Psychologists Don’t Sell Their Empathy

Psychologists are often criticized for having well-formed opinions and not giving them up.

Perhaps due to the influence of counseling , perhaps due to the influence of  humanistic psychology, there are many people who believe that psychologists are characterized, basically, by being a kind of mystics. 

Not the kind of mystics so alienated that it is impossible to identify with them, but the kind of spiritual gurus who act as an inspiring mirror for others. People who, having reached a very high degree of understanding about the human mind, are able to adapt their ideas to make room for and connect with any other way of thinking.

In other words, it has come to be assumed that the psychologist is the one who transforms his own philosophy of life into a very simple principle: always empathize with others, without giving more importance to his own ideas than to those of the other.

This idea, of course, is based on an exaggeration about the degree of skills that psychologists come to acquire throughout their careers; after all, they  are flesh and blood people. However, my opinion is that this idea is not only wrong, it is also harmful and is used simply to try to silence certain ideas and opinions.

Political correctness in psychologists

It is very common to hear phrases like “it seems a lie that you are a psychologist”. What is alarming about this is not that it is common to get angry or reproach someone dedicated to this profession, but that, in most cases, this type of complaint does not occur when a psychologist expresses ignorance about a subject that he should master But when he behaves in a way that he does not like and that is seen as an attack on the opinion of others.

For example, if a psychologist or psychologist has very clear ideas about a controversial issue and expresses his opinion in an assertive way, the lack of tact may be criticized by giving an unambiguous point of view and very committed to a way of see things.

This does not happen with almost any other profession: doctors, engineers or carpenters can have a very established philosophy of life and talk about their ideas without major worries, but the psychologist seems to be obliged to have to speak for everyone , maintaining a very low and discreet profile. Political correctness is assumed as something that must emanate naturally from their profession, and it has reached the point where it must be assumed, for example, that all currents of psychology are equally valid because they include different ways of thinking .

Marketing with empathy

But psychologists are not in the business of renting out their thinking to constantly embrace the views of others in order to build empathy.

First of all, a psychologist is defined by what he does in his professional life, not in his personal life. That a psychologist should not confront the ideas of a patient, for example, does not mean that he cannot express opinions diametrically opposed to someone in any other situation.

This, which seems obvious, is often overlooked by the influence of two elements: relativism and  constructivism taken to the extreme.

The “anything goes” belief

From radical relativism, especially in its cultural relativism aspect, it is assumed that there are no more valid attitudes and thoughts than others. This means that psychologists should not strive to find regularities in the way people think and act, since each individual is a world; Instead, you must develop a special sensitivity to “connect” with the other person’s mind at a certain time and place, to help the other person move closer to a certain goal.

In this vision of psychology, it is not considered that there are certain theories about behavior that are more valid than others because they have been empirically contrasted, and therefore psychologists do not have the added value of knowing better the mental processes of people in general.

Thus, the only thing they are valuable for is their “sensitivity,” the ease with which they connect with systems of meanings created from scratch by other people (that’s where constructivism comes in). And this sensitivity, if it is not expressed in all facets of the psychologist’s life, cannot be authentic.

Psychology is knowledge

The idea that psychology is basically the implementation of an almost artistic sensibility is totally contrary to the notion of psychology as a science. 

What defines psychologists is not their ability to establish  therapeutic connections with other people; This is just one of the characteristics of a certain class of psychologists: those who intervene on specific people and groups of people. Furthermore, even during therapy the psychologist does not have to assume all the contents of the patient’s speech as true, and has good reason to believe, for example, that a mystical experience in which a saint appeared was not real.

What all psychologists have in common is that, to do their work, they use scientifically generated knowledge and that, therefore, reduces uncertainty about a topic. Psychologists try to predict to a greater or lesser extent the behavior of people taking into account a series of variables, and if they do so it is because they have information that is more valid than other types of information.

Thus, psychologists do not have to accept, for example, religious fundamentalism or racism simply because they are “ways of thinking” that reflect a mental reality as valid as any other. Complaining because someone with a background in psychology does not accept the “truth of oneself” is meaningless precisely because of that.

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