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The psychology of psychologizing (the voice of reason)

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After reading the psychology of psychologising, I realize that even a lot of my recent thoughts regarding it are flawed. I realize I have taken on the inquisitor-victim role which was imposed on me, by weak or amateur people who have no problem invading my personal space. Now I realize the full truth about psychologising. It is never moral, helpful, or rational to automatically psychologize someone who seems strange to you, and really not even for therapists, except in some really extreme cases of psychosis maybe. The purpose of therapy should be to teach someone the skills to think and act clearly to resolve what's bothering them and nothing else is ever moral or helpful really. Anything else is pretty much brainwashing.

I want everyone on this forum to know that I am not a psychologising freak, but in childhood when I had no control over who I could be around I was influenced by these people and although I had a strong aversion to them, I kind of started to believe in their ideas. Psychologizing is sick and anybody that considers himself an objectivist should find out the truth about it because it is truly ridiculous. It also does a lot of damage, especially to people who are already weak.

Edited by Dreamspirit

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[Mod's note: merged with an earlier thread. - sN]



This refers to the essay “The psychology of psychologizing”; a highly recommended read. It caused me to think in-depth about my interactions with people. There’s much I’d like to clarify and discuss as I’m unclear about its application to my life. I’d also like to see if others disagree with my thought process in some specific concrete situations that came to mind while reading the essay.


Rand defines psychologizing as

“condemning or excusing specific individuals on the ground of their psychological problems, real or invented, in the absence of or contrary to factual evidence”



She explains that

“A man’s moral character must be judged on the basis of his actions, his statements, and his conscious convictions – not on the basis of inferences (usually spurious) about his subconscious.”



There is a moral aspect of man’s character; what are the other aspects of his character?


When we are evaluating a man I’m assuming we evaluate him as either moral or immoral; this means he is either acting on the premise of life, or on the premise of death. Even if a man acts on the premise of life you may not wish to deal with him.


I do not like going out to social events with socially awkward or shy people (I used to be one myself).  What should be my position on shy people?


Thinking about myself, as I was previously; I would evaluate myself as immoral. I would avoid speaking out in class, dumb myself down to not stand out and shut myself off from interactions. Consciously I would profess that I should avoid talking to people “because they might think I’m a creep”, “they’re boring”, “I don’t care about them”… which were all rationalizations.  How would one evaluate my character, morally, on these statements?

If these are rationalizations then one should recognize that I refuse to process the contents of my subconscious, and therefore I’m an immoral character.

Introspecting led me to conclude that I’d like to avoid an interaction in order to save myself from being rejected. If I rejected others first, they would be unable to reject me. I’m not certain of this; it could be a spurious inference? But this is what I concluded. Now I will consciously admit to being slightly anxious in a social situation but I will make the effort anyway.  


Now when I meet someone in a similar to position as to the one I was in I feel a hint of hatred. Note that it’s not the subconscious manifestation of their ideas that will make me feel hatred, but frustrating conscious admissions and actions (or lack of); for example, someone who keeps looking around at others as they take his attention and when encouraged to go start a conversation with a person of interest he will say “nah, I’m here to be with my friends” or rationalize in a way similar to the way I did. In this specific case I will evaluate the person as immoral and feel a slight revulsion.  On the other hand if someone will admit to being nervous or shy and yet make an effort in the above cases I will admire them so much more and I will not feel any hostile emotions.



“This means that one grants a man the respect of assuming the he is conscious of what he says and does, and one judges his statements and actions philosophically, i.e., as what they are – not psychologically, i.e., as leads or clues to some secret, hidden, unconscious meaning. One neither speaks nor listens to people in code.”



In summary where I think I’m judging someone is on the basis of what they say and their actions and NOT on spurious inferences about their subconscious. If it’s unclear and doesn’t make any sense for the situation, e.g. they keep looking at others instead of paying me attention and yet they claim not to be interested in talking to them, then I conclude that he is not being consistent or intelligible in his behaviour so I will feel some light hatred and it is justified.  




“The basic motive of most psychologizes is hostility. Caused by profound self-doubt, self-condemnation, and fear, hostility is a type of projection that directs toward other people the hatred for which the hostile person feels toward himself”



I’m confused. Rand herself seems to be psychologizing in this whole essay; she does so in others as well. I’ve posted about it here http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=25918

I can’t say I’ve understood yet why her assumptions make any sense (I have not yet properly integrated many of the requisite concepts). I’ll continue studying basic roots of philosophy while putting that aside.


 Here’s another quote from Galt’s speech. These kind of statements are littered throughout her work.


“They do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to succeed, they want you to fail; they do not want to live, they want you to die; they desire nothing, they hate existence, and they keep running, each trying not to learn that the object of his hatred is himself.”



They make me feel good but in critically evaluating them I do not understand why they are true so I reject them, for now.


“The notion that poverty is the psychological root of all evil is a typical piece of psychologizing, whose proponents ignore the fact that the worst atrocities are committed by the children of the well-to-do”.



It would be nice if she provided some references in her essays. I don’t see why this is a sensible fact to add. Even if many recorded “atrocities” (whatever that is) were committed by the children of the “well-to-do” (whatever that is) I don’t see how one could make any sort of solid inference from that. Proponents of the poverty being a root of evil could claim that poverty is one of the psychological roots, but that there are others.




“It is emotions that distort cognition in all types of psychological problems”


What is the nature of this distortion? Where can I find out? How much control do I have over it?


Sometimes I say things I don’t mean and I’ve recently been thinking it’s the result of conceptual mis-integrations and their expression instead of immortality on my part (where I protect a consciously professed value at the cost of a higher one, i.e. self-sacrifice). I have been thinking mis-integrations (which I am responsible for) have often caused this and in a situation where I don’t have time to think deeply I will act on them (and they are wrong).



“In regard to other men, it is his responsibility to preserve the principal of objectivity, i.e., to be consistent and intelligible in his behaviour, and not to throw his neurosis at others, expecting them to untangle it, which none of them can or should do”


What is neurosis in this context?


I can think of a few examples from the past week

 Speaking to my mother on the phone “If you can’t fix the old bike we have – what good are you?”

Friend says “I’ll see you next week, I guess”

Friend says “You just do what you need to do”


I think I may disagree about untangling neurosis. There does seem to be some recurring pattern to people’s unintelligible behaviour. One can then make adjustment to make them more comfortable. In the examples above the “I guess” on the end is a polite way of saying I’d really like to meet you now, while in the second the friend is expressing frustration and she needs to be sat down with and talked to openly. The more of these “inconsistent and unintelligible” cues one may pick up on makes him handle his relationships better and could potentially help one in guiding them to more intelligible, direct and open conversations.

Edited by softwareNerd
Merged topics

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". . . they keep looking at others instead of paying me attention and yet they claim not to be interested in talking to them . . ."

Alternative possible reasons: 1) They're just not interested in the conversation with you, maybe even looking for a way to politely exit the conversation 2) Watching is really the extent of what they want to do in regard to the other people there. "People watching", it's a lot like bird watching in that you don't necessarily feel a desire to go interact with what you're watching 3) They're just really, really bored and looking around in a desperate attempt to find anything to pass the time, though still failing to find anything that looks interesting even though they double and triple check things for possible interesting developments.

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I wrote about a not well enough processed or explained example that might make me look conceited; I thought it suited at the time, but it doesn't. Anyway, I agree if they're bored of me, or really want to just watch that's fine. But I'm not talking about that. I will see if I can think up another good, clear example after thinking about it some more.


My intention was to get help/feedback in integrating these ideas and to see if I may be evaluating people too harshly (an injustice) but obviously I cannot write about every concrete situation I'm thinking of (nor would I be comfortable doing so). 

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I just responded to the example because that one I knew was jumping to conclusions about the other person's motives, something which could happen in other scenarios that you'd want to be careful about. I didn't respond to the rest of it because I'm not so familiar with the topic (I haven't ever read that whole article even) and think somebody else would probably be able to do a much better job adressing your questions than I could at this time. So, I hope you get somebody else posting about the rest of the stuff soon. ;)

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