Continuing with the series I started a couple of days ago; another aspect of mental health that I believe to be very important is the topic of morality. Now, morality gets almost no mention whatsoever in psychology textbooks and again I’m highly suspicious of this. The suggestion here is that morality is somehow outside the purview of psychology, however, I would argue that morality, or its lack, is actually at the heart of a lot of what we call mental illness. Consider how many times you hear about criminals pleading insanity in court to justify their crimes. Psychologists are often brought in as expert witnesses to give weight to such claims. Yet, why the lack of mainstream academic discussion among psychologists about morality and it’s relationship to mental health?
The first issue is of course defining what morality is. In the simplest sense, morality is about doing the right thing based on a set of rules. There are two major competing schools of thought about what rules count as moral: one that is very popular in academic writing and trendy social circles, and the other which is considered by many to be old fashioned, out of date, and ridiculous. The popular definition is that morality is socially defined, it is a set of rules that have no objective basis to them, they are just adhered to by people because of traditional and political authority. This is subjective morality, while the supposedly out dated version of morality is called objective morality and the argument here is that morals are not mere popular whims, but come from reason and are universal.
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It’s a new year, and with all these jokes about having 2020 vision I find myself thinking about how I would benefit from working on my own vision for 2020. Not that I need glasses, well, not yet at least, but I mean working on my mental 2020 vision, or more commonly called empathy. Empathy is a complex set of skills and abilities allowing a person to make accurate guesses about what other people know, don’t know, desire, loathe, and how they’re likely to react to specific news. Generally speaking, people are not bad at empathy, however, considering just how mentally taxing empathy can be, it is commonplace that we get things wrong when attempting to understand how other people think.
One thing I used to get wrong was that I used to assume everyone valued honesty as much I do. It seemed rather ridiculous to me that anyone would lie. Certainly, lie to teachers and bullies if you must, but why on Earth to anyone you work with, want to be friends with, or live with? I mean, it just never made good sense to me. If you want to get along with people, to live and work co-operatively together, then you should just tell the truth to each other. That way you can both plan your days, and indeed even your lives, to be as productive and stress free as possible. But as soon as someone starts lying or withholding information it becomes difficult, nigh impossible to plan even your day, much less your life with other people. With the wrong information, you will inevitably make the wrong decisions no matter how well organised you are.
But was it their failure to be honest or my failure to understand why they preferred to lie? Was I not standing in their proverbial shoes for sufficient mileage to appreciate where they were coming from?
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Today I was sick at home with a the remnants of the flu to get over. So I decided to create a Twitter account for Philosophical Therapist and join in the cut throat world of snide, but sometimes humorous, tweeting. I like using Twitter sometimes to find interesting articles to read, so if I like them or loathe them I will try to remember to tweet about it for the fine folk wanting to follow me. However, today an article came up that hit me very emotionally. It was a news story about a homicide and an attempted homicide committed by a mother against her two sons. It happened in the north of my state in a place I used to visit over twenty years ago to spend time with my grandfather. Suffice it to say, it was a place I have many happy memories of and it is sad to think of it as being the setting for such a horrible crime. However, during the day, twitter kept me informed of updates to this event.
The grandmother of the boys had hired a lawyer and was blaming the government for her daughter’s actions. Her daughter was 27 years old and had two boys, the eldest was nine and the youngest was five years old (now presumed deceased). Her lawyer made the statement that her daughter was an ice addict and that she had not wanted her daughter to live with her and had been trying to kick her out of her home. That if the government had just taken her daughter and grand children from her when she wanted them to then none of this would have happened. At this point there has been no mention whatsoever of any fathers. Neither the father(s) of the two boys, or of the mother’s father. Continue reading →