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The Revolution Will Not Be Psychologized

Once upon a time, psychologist James Hillman spoke of anima, the breath of life, the soul of the world, as something that had to be rescued by psychologists from theologians. Now, with pop-psychology vernacular inundating all aspects of life, it may be time for the breath of life to be rescued all over again. The New York Times recently released an article entitled ‘The Problem with Letting Therapy Speak Invade Everything.’ Philosopher Bayo Akomolafe writes of the need to ‘decenter Western psychology.’ It seems that psychology discourse has grown from a simple means of understanding and evaluating the forces at play in the psyche to be the medium through which much of modern discourse takes place, through which nearly everything is evaluated. If there is a value to ritual, it is increasingly articulated as a psychological value. The traditional yogic process has become deeply conflated with the psychological process. Traditional plant medicines are on the verge of a global psychologization. Psychology vernacular has been adopted en masse — and also weaponized en masse — so that simple disagreements in viewpoint or worldview are now called out as psychological pathologies. Activist movements have abandoned the spiritual vocabulary of Martin Luther King Gandhi and the Dalai Lama in favor of outing narcissists and addressing collective traumas. Part spoken-word rant à la Gil Scott-Heron, part devotional ode to the breath of life, this episode is not an indictment of psychology or of therapeutic systems that benefit many people, but rather a glimpse into what goes missing as we increasingly evaluate everything through the psychological lens.  As always in the modern west, what gets sidelined first is… the animate itself. There are textures and depths to the way that traditional systems understand relationality with the larger animate world that get lost when seen through the modalities that have arisen out of individualism. In traditional animate systems, we find visions of consciousness, animacy, and relationality that make us deeply rethink psychological visions of trauma, safety, agency, and alterity. Listen on a good sound system, at a time when you can devote your full attention.