The Concept of Liberation in Psychology

I have been in psychotherapy for a very long time and have acquired a philosophical interest in some of the ideas behind the various psychological schools of thought. Inherent in them all is the concept of “liberating” the patient or client. I am sure no professional would ever put it this way, but psychologists are like the Allies storming ashore in Normandy to liberate Europe from the tyrant’s grip and restore democracy.

At Eternity's Gate by Vincent van Gogh (A grieving old man)

Psychotherapy seeks to liberate the sufferer from emotional pain thus restoring greater freedom of action. (Photo: Wikipedia)

No matter how one conceptualizes it, liberation implies some kind of oppressive situation from which the sufferer would like to be freed. Right away, we have a two-part scenario: the source of the oppression and the subject who suffers yet is not able (either from ignorance or incapacity) to do anything about the painful situation.

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The Mental Gatekeeper

One of psychology’s most popular images is that of the gatekeeper strategically positioned between the conscious and unconscious minds to prevent certain unconscious contents from emerging into conscious awareness. We imagine some sort of autonomous process that filters out the unacceptable while allowing only “the good stuff” to pass. The trouble with this notion is the way it absolves ego of any responsibility for what is happening. If the process is autonomous, who, or what, is deciding what will pass through the gate and what will not?

Gatekeeper at Work

Our mental gatekeeper, the origin of repression is entirely of our own making. (Image: Wikipedia)

What we are talking about here is repression and how it happens.

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