The New Existentialists
"There’s now a separation between the humanities and the sciences – one so vast that it seems novel to suggest it could be any other way. But it could: perhaps especially in psychology.
As former APA president Frank Farley wrote:
The spiritual side, the poetic side, the giving and forgiving side, the generous and loving side, are humankind's finest features. Hebb defined psychology many years ago as not being poetry. Although Hebb was my scientific hero, I demur from defining psychology without poetry.
That, Greening says, is because the arts and humanities provide both insight into the human condition and a means of ennobling it – and what else is psychology for?
For [Rollo] May and [Jim] Bugental there was certainly never a separation between psychology and the arts and humanities: in fact, they saw the latter as being a crucial part of the former. So much so that Greening and May once created an alternative … albeit satirical … licensing exam.
It included questions about the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, War and Peace, Madame Bovary, Thoreau, Hamlet, Siddhartha, Faust, Guernica, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Elie Wiesel, Mullah Nasrudin, and Icarus … among many others.
How many psychologists could pass that today? If there aren’t many, Greening says, their patients are poorer for it. “Do you feel safe walking the streets at night knowing there are psychologists out there who don’t know who Faust and Siddhartha are?” he asks.
“Of course, there’s different kinds of psychology – there’s quantitative, statistical analysis, neurophysiology, drug based psychopharmacology… and that’s very important, I’m glad people are doing that,” Greening said. “But in the other direction there are the humanities, and people like Rollo and myself believe that they are a crucial resource for anyone who wants to better understand what human beings do and how human beings think and feel.”