"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, December 9, 2019

Psychopathology and Religion

Since at least 1913 and Freud's essay "Totem and Taboo," and then especially since 1927 and his jejune polemic against "religion," Future of an Illusion (which he almost instantly began distancing himself from, telling more than one friend in his letters that it was "my worst book--the book of an old man!"), there has often been an assumed hostility between modern psychology (especially in its classical Freudian psychoanalytic variants) and that ill-defined beast called "religion." But as many people have shown--not least William Meissner and Ana-Maria Rizzuto--the idea that religious practice, especially that of Judaism and Christianity, is ipso facto proof of mental disorder is a silly baseless bit of adolescent posturing and bigotry unworthy of serious scholars and clinicians alike. Today many clinicians are not only genuinely open to religious and spiritual practices, but even see in them some potential allies to assist in various therapeutic tasks.

That said, a blanket excuse of religious practice is just as undeserved as a blanket condemnation. Pathology can and often does come wreathed about in the stale smoke of religious practices and their abuse. People can and often do have profoundly unhealthy projective identifications with God which end up doing them enormous harm. For this reason, as Paul Ricoeur rightly said, Christians should welcome Freud's critique as an important, necessary, and healthful form of "iconoclasm," attacking false images of God so that in their place the real and living God can appear.

Along comes a new book from a Polish academic and therapist to take a fresh look at all these questions. I have just started it and will say more about it later, but for now wanted to draw your attention to Damian Janus, Psychopathology and Religion: Structural Convergences Between Mental Disorders and Religion (Lexington Books, 2019), 239pp.

About this book we are told

In this book, Damian Janus examines the connections between psychopathological phenomena and religion. Janus contends that there are certain factors—fear of death, desire for power and longevity, and need for predictability of life and longing for care—which reside within the framework of religion and mental disorders. These factors shapethe psychopathological image and contribute to the genesis of religiosity. He explores this contention in his analysis of various mental disorders (neuroses, personality disorders, dissociative disorders, psychoses, eating disorders) and symptoms (delusions, hallucinations, self-destructive behaviors), as well as more common psychological phenomena.This book is recommended for scholars of psychology, religion, and philosophy as well as psychotherapists.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments are never approved. Use your real name and say something intelligent.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...