Psychology and the Other

Psychology and the Other

Psychology and the Other

Psychology and the Other

Synopsis

The figure of the Other is an important though underutilized vehicle for exploring and reconceptualizing classic psychological and philosophical issues, from identity and purpose to human frailty and suffering. Moreover, it can be used to reorient inquiry toward aspects of the human condition that are often regarded as secondary or peripheral - for instance, our responsibility to others and to the environment. A broad spectrum of disciplines including psychology, philosophy, theology, and religious studies speak about the challenges we face in encountering the Other vis-a-vis our receptivity, openness, and capacity to entertain the stranger in our midst. Through constructive critical exchange, Psychology and the Other engages such perspectives on the Other from various sub-disciplines within psychology and related disciplines. The volume uses the language of the Other as a vehicle for rethinking aspects of psychological processes, especially within the therapeutic context. As a group, the contributors demonstrate that the language of the Other may be more fitting than the egocentric language frequently employed in psychology. They also embrace the challenge to create new theories and practices that are more ethically attuned to the dynamic realities of psychological functioning. The book is organized into three sections. The first deals with foundational philosophical concerns and provides an introduction to the project of "thinking Otherwise." The second section brings these fundamental philosophical concerns to bear on the therapeutic situation, especially in the realm of relational psychoanalysis. The final section of the book addresses concrete psychological situations in which the Other figures prominently and where the power of thinking Otherwise is most visibly demonstrated.

Excerpt

As an undergraduate student, I (David) double majored in psychology and theology. In my psychology courses, I was bedazzled by the seemingly exhaustive reach of empirical studies and theoretical frameworks. We have names and concepts for nearly everything. However, alongside being impressed with the conceptual and clinical technologies adorning the self with complex and ever more technical descriptions, I often felt an unease. I struggled to find the livedness of identity in the numeric and aggregate claims being made. It felt as though there were things that bled outside of the lines so carefully drawn in the psychological discipline. Our existence and the elusive phenomenon of selfhood—its simultaneous bigness and smallness—were difficult to find in the bolded words and correlational tables of textbooks and research articles. The assumptions, in their assured forms, couldn’t hold, and the grit and excess of identity, life, and relationship led me into troubling questions about the discipline and a deep hunger for something more.

In my theology and philosophy courses, I experienced something quite different. The long heritage of dialogues, critical engagement, doctrines, political ideals, metaphysical questions, and ethical theories promoted a type of rich and kaleidoscopic intrigue with the human subject. There are bewildering paradoxes and contradictions in our attempts at understanding. This enticed and challenged me in profound ways. It challenged how I sat in my psychology courses and how I read the theories and research findings. The self—as it was often described in contemporary psychological literatures—was too flat, egocentric, and susceptible to facile categorization. Its existential, fleshly, and ethical significance felt anemically addressed. Philosophy . . .

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