The Hardware and Software of the Mind
The Overlooked Gem: Personality in the Modern Psychological Discourse
Sun Dec 10 2023
The mind is too complex to be understood by anyone who has yet to look at all the peer-reviewed studies.
The Overlooked Gem: Personality in the Modern Psychological Discourse
Tangible, empirical evidence reigns supreme. No one has time for antidotes or discussions about emotions. If the emotions are difficult to deal with, here is a number for a therapist, and if you want, I can get you a prescription to take the edge off. The emotional landscape is too tricky, and those who attempt to talk about it are venturing into “pseudo-science.” But what if they were wrong? What if emotions were the building blocks of our personality?
From Jung to Now: The Shift from Depth to Surface
Carl Jung was the pioneer of psychological archetypes. He was inspired by Freud, who had developed psychoanalysis- a process by which individuals could explore their unconscious mind to reveal and understand hidden emotions, desires, and conflicts. This approach was criticized for being subjective and fell out of favor in favor of methods that could be scientifically tested and verified. Behaviorism grew popular because it created experiments that could get reproducible results. Early behaviorism experiments included:
- Skinners box- where animals were encouraged and discouraged to do different behaviors
- Pavlov’s dogs- where dogs would salivate at the sound of a dinner bell because they had been conditioned to expect food when they heard the bell
Nice, now we know that people’s behavior can be conditioned. This didn’t lead anywhere, and eventually, interest shifted towards cognitive psychology. Technology was improving, and there were now more data points to gather on a person’s brain. Neuroimaging tools came out, and we learned that different brain parts get stimulated when subjects are subjected to other ideas and images.
Nice, now we can map the physical parts of the brain.
- The front brain turns red when a person is asked what is one plus one.
- The back of the brain turns red when a person sees a cute puppy picture.
These approaches are far from what Freud and Jung were trying to do.
The Software vs. Hardware of the Human Mind
The mind can be likened to a computer. While empirical behavioral studies concentrate on the hardware – the observable and measurable – psychoanalysis represents the software, delving into the intricate thoughts and emotions beneath the surface. Behaviorism and cognitive psychology studied the mind’s hardware, but the mind’s software remains largely unexplored. In terms of software, contemporary psychology focuses primarily on social and cultural factors. However, not everyone from the same social or cultural background thinks, feels, and behaves alike. Factors like race, ethnicity, age, and gender are more ‘hardware’ than ‘software.’
We need to get back to understanding the Archetypes
The idea of archetypes goes back to Greek mythology. The Greeks did not have a word for archetypes, but each of the gods served as an archetype because they had associated behaviors and emotions. There were both cautionary tales and inspirational stories related to the gods. These stories and archetypes, though imperfect, helped form the Greek culture. It served as a tool for a green citizen to understand his place in the culture and the world. We need to look at archetypes and personalities and the emotions associated with their formation. Emotions, thoughts, and dreams, integral to our humanity, may not be quantifiable, but they remain a gap in our understanding of the psyche. It’s time to re-embrace psychoanalysis and explore the depths of the human mind, going beyond what is immediately observable.
Modern Day proponents of the less tangible aspects of psychology
The following contemporary thinkers and practitioners are leading a renaissance in understanding the depths of our internal experiences, championing the exploration of emotions, personal narratives, and the subtle complexities of human behavior.
Dr. Brené Brown: Bridging Empirical Research and Emotional InsightDr. Brené Brown stands out as a trailblazer in integrating empirical research with the nuanced exploration of emotions. Her groundbreaking work on vulnerability, courage, and shame is rooted in extensive qualitative research, including thousands of interviews. Brown delves deep into the emotional landscapes of individuals, examining how emotions shape our identity, relationships, and behavior. Her ability to connect empirical findings with profound emotional insights has revolutionized how we understand human connection and resilience.
Esther Perel: A Fusion of Clinical Knowledge and Emotional DepthEsther Perel, renowned for her work on relationships and intimacy, masterfully combines her background in clinical psychology with a rich exploration of the emotional aspects of human connections. Her approach goes beyond empirical data, delving into the intricate psychological dynamics that govern intimacy, trust, and desire in relationships. Perel's work is a testament to integrating scientific understanding with a deep appreciation of human psychology's less tangible, emotional aspects.
Jordan Peterson: Archetypes, Myths, and Personality AnalysisJordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and cultural commentator, is known for his unique approach that intertwines the study of archetypes and myths with modern psychological practice. He advocates using the Big Five personality test, grounding his explorations of narrative and mythology in empirical psychology. Peterson’s work demonstrates how ancient wisdom and modern scientific understanding can be interwoven to better understand human behavior and personality.
Ray Dalio: Applying Personality Insights in the Business World
Ray Dalio, in his influential book ”Principles,” dedicates an entire chapter to personality, underscoring his recognition of psychology’s role in understanding human behavior, particularly in the context of business and leadership. Dalio’s approach reflects a pragmatic understanding of the importance of psychological insights in the professional realm, acknowledging that a deep understanding of personality can be crucial in effective decision-making and team management.
These thought leaders exemplify the synergy that can be achieved when empirical methods are combined with a deep exploration of emotions, archetypes, and personal narratives, offering a holistic approach to understanding human psychology.
A holistic understanding of the mind requires us to embrace both the seen and the unseen, the measurable and the immeasurable, the hardware and the software of the mind. The mind is not just a machine to be studied from the outside; it’s a rich, complex world waiting to be explored from within.
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