Wednesday, 19 October 2016 19:21

Frantz Fanon, Psychology and Existentialism

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Can you imagine a regular department of psychology at an American university teaching Frantz Fanon's psychology (Fanon, 1952, 1959, 1961, 1964)? If you want to study such material you have to go to black studies departments. Yet, what Fanon said is probably more useful than most things one can learn from regular American psychology.

Fanon's writing was based on Alfred Adler's individual psychology (Adler, 1964, 1979), a psychology that mainstream American psychology downplayed.

Adler argued that to be mentally healthy one must serve social interest; he pointed out that neurosis is the product of seeking self-interest at the expense of social interest.  The neurotic, he said, feels inferior and attempts to obtain superiority by fancying that he is better than other people; seeking personal superiority over other people, Adler said, is the origin of neurosis and, by generalization, the origin of most mental disorders.

Biological and or sociological causal factors can make the child feel inferior and he attempts to compensate by feeling personal superiority over other people. In pursuit of personal superiority the neurotic tends to step on other people's rights; he tends to look down on other people; since those you look down on will resent you and fight with you, neurosis generates social conflict. To obtain social harmony we must all love and respect each other, Adler says.

Adler's solution to neurosis is clearly socialistic, for he was, in effect, saying that to be mentally healthy one must serve public good, which is synonymous with socialism and communism. Adler was a socialist.

American psychology propagates capitalism's self-centered approach to life hence could not give audience to Adler.

The result of the focus of American psychology is that despite over a century of psychologizing the people, Americans are getting sicker and sicker by the day; American psychology is not helping them one bit.

In time Americans will learn the wisdom of Adler and Fanon. Adler and Fanon are teaching the essence of what Jesus Christ taught his followers: love your neighbor as you love yourself and work for our mutual good.

Building on Adler's insights, Fanon contended that Africans and black people in general are exposed to colonialism and racism; colonialism and racism denies the dignity of black folks hence makes black folks feel inferior. He agreed with Adler that those who feel inferior, regardless of its cause, seek compensatory personal superiority.

In pursuing personal superiority, black folks tend not to care for other people's welfare hence is, in Adlerian terms, neurotic.

Neurotic folks, as Adler pointed out, are healed when they are taught to serve social good, not just their private good.

Is it true that Africans and black Americans are neurotic?  What do you think? What is a Nigerian but a person who feels inferior and seeks personal superiority and if that entails stealing from his people to obtain the accoutrements of superiority he does so. Most Nigerians are neurotic, ala Adler.

What are black Americans but folks who feel inadequate and seek personal sense of adequacy and who seldom work for their collective good? A black man wants to make it and present himself as a successful medical doctor or engineer, lawyer etc. but does not care for his community that is filled with fatherless kids stuffing their bodies with drugs and killing each other as if they are flies.

In my experience, the black world is a neurotic world. African societies are pathological societies and need healing.

To be healed is to serve public good; Africans have to learn to serve public good and stop pursuing only personal good.

Why does regular American psychology tune out useful information on human behavior and, instead, teach the trivia it calls psychology?

It is probably because it wants to divert attention from understanding human nature and seeking information on what needs to be done to address human needs. Consider Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis and ask yourself if that subject is helpful to actual human beings.

Freud talked about people been driven by what he called ID forces (sex and aggression), about how society (Superego) tries to rein in the ID and how the individual's rational part, the Ego balances the struggle between the ID and the Superego.

You ask: where is the id, ego and superego in your head? You do not find them. You accept that id, ego and superego are mere mental constructs that Freud devised to enable him deal with the sexual frustrations of his Victorian clients.

Freud was essentially building a mythology of people but was not dealing with actual people.  Therefore, his psychology is as good as useless.  American psychology embraced Freud precisely because it is useless. America does not accept that which is useful for it does not want to solve problems.

Adler's individual psychology is useful and solves problems; America that does not want to solve its people's problems rejected it.

Karen Horney (1950) built her psychoanalysis on Adlerian psychology and, as such, is useful but America, seeking escape from the useful, also rejected her. She observed that the neurotic is a person who rejects his real self and seeks becoming an imaginary mentally constructed ideal self.

The pursuit of the ideal self is a chimera, for the ideal self is not real, is a mere wished for self, a mental construct that cannot be actualized in the world of space, time and matter.

If you brought the perfect to the world of matter, matter would make it imperfect. People are always imperfect and have to live with that reality and not seek fantasy ideal selves that cannot be attained in the real world.

The pursuit of the ideal self-distorts human growth; people grow properly when they embrace their imperfections and are comfortable with them.

The ideals seeking neurotic, for example, is ashamed of his body because it is the animal aspect of him; he wants to be godlike.  To be healthy, one must accept one's animal body and all its seeming gross aspects (sex, defecating etc.).

By the same token, neurotic black folks who see being black as not ideal and are ashamed of their black bodies must, in Carl Rogers (1951) terms, accept them in an unconditionally positive manner; this is despite white racists' efforts to associate blackness with imperfection; Frantz Fanon made this point in Black Skin-White Mask.

When psychoanalysis was seen for what it is, a diversion from reality, American psychology, beginning with Watson through Skinner (1971) filled the academic airwaves with the idea of behaviorism.

Yes, we do learn things. We go to school to learn, don't we? Society teaches us what we learn. No one questions that we learn things. But is that all there is to us, learners?

What is it in us that do the learning, anyway?  Is there such a thing as consciousness? But if there is consciousness how do we study it?  Therefore, ignore consciousness and talk about peripheral issues.

By the 1980s psychologists learned that learning theories are simply not enough to explain human behavior. American psychology sought another escape instead of addressing human nature. It found it in brain science. These days' folks say that they study the brain, and a new discipline, neuroscience has come into being.

We learn about how neurotransmitters and electrical ions relay information from one neuron to another. Good, but how does that explain volition, thinking and consciousness?

In the meantime, the bodies of unfortunate mentally ill folks are filled with antipsychotic medications, medications that actually destroy their kidneys and livers and eventually kill them.  Psychiatry is now a drug dealing syndicate and like street drug pushers hook folks on drugs that kill them.

All these horrors are done in an effort to prevent folks from asking questions about who human beings are, finding out the source of their psychological issues and addressing them objectively.

Borrowing Erich Fromm's terms, American psychology is escape from reality, not science.

American psychology mostly does what it believes is system supportive; American psychologists self-censure and propagate as knowledge only what maintains the capitalist system they live under.  American psychologists are mostly cowards doing whatever they can do to survive in the abusive and oppressive political system they call their country.

The sad part of it all is that people are told that what they are teaching is science when, in fact, it is mere propaganda calculated to maintain a rotten political economy.

I do not see many of the ideas taught by American psychology and psychiatry as science; I question and reject what does not strike me as science; I see America's psychology as apologia for capitalism not science.

The reason why psychology and psychiatry does not heal any one is because they are not science but propaganda masquerading as science.

What would heal people is a mix of Adlerian and existential psychology, the type that teaches people that their existence has no natural meaning and that their lives have no worth and that worth is a social construct.

If human sense of worth is a social construct then we ought to reconstruct the self-concept with pure reason and see every person as having socially conferred worth.

Everywhere in the world, I see people trying to have existential significance.   Most American psychologists would not dwell on this issue.  Instead, they write what conforms to the inhuman capitalist philosophy that they operate under.

The American tries to contort his mind to fit into the capitalist frame of reference of his society and in the process develops a distorted self.

We must seek an economic system that is congruent with human nature; that economic system is probably a mixture of capitalism and socialism but not one or the other.

In the meantime, Americans, like all people, strive to be important; they seek bourgeois, vacuous importance. The importance that they seek is not natural but a social construct.

You grow up the day you realize that you are nothing and that life in body is pointless and meaningless.

You grow up when you accept that the physical universe is meaningless. And despite this knowledge you choose to live in the world in a loving manner; you love you and all people and figure out what you are good at doing and do it twenty- four-seven and use it to serve humanity's welfare.

A realistic person laughs at his self and all people, for he recognizes that to be human is to be nothing, a nothingness that pretends to be something important.

Perhaps, there is a level of being where people are important? If there is, it certainly is not in the material universe; worth can exist in the nonmaterial universe, if such a universe exists? Why not?

Hugh Everett's (1957) interpretation of quantum physics posits many universes; if so, there is no reason why one of those universes is not made of people whose bodies are formed from light (astral world) and another inhabited by people in formless light state, a place of disembodied knowledge (heaven)?

See Bryce Dewitt (1973) David Deutsch (1997) and Wheeler (1957) for elaboration of the many worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

CONCLUSION

My observation is that America's psychology is either a deliberate or unconscious attempt not to study people as they, in fact, are, figure out what ails them and address those issues.

It seems to me that Americans are vaguely aware that their inhumane society that rewards a few with tons of money and have the many live in abject poverty contributes to the massive mental disorders found in America.

To obtain mental health in most people society has to be restructured and made more economically equitable. But Americans do not want to do that. Americans see any school of psychology that points to restructuring society as a threat and instead accentuate schools of psychology that avoid addressing the people's real issues.

Frantz Fanon's psychology, building on Alfred Adler and Karen Horney, provided useful insights into people and made suggestions on how to address people's problems. His solution requires changing oppressive Western society. Like the existentialist, Jean Paul Sartre (1943), his mentor, Fanon recognized that we must inject aspects of socialism into human society if we want to produce healthy human beings.

The socialist solution is unacceptable to the gatekeepers of America's academia, so they tune it out. What is kept out must, in time, be embraced otherwise, as we are witnessing, most Americans are becoming degenerate human beings, doing what would make rational persons prefer death to doing what they now consider appropriate behaviors.

 

REFERENCES

Adler, A. (1964). The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler. H. L. Ansbacher and R. R. Ansbacher (Eds.). New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Adler, A. (1979). Superiority and Social Interest: A Collection of Later Writings. H. L. Ansbacher and R. R. Ansbacher (Eds.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Deutsch, David (1997). The Fabric of Reality. New York: Viking.

Dewitt, Bryce (1973). The Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, Princeton Series in Physics, Princeton University Press .

Everett, Hugh (1957).  "'Relative state' formulation of quantum mechanics". Reviews of Modern Physics. 29 (3): 454–462. Bibcode: 1957RvMP...29...454E. Doi: 10.1103/RevModPhys.29.454. Lay summary – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Fanon, Frantz (1952). Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press.

Fanon, Frantz (1959). A Dying Colonialism. New York: Grove Press.

Fanon, Frantz (1961). The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.

Fanon, Frantz (1964). Toward the African Revolution. New York: Grove Press.

Freud, Sigmund (1974). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Trans. from the German under the general editorship of James Strachey, in collaboration with Anna Freud, assisted by Alix Strachey, Alan Tyson, and Angela Richards. 24 volumes, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

Fromm, Erich (1941). Escape from Freedom. New York: Norton.

Horney, Karen (1950). Neurosis and human growth. New York: Norton.

Rogers, Carl (1951).  Client Centered Therapy. London: Constance.

Sartre, Jean Paul (1943). Being and Nothingness.

Skinner, B.F (1971). Beyond Freedom and Dignity. New York: Basic Books.

Van Deurzen, E. (2002). Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy in Practice (2nd Ed.). London: Sage Publications.

Wheeler, John A (1957). . "Assessment of Everett's "Relative State Formulation of Quantum Theory". Reviews of Modern Physics. 29 (3): 463–465. Bibcode: 1957RvMP...29...463W. Doi: 10.1103/RevModPhys.29.463. 

Ozodi Osuji

October 19, 2016

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176