This interview with Jon Mills, Ph.D., was conducted in Cape Town during the International Association of Jungian Studies conference, 2017. Its focus is on the psychology of place and shows the influence of Heidegger and Boss in my reading of Jung. It is indebted to the late Professor Dreyer Kruger. (If you click over the heading above, then this note will appear again with “The interview” highlighted as the link.)
Roger Brooke, Duquesne University
[This is what I said at the Sunday morning service at Memorial Park Church in Allison Park, Pittsburgh during a service to welcome home returning warriors. The service was Christian, of course, but drew from the Soldiers Heart model and its archetypal understanding of the requirements for the warrior’s return. It was a moving service. Pastor Paul Becker and his team did superb work. The service was recorded and is available on their web site.]
This appeared in the Duquesne Times, June 1, 2011.
In our fast paced culture, speed wobbling towards an uncertain future, it is good to have at least a few days dedicated to memory. Religious and other public holidays are mostly celebrations, but this day is dedicated to the memory of those who fell fighting for us.
Memorial Day reminds us that there is no such silliness as “closure” when it comes to grief. Memorial Day dignifies our lives with grief. For some families, of course, this grief is a gaping wound, and our hearts and prayers are with them. But for many, the grief is communal, and is held for men and women we never met, who died in service for people whom they never even knew.
Our grief, even if simply held as a quiet acknowledgement of this Day, makes us better people. Grief is the most original way of remembering the dead. As the years go by Memorial Day is our way of honoring our forebears. Grief stabilizes our lives, reminding us that we are not self-made but belong to a story that is older and larger than ourselves. On Memorial Day, we are reminded that our personal history is not something that belongs to us–as though we can do with it what we like–but rather, it is the other way round. We belong to that history; we are their heirs carrying an inheritance to the next generation.
The images which stay with us, of the dead at their best, are always a mirror to those values we hold most dear. Remembering someone’s good cheer, helpfulness, or courage, for instance, makes us better people, dedicated to a future that might be worthy of their continued presence in our memories. I am struck how often I have heard a combat veteran come away from the funeral of a buddy determined to get his stuff together, and to live in a way so that his dead buddy would be proud of him (–like the aging private Ryan at the graveside of those who rescued him).
Think of how much a dog’s friendly approach means to us when we are in grief. Unlike depression, which distances the world, grief brings things and others closer. We are made tender in grief, and intimate with the world.
So I hope we never reach “closure.” I hope that we allow our grief to dignify and steady our lives, and to recognize the preciousness of the living to whom we remain indebted. I hope that today reminds us of the appalling waste that is war.
Director, Military Psychological Services
Roger Brooke, Ph.D., ABPP
(Students: If you quote from this page, be sure to cite your references. Lifting from this page is plagiarism and is easily detected by your professors.)
Psychology as a human science is an approach to psychology in which our assumptions and methods are consistent with our experience of ourselves as human beings. Therefore, it is an approach which endeavors to address human experience and behavior on their own terms: that is, terms that are adequate to that which is particular about human beings.
Assumptions about human beings
1. Human beings are fundamentally transcendent. This term means that human beings are fundamentally conscious, interpreting and interacting with the events in their lives, using a degree of freedom in how they interpret their experience and make choices accordingly. Unlike other animals, humans have the capacity to loosen the intentional ties that bind them to their context and to reflect on their context. This possibility of transcendence is almost continuous in human experience, as we are always in some sort of dialogue with ourselves and the situation in which we are embedded. This wider perspective is founded on the fluidity, range, and complexity of human temporality.
2. Human being is always in a context. Experience and behavior are always contextual. But the human context is not merely a combination of genes and environmental conditions. The human context is a network of meaningful relations and personal intentions, rooted in language, time and cultural history. The human context is never a set of “independent variables” causing certain behaviors (“dependent variables”) to occur. This is because the human being is never separate from her context; human behavior and context do not have an external relationship between conceptually discrete variables. What natural science calls independent variables are events which are meaningfully interpreted and engaged.
For human beings, the context has an internal relation to experience and behavior, meaning that the relationship of experience to context is one of meaning, interpretation, and intentions. It is a dialectical relation that changes both the person and the context at each moment. Note that there is no context that causes you to be in this class. All the occurrences that make up the context of your being here — doing well enough on SATs, having financial support, having a history of successes which encourage you to think you can succeed, parents who believe in you (or parents who don’t and you are going to show them!), having long term professional goals — all these are contexts to which you continually relate, and this ongoing relation to context (an aspect of transcendence) changes both the context and you over time.
3. Human beings live in time in a way that is not clock time at all. Human temporality is historical, meaning that we live in the present and towards the future while still in relation to memory and the past. This is fundamentally different from the natural scientific idea of causality. Scientific determinism underlying most psychology imagines time as an endless succession of immediate material moments, each moment caused by the material events in the preceding instant. However, that notion is simply not true for human beings. We live in relation to the past as deeply historical beings, but that does not mean our behavior is caused by it. This confusion of human historicity (that we are historical beings) and determinism runs through much of psychology, and is especially exasperating in Freud. Freud’s well known terms–repetition compulsion, fixation, regression, and transference–all speak of the temporal complexity of human historicity, but this insight into the historical gravity of human motivation and experience is then translated in his metapsychology into the “scientific” language of causal determinism. Much to enjoy thinking about here.
Human science methods
- Seek understanding rather than physiological, epidemiological, or experimental explanation;
- Involve detailed, penetrating description rather than an analysis of variables/factors;
- Explore meaning and significance rather than measurement;
- Require that the researcher acknowledge the situatedness and contextuality of his or her questions and the results that emerge in relation to them. There is no God-like eye view; all statements are positional; all descriptions have an interpretative dimension and are indebted to the rigors of hermeneutics.