figures, despite the steady increase of voltage for shocking the unbeknownst confederate. Alternatively, Zimbardo discovered the power of the situation, context in extension to role perception. The students who participated were depersonalized of their identities and followed their assigned roles of being prison guards or prisoners; an echo to the Cave Robbers experiment where two groups acted in essence of Adler’s inferiority and superiority complexes, a dichotomous complex of victim and aggressor that runs akin to Zimbardo’s prison experiment. The idea of such estranged situations need not be truly realized. The foregone conclusion is constructed from fiction, as we pull in our memories and experiences and apply it to our worldview. The concept thus I’m referring to refer to is Adler’s fictional finalism (Mitchell, 2015).
Both the Second World War and the Iraq war were recent incidences. It could be said that such tools of validity or ethics were not available then, though it could also be argued that it was never necessary to begin with. Returning to Sloan (1996), the constant theme of modern problems resides in our identity. These experiments highlight our role-confusion and depersonalization in suiting to the norm. The superego is thus the largest muscle, enforcing what is pleasurably attractive, and diverting our aggression through sublimation or displacement, Freudian defense mechanisms that entails us to show aggression in an acceptable manner as is the state of war or self-harm. Do I believe that we have developed from the past? That the theories are a product of the times? Is it not too complicated to say? Would it not altogether rob the experiments of its message? Or perhaps rightly so, the experiments are an artificial bubble to a life we can’t ever hope to comprehend?
There is a famous story. A group of people are backed facing into the depths of the cave, the light shinning from their back from its entrance. They see on the walls an illustration of shadows they think to be of themselves. They were later bewildered when the shadow takes another form. Our need for meaning, contrives perception. The allegory is of Plato’s Cave (), a priori that ask of our senses if what we sensed is indeed so, being that what we are taught has transformed what we claim to initially know. It suggests the need to be partial, explicit to the perceived world.
In relating back to Freud’s iceberg (Journal Psyche, 2018), our awareness of what we sense has made us more critical of the information we receive. What we may grasp out of all of this is possibly the ways we have decided to excavate, as archeologists do – the falling remnants of late capital. We are moved more by discomfort than we are comfort. The cause for many personality assessments and thus its interest, its relative extremes in psychopathy and abnormal psychology, in relating back to social constructionism which takes the account of subject place and time, sees this development towards a reclaimed self, a move to reclaim our fractured identities and to build upon a solid foundation that we realize was lost to us (Sloan, 1996). It is true that development is slow, yet it may also be that as we grow to be more aware of something we can no longer, and thus become critical thinkers of conscious society, – the more we truly begin to realize where our priorities really lie.
Graham H. (2018). I Believe We Are A Species With Amnesia. Retrieved from https://themindsjournal.com/i-believe-we-are-a-species-with-amnesia/
Jaeggi, R., & Smith, A. (2014). Alienation (Neuhouser F., Ed.). Columbia University Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/jaeg15198
Jourard, S. M. (1996). The transparent self. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Journal Psyche. (2018). Freud’s Model of the Human Mind. Retrieved from http://journalpsyche.org/understanding-the-human-mind/
McLeod, S. A. (2017). The Milgram shock experiment. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/milgram.html
McLeod, S. A. (2018). Zimbardo – Stanford prison experiment. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/zimbardo.html
Mitchell, G. (2015). Alfred Adler & Adlerian Individual Psychology. Retrieved from https://mind-development.eu/adler.html
Sloan, T. (1996). Damaged life: The crisis of the modern psyche. London: Routledge.
Wollheim, R., & Goutallier, M. (1971). Freud. Paris: Seghers.
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