The Limits of Psychology: Balkanization and the Lack of Intersectionality in Psychological Science

L’Appel du Vide is a common symptom of anxiety disorders and one I experience and have experienced regularly throughout my life. In fact, as a child, it was one of the worst symptoms I had but at no point growing up could I discuss it with anyone safely. The fact is most of the psychologists that were around me were most likely unfamiliar with the phenomenon. The biggest problem, more than any other, in psychology is how stove-piped and balkanized the field is. Describing L’Appel du Vide thoughts to someone who is wholly unfamiliar with it by someone who doesn’t know the term or doesn’t know to tell the psycologist where to look it up would be, to understate it, terrible. It would take a non-dangerous case of anxiety, fairly severe anxiety, in that case, and treat it with a threat level of being suicidal or sociopathic which would make everything worse.

My last psychologist was very bad at what he did and he was that, in part, because while he had studied clinical psychology, he was ignorant of social psychology. He was running a program for disabled people but it is really impossible to understand their lives or help them unless one understands how prejudice works and that means cognitive biases. He saw his role as trying to normalize his patients to the best of his ability but the best way to help them would be to have social groups accept them. While he had learned individual-oriented therapies as a doctor, he was clueless as to how to design a social system or culture less prejudiced toward people with disabilities. I was watching the PsychShow Psych piece on bullying and having studied the psychology of bullying extinsively, was deeply miffed. For the same reason as the psychologist mentioned earlier in the paragraph; it focussed on individual peer on peer behaviors.

It defined bullying as “harassment” which implies that it is active and non-consensual when it is very often passive aggressive and sometimes consensual. As I’ve said on this blog before, the most common way I was bullied was “circus monkey” bullying where my lack of social awareness was exploited to induce me to humiliate myself for the amusement of others. It’s very common for people with disbailities. Not only did I and do others consent, after being conditioned to associate verbal praise with it, I did and others do volunteer the entertainment without solicitation. Individual ghosting and collective shunning are also phenomena I would sometimes consider bullying and they are the opposite of harassment. Bullying is best defined as malicious behavior borne of anti-outgroup bias. If one defines bullying as “harassment” then the solution is not to counter the prejudice but to stop the harassment because then the problem is not the social marginalization and alienation of the victim but their being bothered and the solution then becomes segregation and not integration which is the opposite of what will erode the oxytocin-induced anti-outgroup bias. They need to be made to play nice together, not kept away from each other.

The science of psychology is useful for relatively myopic and non-intersectional instances but where it fails and fails miserably is when things get intersectional. Not only between psychology and other fields but within its own subfields. The results I have described here either resulted in real passive or active harm. That psychologist earlier who was running a program for people with disabilities was charging dearly for results he wasn’t nearly getting his patients for their parents’ copays. I had a severe anxiety condition that had been known about for decades but not by the clinical pscyhologists in and around Charleston which meant it went untreated and kept impeding my life. I was mistreated horribly and so are many people with disabilities but there was no focus by anyone in authority on how to reduce prejudice and all those institutions had were rules against active and nonconsensual harm of one person to another. Rules that, since I tended to have the social stigma of having a disability, lead to people being bothered by me often in the form of fearing my affect on their social capital and by enforcing their rules, the institutions just enforced an adolscent social hierarchy.

The science is real. I’m not Foucault. Yet, for me, the science accomplished almost nothing despite being around and in the offices of psychologists for the bulk of my life. I live in a world where the science of everything from quarks to neurology to evolution is intersectional and where the scientists are treating real world cases as ideal cases with controlled vairables from a textbook. The academy of psychology needs to emphasize to its practinioners they need to put two and two together from different subfields for their patients or whatever they are working on. At best, being monosectional gets nothing done and, at worst, it is worse than nothing.

2 thoughts on “The Limits of Psychology: Balkanization and the Lack of Intersectionality in Psychological Science

  1. L’Appel du Vide happens when one is extremely against something and this triggers worries that one may do it. Stage fright, another anxiety symptom, happens when you’re publicly presenting and the anxiety is, of course, fucking up. It doesn’t mean you’re going to fuck up but it means that fucking up is the forefront of your mind. L’Appel du Vide is similiar except in life, generally, and worse and the two aren’t exclusive. L’Appel du Vide, in stage fright, would be like a nightmare flash that you’ll lose it and expose one’s genitals to the audience.

    For me, a basic SSRI or SNRI works well to abate it. Obviously, those should be given to people puberty onward and typically not before. The next thing is to ask people with an anxiety disorder if they have the symptom because it is common. Talking about it works to a degree but only if it can be understood. That’s because another person needs to remind the sufferer that it’s just an anxiety fear and those don’t typically manifest in the harm that one is nightmaring about. To remind them that they don’t have anything on the DSM-5 that would make them do what they are having anxiety flashes about being.


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