This is a review of Dr. Edith Packer's, Lectures on Psychology. It is not about the author and only addresses the ideas found in the book. Though I will describe those ideas as both badly mistaken and dangerous, it is not meant to reflect on the personality or character of the author, whom I highly regard as an individual. Perhaps the best summary of the person, Edith Parker, is that provided by her husband George Reisman.
The subject from Packer's book I will emphasize is the subconscious, with which she relates the ideas of repression and defence mechanisms. None of these ideas are original with Packer, but she does present her own versions of them.
She identifies those from whom she learned her ideas:
"Among them have been "Silvano Arrieti, Leon Salzman, Alfred Adler, and Karen Horney. And, despite many major points on which I strongly disagree with his system, I must include Sigmund Freud, who identified the enormous role of the subconscious mind in human psychology. I also want to acknowledge a major philosophical influence coming from the writing of Ayn Rand." (Location 54)
I'm not familiar with Arrieti or Salzman but I know Horney and Adler well from my research into Abraham Mazlow (and his absurd "hierarchy of needs") and the whole, "self-actualization," theory in psychology. If you are not familiar with these psychologists you will not be aware of how their ideas influenced the field of psychology. It does explain some of Packer's worst ideas, however, like, "defensive strategies," from Horney (who got her ideas from Anna Freud's, "mechanisms of defense"), and the idea of the subconscious which she admits came from Freud.
About The Book
Though the title of the book is, Lectures on Psychology, the content is mostly about psychological problems addressed from Packer's own psychological views and her experiences with patients during her forty eight years as a psychotherapist.
Most of the book is an explanation of Packer's view of psychological problems being caused by the subconscious mind. There is one chapter, however, with which I am most in agreement, "Chapter 8 Happiness Skills." Unlike her other chapters, this one addresses one's psychological state almost entirely in terms of philosophy, not psychology. She does use the phrase, "able to subconsciously grasp," and makes one reference to, "core values," which she believes exist in the subconscious mind, but otherwise what she describes are those philosophical principles that make it possible for an individual to make right choices in choosing how to think and live that are the means to human success and happiness. The ironic thing about that chapter to me is that the principles explained are the solution to all psychological problems, requiring no "subconscious" to understand and apply.
The version of the book I am reviewing is a Kindle book, which means there are no page numbers. There are, however, "location" numbers which will be used to identify most quotes. All quotes are Packers words from the book, unless another author is specified.
Some comments in this review will be described, "of interest to Objectivists," where appropriate.
A Note About Psychology
Before I go any further I must point out the fundamental problem of psychology which has been ignored since Wundt. (Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt is known as the 'father of experimental psychology.') In all of experimental, clinical, and therapeutic psychology, all that can be known about anyone's actual consciousness (psyche) depends on the testimony of the one to whom the consciousness pertains. There is no way to examine the actual conscious experience of anyone. No matter what aspect of consciousness is considered, one's thoughts, one's perceptions, or one's feelings, the only person who can know what they are is the person actually doing the thinking, perceiving, or feeling.
Thomas Szasz was the first psychologist I know of to admit there is really no way to know if anyone claiming any conscious experience is lying or not and that those with psychological problems are very likely to be lying. Whenever a psychologist asserts that something is true about any other individual's conscious experience, it is not something the psychologist knows. The psychologist must either take the word of the individual describing their conscious experience (without questioning either the ability of the individual to accurately describe his experiences or his honesty), or the psychologist must make up the description based on his own views and experiences.
Two things to note: 1. There is no objective evidence about any aspect of human conscious experience. Consciousness is a totally subjective experience knowable only to the conscious individual. Any generalized description of any specific conscious experience is at best, an unverifiable hypothesis.
And 2. Psychologists' reports of what their patients experience, are not reports of objective facts, but reports of subjective testimony. A psychologist can only report what his patients say, he cannot report on what any patient actually consciously experiences.
There are four fundamental concepts at the base of psychology: 1. the nature of consciousness, 2. the nature of the human mind, 3. the nature of knowledge, and 4. the nature of the emotions. With exception of a brief and incomplete explanation of the nature of emotions, Packer does not address these fundamental concepts, but many of her points are based on implicit assumptions based on these principles. The following will make them explicit.
1. Consciousness Is Perception
Conscious, in all organisms that have it, is the direct perception of physical existence. Existence is that which consciousness perceives, perception is the direct consciousness of that which exists.
Perception is the only consciousness any organism has. It includes all external perceptions, mistakenly called the "senses"—seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting, as well as the perception of one's internal states called interoception, which is how we are conscious of such things as hunger, vertigo, fatigue, and the emotions.
All human knowledge is about the physical world, both internal and external, which is perceived and the fact that we perceive it, that is, that we are conscious and have a conscious nature.
The human mind consists of three attributes of consciousness unique to human beings. Those attributes are volition, intellect, and rationality.
Volition is the necessity and ability to consciously choose every thought or overt action. All choice requires knowledge and the ability to answer questions and make judgments, that is, reasoning.
Intellect is the necessity and ability to gain and retain knowledge which is not possible without reason and volition; reason, to determine what is true (and therefore genuine knowledge), and volition to make the kind of choice which is judgment and to make the choice to learn.
Rationality is the necessity and ability to think, that is, to ask and answer questions and make judgments. Reason requires volition and knowledge; volition, because a judgment is a choice; and knowledge, in order to form and answer questions.
What distinguishes human consciousness from all other creatures is the unique mental function of thinking which is volitional, rational, and intellectual—that is, choosing to think about what is known.
[NOTE: Please see the article, "Mind," for a fuller explanation of the nature of the mind.]
3. Knowledge and Concepts
The philosophical study of the nature of human knowledge is called epistemology. The basic building blocks of all knowledge are concepts.
A concept consists of two components with a specific function. The components of a concept are a "perceivable element," and a "specification." The function of all concepts is to identify existents. The perceivable element of a concept is a word which is perceivable because it can be heard, seen, or imagined. The specification is a definition which indicates the existent or existents a concept identifies and differentiates what the concept identifies from all other existents. What a concept identifies is what the concept means.
What is most important about that description is that concepts, which are the basis of all knowledge, require a consciously perceivable form, a symbol or word, that can be spoken, written, signed, or imagined and that all human knowledge (i.e. intellectual knowledge) is verbal knowledge.
That means that all knowledge is only possible to a conscious volitional mind capable of recognizing words, understanding their definition, and consciously using them to think.
[Of interest to Objectivists: this description of concepts is in essential agreement with Rand's view as delineated in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.]
[NOTE: Rand's epistemology is incomplete and contains mistakes. For a short introduction to a correct epistemology see the article, "Knowledge." For a fuller treatment of epistemology including Rand's mistakes, see the "Concepts" chapter in the online book, The Nature of Knowledge, a critique of Dr. Harry Binswanger's How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation.]
Packer twice describes emotions thus: "Emotions are psychosomatic responses to a perceived, event, or situation, appraised and evaluated on the basis of the perceiver's knowledge and value judgments." (Locations 705, 1603)
This description is essentially correct, but it is incomplete and over-simplified and most people will not know what "psychosomatic" means.
Psychosomatic, in the context of emotions, means those physiological reactions of the body to the content of consciousness. The emotions are our conscious perception of those physiological reactions.
There is one other even more important point Packer makes about the emotions:
"...emotions have no independent existence apart from thoughts ... which underlie them. ... What does trigger an emotion is man's conceptual faculty." (Location 309, 709, 2742)
In other words, it is all that an individual is conscious of, and most importantly, is thinking, that causes the physiological reaction perceived as emotion.
There is in an entire biological system involved in the reaction of our bodies to the content of our consciousness consisting of the endocrine system, autonomic nervous system, the limbic system and vagus nerve. There is another system consisting of all parts of the neurological system that makes us aware of our internal biological states which we are conscious of as, "interoception." It is how we are conscious of everything from hunger and fever to all emotions.
The significance is that emotions are perceptions, just like seeing, and hearing, only what is being perceived are not external objects, or sounds, but internal states of the body. Emotions are not in the mind or consciousness anymore than the trees we see and the sounds we hear are in the mind or consciousness.
Now we understand what the emotions are we can understand what is wrong with Packer's definition of psychology:
"... psychology is the science that studies how the mind works, both cognitively and emotionally." (Location 3592) Since emotions are not part of consciousness (or the mind) no part of the mind "works emotionally." The emotions are something we are conscious of just as we are conscious of trees and music (because we consciously perceive them); there is no more an emotional function of the mind than there is a tree function or music function of the mind.
What Is The Subconscious?
This most important question is never answered by Packer. The concept of a subconscious is simply assumed. Nothing about it's nature, how it works, or even how she knows there is such a thing is ever specifically addressed.
In, "Chapter 2 Understanding the Subconscious," she begins:
"I am going to speak to you today about the functioning of the unconscious mind ...," But what the subconscious mind actually is or how it works is not described.
A Unique Faculty?
The obvious first question about what the subconscious is supposed to be is whether it is an aspect of the mind, perhaps an unconscious part of the mind existing along side the conscious part, or whether the subconscious mind is a unique faculty separate and distinct from the conscious mind.
I have concluded that Packer regards the unconscious mind to be a faculty different and distinct from the conscious mind as implied by the following:
"To begin with, the subconscious mind, like the conscious mind is tabula rasa at birth. As the child develops, everything significant that he feels, experiences, and thinks—which as a total is beyond the power of his mind to hold consciously—gets filed in the subconscious." (Location 428)
That quote, together with the following, "He has a conscious mind, he has a subconscious mind ...," (Location 3694) indicate packer regards the subconscious mind to be a distinct and separate faculty from the conscious mind.
What Is It and How Does It Work
Since the subconscious mind is a unique faculty exactly what the faculty is and how it works needs to be explained. We know how the conscious mind works, how does something called, "mind," that is not conscious work?
Volition is the ability and necessity to make conscious choice. It is also what makes possible everything else done in the conscious mind: learning, thinking, asking and answering questions, making evaluations and judgments.
Packer says explicitly, "I want to emphasize that the subconscious cannot make choices." (Location 2740) The subconscious mind is, therefore, not volitional.
Almost everything Packer attributes to the subconscious mind, however, if done consciously would require conscious choice, such as thinking (1738, 2734), drawing conclusions (721), answering questions (2606), making decisions (2688), refusing (3225), and saying things (4059), as examples. (There are many more.)
We understand how we are able to do those things consciously and volitionally but no explanation is given for how the subconscious mind, which "cannot make choices," does any of these things.
Without explanation, how the subconscious mind performs any of those operations must be put down to mysticism.
Packer says part of understanding one's own psychology is understanding, "The interaction between your subconscious and conscious mind." (Location 3841) Again, that relationship is exactly what Packer never explains.
From the quote above, "To begin with, the subconscious mind, like the conscious mind is tabula rasa at birth. As the child develops, everything significant that he feels, experiences, and thinks—which as a total is beyond the power of his mind to hold consciously—gets filed in the subconscious." (Location 428)
How, and in what form are the things a child, "feels, experiences, and thinks," filed in subconscious? What mechanism or process does that filing and how does that process work? Since feelings are physiological, and not part of the conscious mind, how are they part of the subconscious mind? Since the child has not yet developed concepts with which to identify what it feels and experiences, (and is obviously not doing any thinking), in what form are they filed? It can't be in the form of concepts.
Packer says we cannot be conscious of what is in the subconscious:
"Core evaluations are operative ... unknown to ... people and, as such, outside of their conscious control." (Location 339)
"... core evaluations, being subconscious, are not available to us directly ..." (Location 528)
What is the connection, then, between the subconscious mind and the conscious mind if the unconscious is "unknown" to and "uncontrollable" by the conscious mind?
The connection Packer describes is a kind of mystical influence.
Though Packer never explains the mechanism either physiologically or psychologically, by which the conscious mind and subconscious mind communicate and influence one another, she nevertheless makes frequent reference to such things happening.
If the following were true, it would invalidate everything we know about the conscious mind:
"Core evaluations ... operate as a complex, automated system or program in everyone's psychology. They can be viewed as the psychological metaphysics of the person. They are held by each of us as, in effect, self-evidently true. Core evaluations influence every aspect of our method of thinking, the way we integrate reality in the present, and ultimately, the way we behave."
Volition (which Packer calls 'free will') means what a human being thinks and chooses is by conscious choice. Nothing makes a human being think or do anything one does not choose to think or do. If anything other than one's conscious choice determined what a human thought or did, it would cancel volition.
Packer obviously does not see the contradiction in saying the subconscious (core evaluations) "influence our method of thinking ... and ultimately the way we behave," and volition. If how one chooses to think or act is based on anything other than one's own conscious reason, if what one thinks and does is in any way determined by some "influence" one cannot be conscious of, their thinking and behavior is not volitional.
This is exactly the same mistake as all those who claim an individual's behavior is determined by instinct, genetics, economic status, social pressures, or race—they are all a denial of the volitional nature of human consciousness.
Packer expresses this in another way, as well:
"The subconscious immediately colors one's conscious perceptions."
If that were true, it could mean, when looking at a red flower, the subconscious could make one perceive a blue flower. It would invalidate conscious perception altogether. But that is not what Packer means.
Packer is not using the word "perception" in its technical scientific sense, which is what most would expect in a book dedicated to a supposed "science." Instead, she is using perception in the literary or academic sense to mean the way something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.
Even in that sense, suggesting the subconscious colors one's perceptions, meaning the way they understand and interpret things, is just as bad. How we regard, understand, and interpret things is determined by our consciously held beliefs and thoughts. Packer is suggesting the subconscious changes how we think. If something can change how we think, especially something we cannot be conscious of, it would be determining our thinking to the extent of that influence. Any such thoughts produced by that influence would not be volitional.
If something does something to the conscious mind that determines, in any way, what the mind does, the operation of the mind ceases to be volitional; but that is exactly what Packer says is going on: "This is why we need to know our psychologies—so we can be aware of what our subconscious minds are capable of doing to our conscious [mind]." (Location 3917)
[NOTE: I believe what Packer really means by the subconscious influencing the conscious mind is the emotions she believes are caused by subconscious states and processes. But feelings, even if they could have some inexplicable cause, do not determine how anyone thinks or chooses. Of course one can choose to allow their feelings to influence their thinking and choices, but that kind of subjectivity is just the kind of mistake that does produce psychological problems. The way to a sound psychology is always to only think and choose by means of objective reason and sound principles no matter what one feels.]
[Of Interest To Objectivists: Ayn Rand said something very similar to my previous note:
"An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man's value premises. An effect, not a cause. ... His emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. But they are not his guide; the guide is his mind. This relationship cannot be reversed, however. If a man takes his emotions as the cause and his mind as their passive effect, if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally, he is condemning himself to misery, failure, defeat, and he will achieve nothing but destruction—his own and that of others." ("Playboy's interview with Ayn Rand," pamphlet, page 6.)]
Automatic Processes And Systems
Packer describes most of what the subconscious does as being some kind of automated system or process:
"Core evaluations, once established, are automated and operate without our permission in the present." (Location 770)
"Core evaluations, whether correct or incorrect, operate as a complex, automated system or program in everyone's psychology." (Locations 355, 1198)
"And as soon as he forms this core evaluation, he immediately builds it into an unshakable absolute, which turns into a subconsciously automated program guiding his psychology from then on." (Locations 1213, 1227)
"Over time, the core evaluations develop into a basic system analogous to the programming of a computer. This system then governs how a person relates to reality—how he interprets the data of reality that he perceives. (Location 3600)
"Repression is an automated subconscious mechanism which forbids entry into conscious awareness of any idea, memory, ..." (Location 2731)
"All defense mechanisms operate subconsciously and are automated ..." (Location 2728)
Whenever someone asserts some automatic process or system about any aspect of human nature they are obliged to first explain how they know there is such an automatic system, then, how that automatic system works, and finally, how they know it does what they claim it does.
Packer does not explain how she knows there are such automatic systems, or how they work, or how they do what she claims.
[Of Interest To Objectivists: Ayn Rand made the same mistake about perception:
"A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. (Introduction to Objectivism Epistemology, Page 5)
"A 'perception' is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism, which gives it the ability to be aware, not of single stimuli, but of entities, of things." (The Virtue of Selfishness Page 19.)
"Sensations are integrated into perceptions automatically..." ("Galt's Speech," For the New Intellectual, Page 120.)]
"Since core evaluations, being subconscious, are not available to us directly, they must be discovered by inference. As I told you at the beginning of my talk, I consider it a major goal of psychotherapy to identify them.
"The task is complex. The first thing that has to be done is for the patient to discover the original concrete experiences—usually painful ones—which caused him deep injury. Then the concrete experiences have to be reconnected with the evaluations that subsequently developed into the patient's core evaluations. That process usually takes the longest time. Once the core evaluations are identified and brought into conscious awareness, the patient has to be shown how he automatically applies them in the present and how the incorrect evaluations are the cause of his out-of-context emotions in the present. And, finally, the defense mechanisms and defensive maneuvers, which the patient engages in because of these core evaluations, have to be identified. In actuality, all of these steps may be worked on in any particular session. Of course, another important process going on throughout therapy is that the patient is encouraged to take steps in reality to act against the subconsciously held mistaken core evaluations. (Location 534)
To believe in something for which there is no evidence or logical reason for its existence based on evidence is a form of superstition or faith. By evidence I mean something one can be conscious of either by perceiving it, or discovered by reasoning from what is perceived.
The subconscious, by definition, is something that one cannot be conscious of and can only be known by, "inference." It is like God, or Angels, or Demons which can only be known by, "inference," that is, a form or rationalism.
The only "evidence" for the subconscious is what Packer calls, "out of context emotions,"—which are feelings which seem inexplicable because one cannot identify why they have them.
In earlier times, and still in many cultures today, the explanation for inexplicable feelings and desires was and is demons that inject thoughts and feelings into one's mind. One cannot be conscious of demons, of course, and one only knows there are demons because their priests say so.
Except for the fact that the subconscious is couched in scientific sounding jargon, such as, "core evaluations are caused by unremembered traumatic events in one's childhood," there is little difference between unperceivable demons and an unperceivable subconscious. It is not priests that are the authority for believing in the subconscious, but psychologists who made up the concept as an explanation for things they otherwise could not explain. Just as modern priests continue to teach demon possession based on the authority of their religion, modern psychologists continue to teach subconscious influence based on the authority of psychological doctrine.
Packer Is Right
When I read the following paragraph near the beginning of Chapter 2, I thought Packer and I would at least be beginning on the same ground.
"Philosophically, I view man as a rational being. Man's conscious mind and his free will are the basic tools for the achievement of mental health, values, and happiness. My psychological orientation can be described as Cognitive ...." (Location 307)
I'd quibble about the emphasis but mostly agree with this. It is volition [free will] that makes the human mind possible and that which distinguishes human consciousness from the consciousness of all other organisms. It is not, 'the mind and free will,' but just the mind, which volition makes possible. I would have said the mind is man's basic means of living.
I also agree that, "all emotions are derived from some type of thought or cognition, that emotions have no independent existence apart from thoughts ...." (Location 307)
And I agree with the following, at least 'til the end:
"I view all emotional problems as disturbances in thinking, with their severity depending on the seriousness of the thinking mistakes involved and on whether or not the disturbances are subject to conscious control." (Location 307)
"Disturbances," is an odd term for wrong thinking, nevertheless, thinking, disturbed or otherwise, is always subject to conscious control. Thinking is a volitional act and nothing "causes" or "determines" what anyone thinks except what they choose to think, else it is not volitional."
Psychologically, however, it is not emotions that are the problem. There might be emotions one does not like, and feelings may sometime seem inexplicable, but our psychology is determined solely by what we choose to believe, think, and do. No matter what one feels, if one's thinking is correct, and all their choices are based on objective principles, the feelings will be right as well. If someone has problems, they are not caused by their feelings, they are caused by their beliefs, their values, their thinking, and their chosen behavior. The feelings are never a cause. They may be symptoms of wrong thinking and wrong values and a reason for examining one's beliefs and thoughts, but nothing is solved or, "cured," by addressing symptoms directly in medicine or psychology.
I think Packer is sometimes very close to that view herself:
"For years, I used to agonized over the lack of progress of some of my patients. I blamed the lack of knowledge in the field of psychology or my own inadequacies as a therapist. I have come to conclude because of my improved philosophical understanding of free will that true progress in correcting neurotic problems can come about only if the patient chooses consistently, through the exercise of his own free will, to commit himself to reason and rational action in spite of the pain involved." (Location 3552-3553) [Emphasis mine.]
SOME COMMENTS ON INDIVIDUAL CHAPTERS
These comments only address examples and points already made or points I feel need special attention.
Chapter 1, The Psychological Requirements of a Free Society
There is something odd about beginning a book on psychology with politics. Just as ethics only pertains to individuals, not societies, because only individuals have the capacity to consciously choose their behavior, psychology only pertains to individuals, not societies, because only individuals have conscious minds.
Of course a society made up entirely of loopy people will be a disaster and a society comprised entirely of mental defectives cannot possibly succeed, much less be what someone's idea of a free society is. But the purpose of ethics is not society, but for individuals to make choices that lead to their success and happiness in this world, and the purpose of psychology is, or ought to be, to provide those principles by which one understands the nature of the human mind, the nature of correct thinking, and the relationship between one's beliefs, thoughts, and choices and their emotional experience.
Most Objectivists and Libertarians make, "free society," the ultimate objective of everything from metaphysics to politics, and in the case of this Objectivist (Packer), psychology as well.
Here is what the political view misses. It is the individuals that make up a society that make a society the kind of society it is? Trying to make any society a particular kind, a fair society, a moral society, a just society, or a free society, is called social engineering. To make any society a particular kind of society requires making the people that are that society a particular kind of people. It cannot be done and would be immoral to do if it could be. In this case it would be necessary to change everyone's psychology to the kind Packer believes a free society depends on.
"Thus, the essential psychological requirement of a free society is the willingness on the part of the individual to accept responsibility for his life."
If this is the requirement of a free society, it would have to be universal. It would have to be the willingness of every individual to accept responsibility for his life. Does anyone honestly believe that is ever going to happen?
"Now the question that I wish to address is: how does a person become self-responsible? And more precisely: how does he come to value and enjoy self-responsibility?" (Location 93)
How an individual becomes, "self-responsible," is by choice, just as a human being becomes anything else, but Packer does not really address that question. What she really addresses is what she calls, "personal identity."
"This speech focuses on only one requirement, a requirement that is particularly psychological: the individual's sense of personal identity." (Location 307)
This starts out badly. If she had written, "the individual's recognition of their personal identity," or, "the individual's understanding of their personal identity," that might be a psychological requirement in the sense that an individual must know what kind of person one is, what their principles are, what they value, and what they are living for to be psychologically healthy, but a sense is not knowing what one's identity is, it is a feeling. There is no psychological requirement for any particular feeling.
For example, Packer writes, "I have been able to identify five general prerequisites for the development of a strong sense of identity ..." (Location 106)
The first, she says, "is a certain attitude toward oneself. It is a conscious or subconscious feeling which, if it could talk, would say, 'I am worthy of happiness. I am worth all the trouble to find out what makes me happy and then to go achieve it.'" (Location 534)
[NOTE: Parker states that one cannot be conscious of the subconscious, but here says, "it is a conscious or subconscious feeling." What would a feeling that one cannot be conscious of be? At least she makes it clear that what she means by an, "attitude," is a, "feeling."]
No one is worthy of anything just because they were born. Worthiness must be earned. If one has made no effort to achieve anything or to make something of himself, he is not worthy of anything, much less happiness.
To just take an attitude, based on nothing, is self-deception, and if that attitude is one of self-worth it is hubris.
Everyone is capable of achieving and being all they can be and that achievement is happiness and the one who has achieved it is worthy of that happiness because they have earned it.
Anyone who chooses to live happily and successfully in this world can achieve whatever is required for that success and happiness. That is all one needs to understand. Everyone who chooses to make the effort to be all they can be is worthy of all they achieve and all they are; but they are not worthy of it until they have actually worked and achieved it.
Now Packer never addresses the fact that one who believes they are not worthy of happiness may be right. He may be worthless, never having made any effort to learn anything or achieve anything and essentially is a failure at being a human being. One's self-evaluation, to borrow a phrase, may actually be an objective one. The cure for that is not to encourage someone to, "take an attitude," which becomes a, "feeling," (which though non-cognitive, says, "I am worthy of happiness"), but to begin learning, and working to achieve something of value, using their reason to make right choices, no matter what they feel, and becoming the best human being they can be, truly deserving of the life they have earned—then they truly are worthy of happiness and they shall have it.
There is something very wrong with the idea that the means to achieving anything begins with the right kind of feeling.
The remaining, "prerequisites for building a sense of identity," Packer describes are, 2. viewing life as an adventure, 3. have a benevolent attitude toward people, 4. "locus of control," which is essentially being autonomous, and 5. "self-acceptance," which is just being realistic about one's inborn characteristics and abilities. They are mixed bag of common sense and nonsense I'll not comment on here.
Important Areas Of Life
According to Packer, the four important areas of an individual's life are: work, friendship, romantic relationships, and leisure. (Location 150)
Depending on the individual, two of these so-called "important areas" of life, matter very little. The only one that matters to everyone is one's productive work, which is a fundamental requirement of human nature.
The others are not necessities. Friendships are often valuable and individuals will have friends if they find others with similar interests and they both find value in each other, but no moral individual requires the agreement, approval, or friendship of another to live successfully.
Leisure is a luxury that can be a great value to those who have earned it, but many independent productive happy individuals regard leisure as a waste of their time, like Thomas Edison.
I'm afraid I do not know what Packer means by "romantic relationships," unless she means what most people today mean, where sex has replaced the meaning of love. Romantic love is not, "relationships," it is the realization of one's highest ideal in another, one other.
The remainder of this chapter is very much like those books that are promoted as, "self-help," "motivational," or "personal development," manuals.
"I would like to list three traits that are necessary to translate values into reality: commitment to achievement, perseverance and hard work, and tolerance for failure." (Location 200)
That's actually four things, and they are all sound principles for achieving anything, but they are not exactly ground-breaking psychological insights.
Here is one more:
"It is helpful here to view knowledge as information. In the beginning, when you start to learn something new, the subject may seem bewildering, even chaotic. But this does not have to paralyze you; it only shows that you don't yet have the information you need, the information that will enable you to integrate the new material and to connect it to your previous knowledge. The solution is to break down the information you need into small bits. If you work with bits of information small enough to understand and integrate, then ... with perseverance there isn't anything that you cannot learn." (Location 231)
This is also good advice for learning things, especially anything truly important, but it's only advice, not psychology.
Chapter 2 Understanding the Subconscious
Her introductory statement to this chapter begins:
"I am going to speak to you today about the functioning of the subconscious mind, and how to begin to understand it. Specifically, I am going to focus on the role of the subconscious in the development and maintenance of psychological problems." (Location 534)
She introduces the subconscious mind as an assumed fact. In the entire history of psychology, no evidence for the existence of a faculty, distinct and different from the conscious mind, and which one cannot be conscious of, is ever provided. The only "evidence" ever provided by Packer are feelings which, according to those who claim them, cannot be accounted for.
Packer, herself focuses, "on the role of the subconscious in the development and maintenance of psychological problems." (Location 300)
This raises the question of why, biologically or psychologically, there should be a faculty which one cannot even be conscious of which is the cause of so many problems? We know what purpose the physical aspects or our human organism serve, and how consciousness is necessary to all higher animals, and that the mind, which enables us to choose, think, and learn is necessary to human life. What possible function or purpose could an unconscious faculty have that a human being could not live just as well, or better, without?
The idea of a subconscious was the invention of Freud. Unlike all other psychological phenomena, like consciousness, memory, language, knowledge, thinking, imagination, etc. there is no experience of the subconscious. By definition, the subconscious is that which one cannot consciously experience.
Packer uses case histories to illustrate what she claims the subconscious is responsible for. She begins with two:
"Mr. Jones, a young, good looking, intelligent man, successful in his career, walks into a room full of people. He suddenly experiences fear. He starts to sweat; his heartbeat increases. He realizes that he is experiencing the situation as in same way dangerous to him. He knows consciously that the people in the room will not harm him and that he is not in any danger. Yet he is unable to understand or control his incomprehensible fear." (Location 320)
Her second example:
"Miss Smith, a young lady, comes to my office complaining of severe depression. She has been having a romantic relationship with a married man; the man has now decided to leave his wife, and wants to marry her. Miss Smith does not understand why, instead of being happy, she loses interest in the man and becomes depressed." (Location 326)
Now she explains:
"Now remember what I stressed about emotions: they are always based on some type of thought or evaluation. It is very obvious in my two examples that both the fear and the depression are not based on the conscious thoughts of the individuals." (Location 326)
No, that is not obvious at all. It only indicates what the patients said about there feelings and what they describe as their thoughts. Were they true? Were they correct? Only the patients know that.
She continues: "Mr. Jones does not consciously view the situation or the people in it as dangerous. Yet he is feeling fear." (location 326)
Mr. Jones said what he was feeling is fear. How does he know it is fear? Even if he knows there is nothing to fear from the people in the room, his feeling of fear, if it is fear, could be based on an entirely different cause. He may, as many people do, base his own evaluation of himself on the opinions and praise of others and may be aware that the people in the room have very high standards and his fear might be that he will fail to measure up.
She continues: "Miss Smith thinks that it is wonderful that the man is willing to leave his wife. Yet she is depressed." (Location 2477)
No doubt Miss Smith is flattered that the man is willing to leave his wife for her, but whether she really thinks it is "wonderful" or not cannot be known. I would not take the word of a woman who has no qualms about having a sexual affair (which Packer euphemistically called a "romantic relationship") with another woman's husband. Perhaps she's depressed because she now has to figure out how to extricate herself from a situation she'd prefer not to be in. After all, she must be aware that the man that wants to marry her cheated on his present wife and is very likely to do the same thing to her. That would make anyone depressed.
Packer's explanation is different: "What the examples do demonstrate is that the emotions must be based on some type of subconscious beliefs and evaluations, which are presently unavailable to conscious awareness." (Location 333)
I have explained why the emotions can be understood without resorting to some "subconscious beliefs and evaluations." But Packer gives this bizarre explanation of Miss Smith's problem:
"I am sure many of you are wondering by now about Miss Smith, the young lady I described early in my talk, who, instead of being happy, became depressed when the married man she was bedding, (Packer says, "going with"), decided to leave his wife and marry her.
"Sometimes, a single injury to the child's ego is so great that he may end up spending his whole life reliving in some symbolic way one original painful experience,..." (Location 591)
In the case of Miss Smith, Packer explains, she was given up for adoption when she was five, and suffered "brutally" in foster homes before being adopted, while her older sister was kept by the mother. The reason Miss Smith chose to have affairs with married men was so she could challenge them to give up their wives and choose her to compensate for not being chosen by her mother. It never worked, and until the last time, the men would choose their wives, which hurt her, "for many weeks," but, in some mysterious way, satisfied her.
When one of her paramours finally chose her, instead of being happy, she was depressed. Packer's explanation for this seemingly paradoxical result is that being chosen by a man did not, "rectify," her not being chosen by her mother.
Packer says, "She came to relive the pain (of rejection by her mother) many times in therapy, worked to change her evaluations, and eventually no longer needed to be involved with married men." (Location 610)
I do not mean to be flippant, but this explanation is a fairy tale. I don't mean Packer is making it up, I'm sure she sincerely believes it. It is not so much the tale as the interpretation that is fiction.
The language betrays it. She, "eventually no longer needed to be involved with married men." She might have wanted married men, but there is no such, "need." Packer makes it sound like an irresistible compulsion, but of course it wasn't. No one is compelled to do what is morally wrong. There is no way the young, "lady," as Packer refers to her, did not know it was wrong to bed other women's husbands. There is no way Packer could not know that serial sexual promiscuity is not, "romantic relationships."
Core Evaluations And Emotions
Packer says, "Core evaluations are basic conclusions, bottom-line evaluations, that we all hold subconsciously." (Location (380)
Furthermore, "Core evaluations, once established, are automated and operate without our permission in the present." (Location 380)
It is those, "core evaluations," which we can neither be conscious of or control that are the reason for all psychological problems:
"Core evaluations which are mistaken result in out-of-context, inappropriate, and painful emotions. Unrealistic or irrational fear, unprovoked rage, unearned self-doubt or guilt—any emotion which is not in accord with one's conscious, rational appraisal of the present context—has its roots in mistaken core evaluations." (Location 389)
I have already addressed every aspect of the fictional subconscious mind and what is impossible about them. Here it is clear Packer is attributing emotions to the subconscious. This contradiction with the nature of emotions is so glaring I had to address it.
The emotions, according to Packer, are, "psychosomatic responses to a perceived, event, or situation, appraised and evaluated on the basis of the perceiver's knowledge and value judgments."
I wrote earlier that this description is essentially correct, though incomplete and over-simplified. The most important aspect of this explanation is that the emotions are caused by perceived, events, situations, and thoughts; that is, thoughts, events, and situations we are conscious of.
Our emotions are only responses to what we are currently conscious of at the time we are experiencing the emotion. If there were a subconscious mind, it could have no affect on emotions because, by definition, we cannot be conscious of what is in the subconscious mind.
Everything in our conscious mind has some affect on our emotions, but the most important is what we are consciously thinking. Our emotions are a continuous kaleidescope of feelings enriching every aspect of our conscious experience. Most of those feelings enhance and enrich our lives, even the painful ones when appropriate to one's current perceptions. Very few emotional experiences are troubling or problems, and, when they are, indicate there is something wrong with one's thinking and choices.
Packer attributes most, if not all troubling subconscious core evaluations to some kind trauma during an individual's childhood.
"To begin with, the subconscious mind, like the conscious mind is tabula rasa at birth. As the child develops, everything significant that he feels, experiences, and thinks—which as a total is beyond the power of his mind to hold consciously—gets filed in the subconscious." (Location 428)
"Sometimes, a single injury to the child's ego is so great that he may end up spending his whole life reliving in some symbolic way one original painful experience, in an attempt to bring about a more acceptable conclusion." (Location 597)
She provides examples:
"For example, as early as kindergarten, the child has to learn how to relate to his peers." Why? Well she doesn't explain why this is true and continues her explanation with, "Let's assume ...," which is always a good scientific approach.
She continues by using the example of a child entering kindergarten who is already afraid of other children because of some previous, "injury," he has experienced, and therefore avoids the other children. The result is, she says, when the child sees the other children having fun and getting along, the shy child concludes, "that there is something wrong with him."
Of course, if some adult has convinced the child he, "has to learn how to relate to his peers," he might conclude that, but he might just as well conclude that there is something wrong with the other children. This kind of nonsense is always the result of beginning with assumptions without basis.
Shyness is not a symptom of some deep subconscious painful trauma. It is often simply how a very sensitive and perceptive child's natural (and quite practical) caution is manifested. To a carpenter with a hammer everything is a nail; to a psychologist with a degree in psychoanalysis, every variation in personality is a psychological anomaly.
This whole mistaken idea that one's whole future psychology is determined by the events and experiences of childhood ignores the fact that every human being is a volitional being and that all they think, believe, and choose determines every aspect of their being. It is never what happens to an individual that determines what they are, psychologically or any other way, but what they choose to make of themselves.
Chapter 3 Anger
There is something about psychologists and most academics that makes it impossible for them to view anything outside some social or political context.
"...anger and aggression are a dominant feature of the world. ... In the world at large, anger is so acute that Moslems, Christians, Bosnians, Serbians, and others are slaughtering one another in the name of religion or nationalism. At the same time, racial animosities, terrorism, and crime, also expressions of anger, are on the rise almost everywhere." (Location 644)
It is unlikely that any of the things Packer attributes to anger are really caused by anger. Every evil she describes is the consequence of the ideologies, wrong values (or complete lack of them) that dominates the minds of those who actually perpetrate the evil acts she describes. Every one of them can be and have frequently been committed without any emotion beyond enthusiasm, and in cold blood.
Packer intends to address anger from two aspects: 1. the nature of anger, and, 2. "the role anger plays in a person's psychology and his relationships with other people." (Location 650)
After rejecting all historic and traditional explanations of the nature of anger, Packer proceeds to provide her own. Here she provides a premise which is factually untrue:
"...the nature of a particular emotion depends on a specific underlying evaluation. In each case, that specific abstract evaluation is the same for each case ... [and] the same for everyone who experiences that particular emotion." [Location 714]
She adds, "Thus love, pride, fear, anger, jealousy, depression and each and every other emotion has a universal evaluation that is specific to it." [Location 714]
If this were true it would be unknowable. It is not possible to know what anyone's conscious experience is, including their conscious experience of an emotion. But it is not true.
First, the emotions are not discrete and separate entities. The emotions are as analogue in nature as the range of colors we see or the range of sounds we hear.
[NOTE: Please see the section, "Not Discrete," in the notes on, "Chapter 5 The Art of Introspection," below.]
Just as we can identify certain colors as categories (the whole range and variations of reds) we can name a range of emotions such as all those we call fear, from those minor fears that are little more than apprehension to those that are terrifying, including those corresponding to things we regard as actual threats or danger to those we know are not real threats, like the feeling we enjoy reading horror stories or watching scary movies. The emotional experience of fear is different in each case but belong to the whole class of feelings called, "fear."
In the case of anger, Packer claims the one evaluation that always causes anger is that, "some injustice is being done to me or to someone or something I value." [Location 726]
Identifying or even imagining that some injustice is being done might produce a feeling we identify as anger, but it does not always, and is certainly not the most common source of those emotions. Most anger is the result of something that prevents us from having or achieving something we want, or interferes in something we are doing, or is just something we dislike happening, especially when any of those things are unexpected.
If we spill the milk, burn the toast, or have an automobile accident with no one else involved, if they make us angry, it is not because we judge those events as injustices. We simply do not like them or what they cost us and how they interfere with our lives. Some people do make irrational judgments in such cases, "why did God let this happen to me?" or, "it's not fair," but some individuals' irrationality does define the nature of the emotion itself.
Of course people become angry about what they regard as injustices but the most frequent cause of anger is frustration with anything one judges to be standing in the way of what they want, just or unjust.
Babies, who have not yet formed any concepts, much less a complex concept like justice, become angry. Children, when playing by themselves, often become angry when something they are doing just doesn't work the way they would like. People become angry with themselves; it's not because they think they're being unjust to themselves. How many adults have you seen become furious after the twentieth time they've pulled the starter rope of the chain-saw, leaf-blower, or weed-wacker that still hasn't started? Exactly what, "injustice," is it they are angry about.
Packer is wrong about the nature of anger. At the beginning of the chapter she wrote:
"In view of all this anger and aggression, does the world need still another source of anger? ... Indeed it does, as you will see." [Location 645]
Near the end of the chapter she wrote:
"I hope that I have convinced all of you that it is important to feel the emotion of anger and to express it appropriately. I hope I have also demonstrated that if you will use anger in a proper way, it will become your personal weapon against injustice." [Location 1071]
Anger is a feeling, an emotion. No feeling or emotion is required to do the right thing. Packer implies that someone requires a certain kind of feeling before having the right kind of behavior, but a feeling is a response, not a reason for doing anything. This is a very bad and immoral idea.
It is always and only, know what is right and do it, no matter what you feel or don't feel. You never need a particular feeling before doing the right thing, and very often in life, if you choose to live a moral life, you will have to act in defiance of your immediate feelings to do right. The consequence of living by principles is that your feelings will eventually agree with and reward your right choices.
Of all human feelings, anger is one of the worst to allow to influence our thinking or choices. Most anger is actually a result of wrong thinking, finding fault where there is none, or being hurt by the ignorant words or actions of others. In almost all behavior motivated by anger there is an element of the vindictive and a desire for revenge, a false sense of, "justice," based on the principle that two wrongs make a right, or "if I hurt someone who hurts me, I'll feel better." It's a pre-adolescent attitude apparently many Objectivists never outgrow.
Packer begins her discussion of repression in the nature of subconscious chapter.
"Or, another route might be that the self-doubt and fear may be pacified through repression. ...he can be led to decide that all emotions are dangerous ... and that it is not good to experience any of them. Repression then becomes a way of life with him, with the result that eventually he will feel very few emotions. ... he will never develop deep friendships or become deeply involved romantically or have strong emotions in general" (Location 502)
Where does the decision, "that all emotions are dangerous," take place. It cannot be the subconscious because Packer says the subconscious cannot make choices. If it is a conscious decision, it must be based on some conscious thought or belief. One can make such a decision, but nothing will result from it.
It is impossible to not feel an emotion. They are produced automatically by the bodies response to the content of consciousness and the only way not to feel them would be if one were anesthetized.
"Some feel the emotion, but may avoid its expression, while others do not even feel it, because they have almost totally repressed all their emotions, including anger." [Location 813]
The emotions are automatic "psychosomatic" responses of the body to the content of conscious. There is no way the emotions can be repressed.
"Repression, as many of you know, is a subconscious automated mechanism which forbids entry into conscious awareness of ideas, memories, or emotions which are painful." [Location 882]
How does the subconscious "forbid" volitional consciousness from doing anything? Nothing except possible physiological problems can interfere with consciousness and we are always conscious of everything our entire neurological system makes available for us to be conscious of, from the external and internal sensory system and from memory. Since emotions cannot be cause by the subconscious (because they are only caused by what we are conscious of) and nothing can prevent us from being conscious of what are bodies are doing, the subconscious has no relations to feelings at all.
[NOTE: It is possible to choose not to think about some things. Since it is mostly our thinking that produces our feelings, one can choose not to think about things that result in feelings they do not like. That choice is a conscious decision, not some subconscious forbidding of a feeling.]
"All anger avoiders are convinced that nice people do not become angry and thus that one of the signs of a good character is the ability to repress anger." [Location 816]
One sign of a good character is to always make right choices, no matter what one feels. Most adults have learned that most of the things that people become uncontrollably angry about are really non-issues, that even if they make one angry, allowing their anger to affect their behavior can only result in actions that do no good, solve no problems, but frequently cause trouble.
It has nothing to do with repression, it has to do with being rational and making correct choices based on sound principles. What most rational individuals discover is that many things which make others angry do not produce that emotional reaction in themselves, because they know the difference between what is really important, what things they can do something about, and what things are just unchangeable reality, which they must accept and work around. Since they really have no interest in what others say or think about them, and have no interest in changing how others choose to believe, or think or live their lives, there is very little in this world to waste the kind of thought on that produces irrational anger.
Emotions aren't "tools" for anything. They are our means of experiencing our lives and our intellects and enjoying ourselves.
Chapter 4 The Obsessive-Compulsive Syndrome
Packer begins this chapter:
"Anxiety, self-doubt, feelings of impending doom, and the accompanying sense of being out of control are emotions which threaten our basic psychological safety and security." [Location 1119]
I have no idea what, "psychological safety and security," is, as though one's psychology were some fragile thing that was under constant threat of some kind. What is a, "safe," psychology?
I do know what a, "sense of being out of control," is, however, and where it comes from.
Human beings have only one faculty for controlling their lives, their volitional rational consciousness, that is, their minds. Being, "in control," for a human being, means consciously making every choice, using their best possible reason.
One's conscious mind is one's "I," that is, one's self. "I," am only in control if it is my conscious self that is in control—for a human being, being in control is, "self-control."
But a human being is a volitional being and can choose to allow something else to take over control of his choices and how he lives. Some surrender their self-control to the control of others, their government, their leaders or authorities, and some surrender the control of their lives to their irrational feelings, emotions, desires, and whims.
Self-control is being in rational control of all one chooses and does. Allowing anything other than one's rational control to affect or determine what they choose or do, their feelings, emotions, or desires, is being out-of-control. The emotional state that Packer calls a, "sense of being out of control," is the inevitable state of one who has surrendered their rational self-control to their irrational and unpredictable feelings and desires.
Packer says, "The compulsive personality is basically motivated in thought and action by his desire to feel psychologically safe and secure at all times." [Location 1161]
If this were true it would be obvious that anyone whose thoughts were, "motivated," by a desire is out of control. And what is a desire (an emotion) for a feeling (another emotion)?
I do not want to generalize as Packer does, but compulsive behavior is simply feeling driven by habituated behavior that is comforting, because one does not have to think about it. The compulsive does not want to think because he has surrendered his choices to his feelings.
Packer says, "the development of a compulsive personality's psychology can be traced to the individuals core evaluations," which of course are subconscious. [Location 1193]
"But the distinguishing characteristic in the development of a compulsive personality is his implicit conclusion that there is nothing further he can learn about the world which would enable him to modify his negative view of it." [Location 1211]
Where is this, "implicit conclusion," held? If it's part of his "core evaluation" then it would be, according to Packer, in his unconscious mind, which he cannot be conscious of. But, if he cannot be conscious of it, how can it possibly influence any conscious thought or choice?
I would like to address the entire category of the obsessive-compulsive syndrome, which is not, as Packer claims, a form of "defence" mechanism or strategy which an individual uses (without choosing to) to evade some kind of psychological pain. It is an evasion, but what it is evading is the conscious identification of what is determining one's behavior. But I cannot spend the time addressing that now.
Chapter 5 The Art of Introspection
What Packer means by introspection is "understanding your emotions:"
"The only route to understanding your emotions is through introspection ..." [Location 1576]
She begins the chapter with a contradiction:
"As Ayn Rand emphasized, emotions are not tools of cognition .... Nevertheless, emotions are enormous psychological significance. They are an essential means by which we experience ourselves .... by the time a person matures, he has made and automatized countless value-judgments. It is emotions which are the single most important signal indicating the nature of those value-judgments."
Here's the contradiction: emotions are not tools of cognition (information)/emotions are ... signals (information) indicating value-judgments.
Emotions are only responses to what we consciously perceive, think, and choose. Our conscious values, thoughts, and judgments will certainly affect our feelings, but no feeling indicates what values, thoughts, or judgments produced them. The nature of feelings themselves are ambiguous, and quite different thoughts and perceptions can produce similar feelings.
I want to note one more absurd statement from this chapter:
"Your personal language may lead you to discover emotions that you had been unaware of." [Location 1782]
It is not possible to have an emotion and not be aware of it. An emotion is a conscious experience of a physiological reaction. One cannot be unaware (not conscious) of what they are consciously experiencing.
This might have been included in my discussion of any chapter, but it has become clear that Packer really had very little understanding of the nature of the emotions.
The two glaring mistakes about the nature of the emotions is that, 1. emotions are discrete phenomena, and 2. that each has a single and invariable specific cause.
"Each emotion has at its base a specific kind of evaluation which is universal too all those who feel it. As a result, emotions can be classified on the basis of the kind of evaluations that underlie them." (Location 615)
"... the evaluation underlying anger is, 'some injustice has been done to me.' ... the evaluation underlying guilt is, 'I did something that is not worthy of me.'" (Location 615)
"The different types of emotions can be classified on the basis of particular evaluations which underlie them. To put it another way, the nature of a particular emotion depends on a specific underlying evaluation. In each case, that specific abstract evaluation is the same for everyone who experiences that particular emotion. I therefore call it the universal abstract evaluation that underlies the emotion. Thus love, pride, fear, anger, jealousy, depression and each and every other emotion has a universal evaluation that is specific to it." (Location 716)
"In all cases where the individual draws the conclusion ... that something poses a threat to his physical or psychological well-being, the resulting emotion of fear is predetermined.
"From that particular type of abstract evaluation only one type of emotion will follow, namely fear. This connection between that universal evaluation and the emotion of fear will never vary from person to person or from time to time." (Location 722)
"It is important to know that each emotion has as its base an abstract evaluation which is the same for everyone who experiences that emotion. As a result, emotions can be classified on the basis of the particular kinds of abstract evaluations that underlie them." (Location 1636)
"I want to emphasize again that once a given universal evaluation is made, only one particular type of emotion can follow it. And the type of emotion will never vary from person to person or from time to time. Nor does it matter whether the person drawing the conclusion is aware of it or not, ..." (Location 1654)
First, the emotions are not discrete and separate entities or phenomena. The emotions are as analogue in nature as the range of colors we see or the range of sounds we hear. Just as we can identify certain colors as categories (the whole range and variations of reds) we can name a range of emotions such as all those we we call fear, from those minor fears that are little more than apprehension to those that are terrifying, including those corresponding to things we regard as actual threats or danger to those we know are not real threats, like horror stories and movies. The emotional experience of fear is different in each case but belong to the whole class of feelings called fear.
There are also all those feeling we describe as moods: loneliness, ennui, crankiness, depressed, lethargic, listless, gay, mellow, melancholy, frisky, relaxed, restless, frustrated, and pensive, for example.
There are all those feelings that we fail to identify as emotions like humor, from silliness to bitter irony and our emotional responses to beauty for which we do not have names, but substitute awe, stunning, striking, or moving (as from a beautiful piece of music).
Then there is the largest category of emotions usually neglected, the desires, which include every form of want, hunger, craving, passion, impulse and whim we feel.
Finally are all those feelings that are usually associated with others, like affection, love, admiration, gratitude, and "simpatico."
Consider the list of emotions. It only includes those feelings which are common enough for us to relate to specific situations, thoughts, and values, but our real emotional experience is as rich, varied, and subtle as our entire conscious experience. We do not have names for every possible variation.
Our emotions only respond to what we are actually conscious of, and all that we are conscious of at a particular time. Since what we are thinking about and what we are conscious of is continuously changing, our emotions are also continuously changing as well.
One moment we will be thinking about something serious and important and our emotional state will have all gravity of our thoughts, when someone says something that strikes us as outrageously funny, and our entire emotional state changes.
The "one evaluation"/"one emotion," idea is absurd. The idea that every emotion has one specific "core evaluation" that invariably produces the exact same emotion that "will never vary from person to person or from time to time," is flat-out not true.
It must be remembered that the emotions are physiological, and that we experience them in the same way we experience all our other physiological feelings. Our physiological states often affect or interfere with our emotional feelings. Those feelings we identify as love and affection, for example, which we feel when thinking about those we love and hold dear, will not feel the same when we are ill or tired or "in a very bad mood," but we don't love or value them any less.
Almost everything Packer describes as affecting the emotions is generally true, but all those, "evaluations," (which in most cases are actually identifications having nothing to do with values) are made consciously, or implied by one's explicit conscious thoughts. What we are not conscious of cannot possibly affect our feelings.
She says, "Core evaluations which are mistaken result in out-of-context, inappropriate, and painful emotions. Unrealistic or irrational fear, unprovoked rage, unearned self-doubt or guilt—any emotion which is not in accord with one's conscious, rational appraisal of the present context--has its roots in mistaken core evaluations." (Location 4057)
What she describes as mistaken core evaluations are actually all those fundamental beliefs, assumptions, and premises, explicit or implicit, that are the basis of all one's thinking and judgment. There is nothing "hidden" about them. They do not exist without our being able to be conscious of them. We may not always be directly aware of them, but they are implied by every thought and choice we make, and though most people do not bother to, "check their premises," if they did, their fundamental beliefs and assumptions would be glaringly obvious.
It does not take the mysterious machinations of a psychological witch-doctor to exorcise the hidden daemons of our subconscious.
As the title of this chapter indicates, one solution to any psychological problem is introspection, but it is not emotions that must be examined, but the conscious beliefs, assumptions, thinking, and choices that one must examine, because they are what produce our emotions. The cause of all psychological problems is incorrect thinking. The cure for all psychological problems is correct thinking.
Packer lists six steps that introspection must be followed. (Location 1607) None of those steps attempts to discover the nature of one's mistakes in thinking. In fact they only address what supposedly exists in the non-existent subconscious.
There is no secret key, there are no magic steps to true introspection. There are certain principles of knowledge and thinking that can be examined to discover what is wrong with one's beliefs and thinking processes, however.
The first, and most important self-examination is to insure none of your choices or beliefs are based on feelings or emotions. Become conscious of beliefs and ideas you hold which are actually contradictions, by paying attention to the basis of your thoughts. If you believe anything for which you cannot answer the question, "how do I know this is true?" determine if you only believe it because it is what you were taught, what everyone else believes, or you just, "feel," it is right.
If you believe anything, especially if it is the basis of your thoughts and choices and cannot explain why it is true, begin there to discover what is true based on your best reason from the best evidence available to you. You can learn from others, but only if you fully understand yourself why what you are taught is true.
If you are not sure how to think correctly, please see the article, "Correct Thinking."
Chapter 6 Toward A Lasting Romantic Relationship, Part I
This chapter begins with a huge lie:
"Human beings have a need to be perceived as valuable by those they value." (Location 1941)
There is no such human need!
[NOTE: This view of "needs" is actually a kind of floating abstraction which disconnects the meaning of "need" from reality. "Need," is a term of relationship, like "important," "good," and "problem." Like all value terms, there are no intrinsic or innate needs. Before there can be a need, there must be some objective, goal, or purpose identified for which the supposed entity or condition is required to fulfill.]
The idea that an individual's success and happiness depends in any way on the opinion, evaluations, or acceptance of other's is a collectivist view.
Individual's of moral integrity are usually appreciated by other moral individuals and it is natural for those individuals to enjoy and appreciate each other, and where that kind of relationship is found, it is always benevolent. A primary principle of all social relationships must be based on reason and offering of value for value which is only possible to those who have no "need" of others. People who need people are parasites.
A Dismal View Of Romance
A little over a year ago I wrote an article entitled, "Banality Verses Romanticism," to distinguish between the romantic view of life as a grand adventure of achievement and happiness and the banal view of life as, "a lifetime exercise in problem solving."
On reading this chapter and the next, supposedly dedicated to romance, I was overwhelmed by it's emphasis on a romantic relationship being a bucket full of problems to be solved and that, "very few grasp the enormity of the task." (Location 1958)
Packer's description of an ideal romantic relationship as, "an emotional, intellectual, and sexual union, a total union of two souls who recognized each other as mates and who became committed to each other in order to share their innermost value, hopes, and desires," is about as prosaic as description as is possible and about as romantic as a financial contract.
I pictured a young man holding the hand of his girl, looking into her eyes, declaring, "I want to have an emotional, intellectual and sexual union with you, and for us to commit ourselvs to each other so we can share our innermost values, hopes and desires—will you marry me?"
I think you know what the girl's answer would and should be.
Packer ends her description of a, "romantic relationship," as, "a union which makes life even more worth living." (Location 1951)
If it only makes life, "more worth living," whatever it is, it is not romantic love. When one has found the love of their life, that one becomes their whole reason for living, and their life together becomes the grand adventure that makes their life worth living.
Suggesting that romantic love requires some kind of "commitment" is an insult to love. One does not require a contract to ensure they do what nothing in heaven or earth could induce them not to do.
Romantic love is not an objective, anymore than desire is an objective. One does not work to have desires, one works to fulfill them. One does not work to have romantic love, one works to fulfill romantic love.
The natural state of a healthy mind includes an overwhelming desire to experience life, to be and achieve all one possibly can. Romantic love is that which makes life worth living, a reason to make oneself the best human being they can be.
The individualist, who cares nothing for anyone else's opinion or approval, nevertheless finds one whose opinion and approval are everything, not because he needs that approval, but because it verifies his success in pleasing the one he loves.
Two reasons why a lover improves himself:
1. His desire to please the one he loves in every way makes him want to be capable of providing his love with everything he possibly can.
2. His knowledge that his Darling's love is the greatest value he could ever have and his moral integrity will not allow him to have anything he has not earned and is not worthy of. Her love is the source of his greatest joy, it is worth everything to him, and he will do everything in his power to know he is worthy of that love.
"In my opinion, exclusivity in a romantic relationship is a requirement necessarily agreed upon by the partners at the time of their commitment to each other."
Here is her mistake:
"A romantic relationship is a private world of two people who consider each other the most important person in the whole world." [Excellent!] (Location 2174)
But the very next sentence contradicts this:
"Infidelity is contrary to such a commitment."
If two people are the most important persons in the world to each other, the question of infidelity never comes up. If a "commitment" is required, it's not romantic love, it's a contract.
This is what is wrong with Packer's whole approach to what she calls, "romantic relationships." Every single difficulty and problem she describes are in fact, problems with relationships which are not romantic.
"Most romantic alliances begin with intense mutual attraction. ... it is difficult to say why one person can feel such strong personal and sexual attraction toward someone ...." (Location 1979)
Packer makes the mistake of confusing romance with sex. The word, "attraction," though popular, is not the right word. It makes love some kind of mechanical thing, like magnetism or gravity. The mutually shared desire of two people in love is not some mysterious attraction, and it is not sexual. It is a realization that another person is the fulfillment of one's greatest desire, but that is never the thought. If there is a thought, it is, "I am happy just being with and sharing my life with the one I love." But it cannot be put into words, because romantic love becomes one's whole reason for living.
She has some very odd ideas about what is romantic: She refers to a woman's sexual affair with another woman's husband as "a romantic relationship." (Location 327)
She says that a woman's concern about a man's proclivity for, "girlie magazines or pornography," is based on an "incorrect ideas concerning sex." (Location 2158)
Toward A Lasting Romantic Relationship, Part II
I know this entire review has concentrated on what is wrong with Packer's view. There is in fact a great deal of what Packer says that is not only correct, but well stated. Unfortunately, many of her best ideas are mixed with the bad, as in the following example:
"A healthy psychological attitude toward gender rests on having reached a number of correct conscious and subconscious conclusions pertaining to both sexes. It includes acceptance and enjoyment of the fact of one's gender. It includes the admiration and enjoyment of both the physical body and total being of the opposite sex." (Location 2437)
A correct view of the relationship between the sexes does depend on having correct conclusions about the nature of the sexes. Conclusions, however, are only achieved consciously, because they are volitional. As Packer asserts, the unconscious is incapable of choice, (location 2740), and therefore incapable of reaching conclusions.
Of course, if one is confused about their own sexual nature (which she calls gender) they will never either understand or appreciate the nature of the other sex. Though this has become a huge problem today, in general, most people know what they are without question, and it is mostly the other sex they need to understand.
That understanding, if correct, will certainly include both an admiration and enjoyment of both the similarity and difference of those of the opposite sex. It will include all the differences, including physical differences, but most importantly, in every way their sex makes them different, from they way they look, and move, and sound, and smell to how they think and what is important to them.
"A romantic relationship, as I stressed in my first lecture on this subject, is a predominantly emotional relationship." (Location 2594)
First, any relationship based on feeling or emotion is doomed to failure.
Second, emotions cannot be communicated. One can communicate their thinking that is the cause of their emotions, but one cannot make another know what they are feeling. One can communicate that a feeling they are having is unpleasant, or that they the do not like how they feel in certain situations, but the actual feelings cannot be communicated. In fact, the feelings do not matter, only the thinking and reasoning that is their cause matters.
"Thus, how the partners communicate emotionally with each other crucially determines the success or failure of the romance." (Location 2594)
In common speech we talk about expressing one's feelings, because our thinking produces our feelings and we often use the same language to identify both our thoughts and their accompanying feelings, but it is not the feelings that matter.
The reason a husband never expresses affection for his wife is not a lack of feeling, but the fact that he does not think of her affectionately. The man who loves his wife as the queen of his heart will certainly feel affectionate toward her, but when he calls her darling, or precious, and tells her he loves her, it is not feeling he's expressing, but what he thinks of her and what she means to him. There will be times when he is tired, or is overcome by some other pressing matter, or not in the best of moods when he does not feel particularly affectionate, but the affection he expresses in spite of his feeling is just as true, with or without any feeling.
Here is what is wrong with an emphasis on feelings:
"Thus, an individual not in touch with his emotions cannot know what he really fears, loves, is angry about, or cares about. It is not enough for a person to intellectually know what he values. Unless he also feels what he likes or dislikes, what hurts him and what brings him joy, he cannot really know who he is. Without emotions, he has very little to communicate to his partner. Not understanding his emotions, he cannot have a clue to what his partner is feeling. He may know on some intellectual level that he admires his partner, but obviously that is not enough. The partner wants the admiration in the form of emotions. Words alone do not suffice." (Location 2663)
It is not possible to be out of touch with one's feelings. It is possible to ignore one's feelings, and one ought to, when they conflict with one's objective knowledge and choices. But feelings are non-cognitive. It is not one's feeling that tell one what he likes or dislikes, what hurts him or what brings him joy; it is his conscious rational knowledge of who and what he is that enables him to know what the sources of his joy and happiness are. As for his partner, it's what he really objectively values, desires, and enjoys that will satisfy one's love, because it will be expressed with all the passion one's objective evaluation produces.
Chapter 8 Happiness Skills
Packer begins this chapter with an assumption:
"Most human beings have a desire to feel good, to avoid painful feelings. If given a choice, most individuals would wish to live life every day with zest, courage, enthusiasm, and passion. Happiness, many would tell you, is their birthright; it is what life is supposed to be about" (Location 2738)
I have no idea how Packer knows what most human beings desire but it does sound like what I've discovered most shallow individuals think life is about. They just want to feel good and never experience anything discomforting or painful. The words Packer uses to describe the ideal of the average individual to feel "zest, courage, enthusiasm, and passion," is about right, except she left out they want to feel "zest," without any profound desire for anything except what immediately excites them, they want to feel "courage" without ever having to face anything of real risk or danger, they want to feel "enthusiastic" about that which does not require any real mental effort to understand or value, and they want to feel "passion" they can fulfill without any concern for consequences. They think that is happiness and believe they have a right ("birthright" she says) to that which they have not earned and do not deserve.
"Why then are so few people happy? Why do so many people live in a state of quiet desperation, as if the they could do is endure the fear and pain associated with life?" Packer asks. (Location 2738)
The truth is that unhappiness is not because of some hidden subconscious influences one cannot understand, unhappiness is the consequence of one's own conscious choices.
"Success and happiness are possible to anyone willing to do what is required to achieve that kind of life, but it takes a lifetime of effort and dedication to the most important thing in life, making one's life the best it can possibly be.
"There is an alternative, however, and to some extent, most people choose it. It is easier than a life of true success and happiness, but it is a life that is less than fully satisfying, only partially successful, never being all one can be—a life full of disappointment, regret, and frequently a great deal of suffering and unhappiness." [The Only Path To Success And Happiness: Knowledge And Work.]
The idea that one's suffering or unhappiness is the result of forces or influences beyond his own conscious ability to understand is a terrible evil. What one is and what one experiences in life have only one cause, what one chooses to learn and what one chooses to do. If one is unhappy in this world, there is nothing else to blame—not circumstances, not parents, not society, not subconscious influences—one's unhappiness is the consequence of how one chooses to live one's life. (See, "Two Wonderful Insights," below.)
Some Good Points
Packer makes some good points in this chapter that contradict the idea of some mysterious subconscious being the cause of individual's failure and unhappiness. For example are these four, "important attitudes, traits and habits which become instrumental in the development of happiness skills." (Location 2912)
1. "his recognition ... that he alone is in control of and responsible for the achievement of his happiness." (Location 2911)
Which is exactly the point I made, "one's unhappiness is the consequence of how one chooses to live one's life."
2. "his acceptance of the fact that he must expend effort in the pursuit of what is important to him." (Location 2942)
Exactly. One must do the work of learning all one possibly can and producing all he can to earn and be worthy of happiness.
3. "the happy person is implicitly and explicitly committed to action ... because he knows he cannot achieve his values without action." (Location 2954)
Life consists of what you do, not what happens to you.
4. "in his determination to achieve his values he does not permit himself to be stopped by negative emotions, especially fear." (Location 2984)
There is an old quote, "the test of a man's character is what it takes to stop him." In almost every case of human failure it is almost always some, "feeling," or, "emotion," that motivates one to give up the effort to succeed. The only means to success is doing what one knows is right, no matter how one feels.
Two Wonderful Insights
"In conclusion, I want to emphasize that happiness is an achievement—and it is basically in your control. It is not something that happens to you. It is something you have to bring about." (Location 3190)
I am in total agreement with this, as I've already explained. But this is surely a contradiction of ideas expressed elsewhere by Packer that attribute one's happiness to subconscious influences and the necessity of having right feelings.
"As a child, he does not find it necessary to ask others ... what to do. Nor does he rely on others to entertain him. ... His focus is on enjoying himself both when he is with other people and when he is alone. It is particularly significant that he likes being alone. ... He develops many interests that he enjoys while being alone, such as reading, playing with his chemistry set, riding his bicycle. ...
"As an adult, the happy person retains this ability to entertain and enjoy himself when alone. Thus, even when not working, he is not bored when he is alone and, in fact, he regularly seeks out opportunities to be alone ...." (Location 2933)
I regard the previous as one of Packer's most lucid insights.
Chapter 9 The Role of Philosophy in Psychotherapy
"Everyone lives his life on the basis of a ... philosophy, and a person's philosophy of life is clearly apparent in his psychology. Without a correct philosophy, therefore, or at least an implicit knowledge of correct philosophical fundamentals, a therapist cannot help a patient change in any significant way." (Location 3215)
This is essentially true. She wrote, "a conscious or subconscious," philosophy; if she had written "an explicit or implicit," philosophy it would have been perfect.
"With very few exceptions, every patient I work with suffers in various degrees from the influence of a wrong ... [philosophy]. And every patient who continues in therapy for years without solving his problems does so as a result of his ... resistance or refusal to change some aspects of the philosophy of life he is guided by." (Location 3221)
She describes the, "philosophical," part of her diagnosis:
"Does this patient accept the facts and metaphysical rules of reality? Does he apply reason and use his mind to understand the facts the way they are, or does he distort reality because his method of thinking and acting is based on subjective desires and wishes? Does this patient pay lip service to reason and reality, but in some areas of his life act purely on his emotions? And what are the patient's values? Do they promote his life and well-being or are they destructive?"
One's fundamental beliefs upon which all their thinking and choosing is based, whether those beliefs are explicit (most people's are not) or implied by what they explicitly believe and think is their "philosophy," and that philosophy will determine the course of all they think, choose, and do, and subsequently all their emotional experience. It is obvious, even from Packer's comments, that an individual's psychological problems are actually philosophical problems and all their emotional problems are the result of believing, thinking, and choosing on the basis of a wrong view of reality and life.
There is only one cure for any individual's psychological problems, gaining a correct view of reality and choosing to live according to the requirements of that reality, because everything else is a defiance of reality. It is philosophy that provides a right view of reality, but like all other kinds of knowledge, it must be desired, discovered, and learned by each individual. It is impossible to change others, which is why psychotherapy ultimately cannot work. It is why patients are in therapy, "for years without solving," their problems. (Location 3224)
Packer says, "The philosophical diagnosis I make ... is based on my acceptance of the metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics of Objectivism—a metaphysics which recognizes the existence of an objective reality, an epistemology which holds that reason is man's only means of knowledge, and an ethics of egoism which holds that rational self-interest is the essence of virtue." (Location 3232)
A correct philosophy will recognize that reality is objective, that reason is the only means to knowledge and correct thinking, but that ethics are the principle of right choosing and behavior determined by the requirements of reality and the requirements of rational volitional human nature.
"Ethical Principles," are as objective as all other principles and are determined by the nature of reality, not by who the beneficiaries are. "Egoism," is not an ethical principle.
Ayn Rand emphasized egoism (which she called "selfishness") as an ethical principle. One has to understand that when Rand was writing the dominant ethical view of the day was altruism, which was used as an ethical foundation for most collectivist political views.
Altruism is certainly a wrong ethical view, but the opposite of an ethical view is not automatically a right view.
Altruism say, "whatever is good for (any collective) others," is the moral good.
Egoism says, "whatever is good for (the individual) me," is the moral good.
What is wrong with both altruism and egoism is that neither defines what the, "good," is, either collectively (altruism) or individually (egoism).
Rand's view was not really egoism, and not, "rational self-interest," a Lockian term, not Rand's.
Ayn Rand understood that it is the human mind that makes moral principles both necessary and possible, because because human beings are volitional beings who must live by conscious choice and require principles by which to make right choices.
It may seem a subtle point, but egoism, without Rand's refinement, means it is whatever makes me happy is the moral good. That view is rightly called subjective hedonism.
Chapter 10 An Interview with Edith Packer on Psychotherapy
To the question, "what is psychotherapy," Packer answers:
"You have to define what psychology is before you can define psychotherapy. ... psychology is the science that studies how the mind works, both cognitively and emotionally. I would include ... that it studies how the subconscious and conscious mind interact and how that interaction manifests itself in the total method of an individual's mental functioning." (Location 3591)
This is Packer's attempt at a definition of psychology (she says it is not a final definition), and it is wrong.
1. Psychology is not a, "science." A science is a study of some aspect of physical reality, that which we are directly conscious of which includes all that we can directly perceive by the "senses" externally and all that we perceive by, "interoception," internally, and all that we can learn about that perceived reality indirectly by reason or the use of instruments, such as microscopes, telescopes, X-rays, etc.
Human consciousness cannot be perceived either directly or indirectly. One cannot take a fresh consciousness and lay it on an examining table to study it. Consciousness cannot be perceived, it is perception. We know we cannot perceive anyone else's consciousness, and, in fact, we cannot, "perceive," our own consciousness. We know we are conscious, not by perceiving (seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or feeling) it but because we are conscious (we do see, hear, taste, smell and feel).
A science studies that which is objectively available to all human beings to study—the world of physical existents and substances—physics, chemistry, and biology being the basic categories of science. The study of things which have no physical existence, like life, consciousness, and the human mind, are not sciences. The study of such things is philosophical. The legitimate study of psychology was, until Hume suggested it could be studied the way Newton studied physics, a branch of philosophy called philosophical psychology. While that branch of philosophy, historically, is as muddled as the modern pseudo-science of psychology, it is nevertheless the only legitimate way psychology can be studied.
[NOTE: Since Wundt, the legitimate study of the physical aspects of the neurological system, a true science, has been confused with psychology, an intentional obfuscation by psychologists to add legitimacy to their pseudo-science.]
2. Philosophical psychology is the study of the nature of consciousness, the nature of the human mind, and is the foundation for the branch of philosophy called epistemology. Packer uses an expression, "psycho-epistemology," invented by another psychologist (Nathan Blumenthal) which Ayn Rand unfortunately accepted without checking her premises.
Epistemology is the philosophical study of the nature of knowledge. It explains what knowledge is and how it is acquired. Epistemology is determined by the nature of the mind (which Packer never defines or explains) which makes knowledge both possible and necessary. There is no such thing as a psychology-epistemology. The validity of an individual's knowledge and beliefs will be influenced by an individual's views about knowledge (epistemology), but almost no one actually has an epistemology, or even knows what that word means.
Interviewer asks: "Can everyone benefit from psychotherapy? In our culture today there's still such stigma about therapy that many people think it's only for the seriously ill, but I don't think it's difficult at all to prove that everyone can benefit from psychotherapy. Do you agree?" (Location 3621)
Packer answers: "Well, everyone has core evaluations in his subconscious that he is not aware of and, given our culture and upbringing, it's virtually impossible to avoid acquiring inappropriate subconscious premises. Yes, I'd say that everyone who wants to can benefit from psychotherapy, but there are different ways of benefiting. ...I think you need to see the total picture of your own psychology. A person not trained in psychotherapy ... will not understand ...." (Location 3621)
"This is the key—every person who walks into my office has low self-esteem to some extent." (Location 3627)
Anyone who spends the majority of their professional life dealing only with loopy individuals tends to become a little loopy himself. I do not doubt for a second that every person who walked into Packer's office had low self-esteem, or that all of them held, "inappropriate premises," (although they weren't "subconscious"), and I'm sure that those she was personally associated with were universally psychologically disfunctional. Just because all those she dealt with had problems she felt needed psychotherapy certainly does not mean, "everyone," is as loopy as those she dealt with.
The interviewer states: "That's the clinical attitude that therapists must have toward their patients—not treating them as immoral?" (Location 3660)
Packer responds: "Yes, not being moralistic toward them. ... When I'm dealing with a patient, I'm never moralistic; at the same time, I never give up my own moral and philosophical standards, but I will apply them later when the patient discovers what his inappropriate conclusions were, what wrong actions he took ... Thus, at the appropriate time, the correct standard must still be applied ... And it must be a moral standard, not a moralistic one." (Location 3665)
She describes the, "clinical attitude:"
"The clinical attitude means: 'what is the problem that this person has?' Not: 'Is he bad? Did this patient do something immoral?' ... There's no issue of morality in the context of diagnosing and treating someone who has psychological problems—until and unless the patient becomes aware that what he is doing is morally wrong and if he continues acting that way in spite of his conscious awareness." (Location 3679)
I have no idea what, "the correct standard must still be applied ... And it must be a moral standard, not a moralistic one," one means. "Moralistic," means, "characterized by or expressive of a concern with morality." If she really means, "there's no issue of morality in the context of diagnosing and treating someone who has psychological problems," then she has no idea what ethical principles are. All psychological problems are moral problems. An individual whose life is guided by moral principles has no psychological problems.
Perhaps she means judging someone else's morality, that is, in a pejorative sense. That is actually an immoral act. In the article, "Ethical Principles," it states, "The purpose or objective of ethics is to identify the principles by which one may live a happy, successful, and fulfilled human life." That means every aspect of life, physically, psychologically, and emotionally. That article lists five things ethics or moral principles are not, including: "Ethical principles are not for judging others." [The article, "Morality Mistakes: Seven Wrong Views Of Ethics," expands these principles.]
If one is truly in a position to help someone else with psychological problems and they fail to identify and make clear to that individual the moral principles they are evading or defying, they cannot possibly help them.
The entire field of psychology is a pseudo-science and all those professions which practice or apply that pseudoscience are forms of quackery. I do not mean that psychiatrists or psychoanalysts or physchotherapists are dishonest or scam artists (although some certainly are), I mean, no matter how sincere and well-intentioned, what they are doing has no basis in actual scientific fact. In the same way that most homeopaths were sincere in their medical practices, ("at the turn of the twentieth century, homeopathy had about 14,000 practitioners and 22 schools in the United States"), and most Chiropracters are sincere today, most psychologists are sincere enough. Nevertheless there is no objective scientific evidence to support any modern day psychological thesis.
[NOTE: Psychologists today attempt to used neurology to legitimize psychology. Neurology is a true science of physiology, specifically of the entire neurological system. Psychiatry attempts to apply physiological and neurological knowledge to psychological problems mostly to legitimize it's scientifically baseless claim to being a science. As long as psychiatry confines itself to those kinds of problems which are clearly physiological in nature, like epilepsy, dementia, apraxia, Asperger's syndrome, dyskinesias, Tourette Syndrome, brain damage, etc. it remains a true science.]
Packer says, "The correction of automated inappropriate functioning through psychotherapy is a long and painful process. For years, I used to agonize over the lack of progress of some of my patients." (Location 3545)
She admits that it is expensive. "... it is expensive. A good course of therapy consist of seeing the therapist once a week. I would say with an ordinary neurosis it takes about a year and a half or two, and that's very expensive. (Location 3744)
Is Psychotherapy Good?
There are 106,500 licensed psychologists in the United States. Though no statistics are available about which theory of psychology various psychologists subscribe to, biological, cognitive (Packer) behavioral, psychodynamic, humanistic/existential, or cultural, for example, their methods will differ depending on the particular view of psychology they hold. If any of these theories is correct, obviously the others are not, which means most psychologists are operating on the basis of a wrong theory.
On that basis alone it should be obvious that most psychotherapy is not good, except for the psychotherapists, of course.
If you care to study the different theories of psychology you will discover none of them are actually based on objective evidence that can be examined. If they were there would not be so many conflicting ones. To call psychology a science is absurd. There are not different competing theories of physics, chemistry, or electronics, because they are verifiable sciences. No matter how plausible, no psychological hypothesis is a scientific theory until it can prove it is the only verifiable explanation of the human psychological nature.
I personally doubt there is any real value in psychoanalysis or psychotherapy, but like everything else in life, every individual must make their own best evaluation and choice of what is available.