My Philosophy of Psychology
By Richard J.R. Miles Copyright 7th January 2010
My Philosophy of Psychology
Having been born into a non-academic, working class environment, pursuing an interest from a young age in life, nature and especially the unknown, was very difficult. Finding the time and relaxed mind in order to pursue and enjoy such interests became almost impossible, due to the need to earn a living and raise a family. Also finding some security in retirement. It is on this basis that I have carried on with my interests, including reading more about psychology, What I have found is that the more I read the more I realised the fundamental path of understanding and what is going on in humans is missing. Also the less certain aspects seemed to relate to me.
I really had no intention of writing a paper on psychology, nor do I feel capable or qualified in doing such. But I think I have found a simple way of describing the basis of what is the missing approach to psychology, and therefore the necessity of writing this paper. I hope it helps you as it has helped me in understanding how we all are, furthering the understanding of life.
My philosophy of psychology will not cover the function of individual parts of the brain and body. I will generalise due to everything in us being interconnected in various ways. It is my hope that my thesis will be a general help to everybody, in understanding how I think we all function, and as an aid to those who want to study further the understanding of how all of the parts vary in the human, with their various and kinds of connections of varying strengths, resulting in the effects of how they must function in order to produce the reality of being human, which results in so many variations of physical/mental diversity.
Using my thesis will not necessarily be a revelation, in fact most people will say ‘So what’. But for me it has been like a tune that grows on you. It has allowed me to understand more than I had before in realising that the mind and body work as one, from the unconscious through to the conscious, This has allowed me not only to progress with my knowledge of psychology but with life in general, re-evaluating things I took for granted making some things understandable that were not so before. If you are stuck as I was in gaining some understanding of how we humans are and how life is, you may find my thesis a help, or possibly in making more scientific advances, due to your circumstances and or ability.
Throughout time theories came and go, during their time they usually help to further knowledge inspiring others to find scientific advancements in either agreeing or disagreeing with the theory, inducing an alternative way of thought. Some theories stand the test of time, others fail but still linger on, some parts still being referred to or joined to others. In the world of psychology, Freud’s theories once so significant have now been dissolved by the natural progress over time of scientific psychological knowledge, but so deep was his thought into his grey matter, that some of his expressions are still used today.
Although psychology is very complex, text books simply say that the brain is connected to the body and vice versa. The basic hypothesis I propose is also simple. Humans have evolved with very complex systems and abilities, there are similarities in the way we function compared to a lot of creatures, which are also very complex. This similarity should be of no surprise as we are all made from the same evolved ingredients, passed on evolving through time from our ancestral origins, always carried internally, eventually relayed by our parents to what we are today, a complete human being different from anyone else, and not a separate body and brain. This is a prerequisite for my thesis which is not to describe the function of the brain without considering the body and vice versa, as the body and brain grow, learn and work together, from conception, through all the continually changing processes of ageing and experience, through life till death, as one complete evolving entity. What I describe as a part works together with all the other parts as one human being. The first part which has been working in the growing foetus before birth is the body and autonomic nervous system controlled by the unconscious mind. This then, whilst in the womb of Mother has been monitoring, adjusting, caring and coping with increasing growing requirements, reliant on the warmth, care and supply of nutrients necessary to keep the heart beating, body and brain growing and functioning healthily. Mother whose care for herself had an effect on the foetus development both brain and body.
The autonomic unconscious nervous system is then as it sounds, the autonomic system in your brain and body that unconsciously looks after you non-stop 24/7 keeping you alive. It is the part of your brain and body that you have no direct conscious control over. But it can be affected by what you inherited, the environment you were raised in and the subsequent way you look after yourself. Which brings us to the opposite part from your unconscious autonomic nervous system, the conscious somatic nervous system.
This is the system connected to your senses and muscles that allows you to have conscious control over them, for the main purpose of doing the practical work required by your unconscious autonomic nervous system. This conscious servant activity with uncivilised people and wild creatures in general takes up their time surviving, finding food, drink, eating, drinking, fight or flight, resting, sleeping, breeding, toilet and care requirements. It was only as humans became more civilised that they found some spare time to do other things, life became easier in some ways, sport and work replacing fight or flight and hunter gathering.
So how are these two systems connected? It might be helpful to use an analogy, by thinking of the unconscious autonomic nervous system at or towards the black side of an area which changes through grey towards the other side to white, which is the conscious somatic nervous system, this being the bit that we are aware of and tend to relate to more. It may surprise you that your unconscious sensed what was going on, and instigated your conscious decision which you thought that you had consciously made, but often you may not have been aware of it, having been made before by you unconsciously, as your unconscious has access to your senses.
I think we are connected in a way I have described. So as you know that at the conscious end things are quite accessible to us, we have control but as things turn greyer, it becomes more difficult to control or understand what is happening to our heart beating, digestive system, respiratory, repairing damaged tissue, in fact just about anything going on down the darker end, but you are nevertheless mentally and physically connected as the hunger pangs, thirst or need for the toilet will automatically tell you. Also stretching and yawning etc.
If you consciously stop breathing you will automatically be forced to start breathing again. If you need to prepare for fight or flight your unconscious autonomic nervous system will instantly put every resource at its disposal for the emergency, increasing heart rate and saving energy on what it was doing, digesting food for example, and again may well be aware of the emergency before you actually are consciously aware. So to summarise the connection of these two parts, the black end, the unconscious autonomic nervous system cannot directly control the white end, the conscious somatic nervous system and vice versa, but they are connected, communicate affect and effect, responding to each other naturally which sounds like more of a we than an I. Which in a way we are having evolved from a mixture of various human couples as did our line of ancestors. So what is connected if anything to the grey part, well grey matter, sorry – could not resist that!
There are several nervous systems that work as a balance, for example by exciting or calming us. The unconscious autonomic nervous system may sense from our senses a need to prepare for fight or flight, this is partially controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, which increases our heart rate preparing us for action. The parasympathetic nervous system calms us down, by putting the brakes on in a state of readiness to spring into action. These two systems work together as opposites, giving the desired amount of preparation as necessary to help with the mental and physical task. The conscious somatic nervous system doing the necessary physical work or not if it is a false alarm.
The limbic system responds to emotions and helps you to sleep. There are internal conflicts to cope with too much of this, not enough of that, the effects of ageing, failures, excitement, disappointments, pain, happiness, sadness, stress etc. I believe it is the general effect we sense, of all what is happening, continuously within us, that we refer to as our soul. Some people struggle with these internal conflicts, not being able to cope, can lead to addiction, phobia or self harm. It is important and sometimes difficult how we manage all of this general sense, of what has, and is going on, especially because of the continuously varying ageing mixture of all the systems, which are interconnected in various ways, all growing and maturing together with our body, as one human being.
It is hardly surprising that we do not totally know what is going on with ourselves, as the term unconscious autonomic implies. It is our conscious that allows us to realise we are aware, and that it is us we see in the mirror.
Anything unknown can turn from anxiety to fear. Our ancestors would have had a lot to be frightened about. They looked for anything, or anyone to relieve their fear. Stories from ancestors etc relayed and enhanced over time by the sharing and the natural distortion of memory, mixed with imagination. This did help to allay fears, suggesting all sorts of various possibilities, the best ones being recycled, altered and passed on. I believe primitive humans found religion as a means of explanation and solace. After all, who are we to try to understand the workings of God. Which just about takes care of all the unknowns doesn’t it?
We are a product of mixed bodies, memories, emotions and imaginations from our ancestors. Due to this variety, we are all humans but different, as can be seen from the diversity throughout the world. There is a general sameness as with different horses for different courses, all birds are birds, all dogs are dogs, but like birds and horses vary considerably in size, shape, temperament and ability. Some dogs are more of a dog than others it seems. The same is true of humans, some are arrogantly ignorant or intelligent, disciplined and undisciplined, the variations are seemingly endless. Some people seem to completely lack the humane quality, which seems more apparent in some creatures or at least some seem to have more going on between the autonomic and the somatic nervous systems or soul if you like, than some humans whose obsessional greed and or selfishness seems to rule them.
So how did I come by this thesis? Well I was on this hallucinogenetic trip when God, who I suddenly realised was me, spoke quite clearly and said “Are you sure you want to be me, even though you are on the wrong kind of trip?” No that’s not how it happened! It was not divine intervention, but sounds more exciting than my real story, that some would prefer to believe. Like a lot of people that study psychology I found that there is no common approach and that is fine. It does not necessarily need one.
Most categories of psychology are generally so involved in their established practice or research, they do not require a common approach, unless one turns up somehow scientifically, which is also fine as well. But nevertheless a reasonable approach is missing, to help try and tie it all together, and give some understanding of what must be going on inside us, to make us the way we are.
The only approach on offer by some it seems, is as I have said before ‘who are we to try and understand the workings of God?’ or to others ‘Descartes’ who lived in the 17th century. Then whilst wading through, or rather reading yet another huge volume on psychology from the public library, I was annoyed to find that a crappy person had ripped out the section on ‘dreams’. I showed the librarian who made a note in the front of the book and offered to obtain another copy, which they subsequently did. I read the dream section and was disappointed and could not help but wonder if that was why the crappy person had ripped it out of the first copy. I hate to see any destructive act in a library book, including the type who likes to make notes in the books even in pencil, tainting, affecting or destroying the original work, and depriving me and others of knowledge.
So what is the main function of dreams? I think it is the means of communication from the unconscious autonomic to the conscious. When we are asleep our conscious somatic nervous system is dulled and relaxed, assisted by our limbic system. Whilst our unconscious autonomic system makes repairs, and tries to sort out our problems, without interference from the conscious or its somatic muscular activity. So tiredness slows down your conscious part of you till you sleep. There is no sleep for your autonomic unconscious system, which has to carry on 24/7 regardless of anything and during our sleep the unconscious autonomic activity can become quite intense, which should be of no surprise considering the phenomenal amount of work it does which most people take for granted and do not appreciate, being blissfully ‘unconscious’ or unaware.
Being as your unconscious autonomic nervous system cannot directly control your conscious somatic muscles that move you around, it communicates with dreams as a way of sorting out problems. So why would your unconscious autonomic nervous system want you to move, having got you to sleep and stopped you moving around in the first place? Well if it senses a restriction in circulation, digestion, you’re too hot or too cold, and any number of reasons that its continuous, numerous functions require, then you will be made sufficiently, consciously aware to move your somatic muscles accordingly to help ease the problem which is why we move around in our sleep. Sometimes you may not remember, or be particularly aware, as you will be quite used to being moved around, as you have been in this way since before you were born. But if there is a problem or problems, mental or physical that requires immediate conscious somatic action to aid your 24/7 function, then your unconscious autonomic will arouse you by really letting you know, especially if you are in a deep sleep you will wake with a start! You may be able to reflect on having been woken up in this way, and if it was not a very good dream, depending on how much your unconscious needed to make you consciously aware, you may be relieved it was only a dream, and that you were glad that you woke up to stop it. But you did not realise that it was your autonomic unconscious at work and again I will say 24/7. Perhaps if you die in your dream then you are dead, but I have not had that one yet so I do now know. Although we are not conscious of our unconscious autonomic, it does far more than most people realise, its influence being responsible for actions that most would incorrectly consider being made purely by their conscious, which is as I have previous said our conscious somatic nervous system is the unconscious autonomic nervous systems, practical connection with the world. Or to simplify, the unconscious takes care of us from the inside, giving our conscious the ability to take care of us from the outside, in the outside world. How we choose to do that is up to us and will affect us.
In the modern industrialised world where survival is taken for granted, and overpopulation is the result, not being discouraged by race, or religion, until perhaps it is too late. The problems coped with by humans today are vastly different from their original evolution. It is only a short period of time as far as evolution is concerned, that due to the rapid rate of technical advancement, the hunter gatherers now find themselves adapting to commuting, working with machines, sitting at a desk etc. Some people have difficulty fitting in with the society they find themselves in. Sometimes made worse by their internal conflicts. All of this creates a seemingly endless variety of new problems, each requiring a particular treatment, some cannot cope, and turn to addiction in its many forms, including drugs and alcohol, which like smoking numbs their brain, relaxing the body, slowing down the way they think. Some indulge to such an excess, that their unconscious autonomic nervous system cannot cope, and not being able to arouse the conscious somatic for help can result in them never having to think again.
I hope it will be possible that in the not too distant future, the advance of scientific knowledge will allow people to be really honest with all of their self, and not just the conscious bit exposing lies and deceit, helping to understand and solve theirs and the problems of the world we evolved from.
I feel that I have given sufficient explanation to understand the basis of my hypothesis. I hope it is a help. Sorry that you had to suffer my digressive ramblings in the process. No doubt I will find out in due course whether it is a help to anyone or not