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Friday, May 27, 2011

Psychology In Search Of A Soul

Psychology has for a long time been in search for a soul - problem is, all of the political correctness surrounding science prevents them from finding one.

As our first example, let us consider Psychiatrist Karl Augustus Menninger, M.D. (July 22, 1893 - July 18, 1990).

In 1973 Carl Menninger wrote a book called "Whatever Became of Sin."[i] And, although, the book has long been gathering dust in most professional counselors and psychiatrist's libraries, it would help for all of involved in counseling to revisit this eminent psychiatrist and the route he took to arrive at his conclusions.

After attending Washburn University, Indiana University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Menninger was accepted to Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude in 1917.

Following graduation, Menninger completes an internship in Kansas City, during which time he also worked at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital and taught at Harvard Medical School. After that he joined his father, psychiatrist Charles Frederick Menninger in Topeka, Kansas. There in 1919 Menninger he and his family founded the now famous Menninger Clinic. Later, his brother, Brigadier General William C. Menninger, M.D., an outstanding US Army's psychiatrist joined them.

During his illustrious career, Menninger wrote a number of influential books.[ii] In 1930 he published his first book which he entitled, "The Human Mind." Optimistically, in the book Menninger premised that since in his opinion the mentally ill are only slightly different than healthy individuals that with the help of the science of psychiatry they can be helped. Apparently, writing the book was the easy part because following that for years he struggled with just how to go about helping them. Fortunately for him-although, perhaps not so for his patients-he had an almost inexhaustible supply of patients to test his theories on.

Finally, in 1968 Menninger feels comfortable enough with his theory to write "In The Crime of Punishment," in which he argued that crime is preventable through psychiatric treatment; and advocates treating offenders as if they were mentally ill. Yet, even with those conclusions, he still sensed that treating crime like mental illness and getting to the root of the problem was beyond his grasp.

In any event, in 1973 Dr. Menninger climaxed his illustrious career as an author with has last book which he titled, "Whatever Became of Sin?" An interesting choice which seems to indicate his growing affirmation that the primary cause for much of our mental distress is rooted in sin.

Later, most probably because of his increasing understanding of the nature of mental illness his publishers felt that it was now time to revisited his first book, so in 1978 they published a collection of essays and marketed them under the title of "The Human Mind Revisited: Essays in Honor of Karl A. Menninger."

Although, Menninger's "Whatever Became of Sin?" was his last full length book, he continued to correspond and dialogue with colleagues. One of the most intriguing exchanges during that period his life was a letter to Dr. Thomas Szasz, then Professor of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York.

Menninger had just read Dr. Szasz's highly reviewed book entitled "Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences,"[iii] and this prompted Menninger to write a letter to the eminent professor on October 6, 1988 in protest to criticisms that Szasz directed against Menninger in the book.

In essence, Szasz felt that Menninger relied to heavily on the myths of psychiatry and psychology to effectively deal with the issue of mental illnesses. As far as Szasz was concerned Menninger should break with these archaic methodologies and instead return to a more common sense approach.

(In his defense, it should be noted that Szasz's criticism was not so much against Menninger as it was again the scientism that he perceived Menninger had embraced. Menninger, it appears, however, failed to reach that understanding of Szasz's criticism and took the confrontation personally.)

Neither of the two, however, were willing to turn to Christ as the ultimate answer to their dilemma.

Had they, they would have found that sin is a choice and a very bad one at that; and one that science can only analyze and report on, but certainly not treat as one would treat a bad case of meningitis or some other physical illness.

Psychology In Search Of A Soul continued . . .

No history of how the field of pastoral counseling has developed would be complete without considering our second example, Psychologist Orval Hobart Mowrer (January 23, 1907 - June 20, 1982). So, let's take a brief history of this influential psychologist and see what his conclusions were.

Mowrer was raised on a farm near Unionville, Missouri, until he reach school age at which time his father moved the family into town. Apparently, life for him was idyllic there until his father passed away when the young Hobart was 13 years of age. The year following, Mowrer suffered his first bout with severe mental depression which he attributed to the stress brought on by his father's death.

This episode of depression pricked his interest in psychology, so upon graduation from High School he entered the University of Missouri and studied under Max Friedrich Meyer the university's first and only professor of psychology at the time.

Although, Dr. Meyer was originally trained as a physicist he quickly adapted to the study of behaviorist psychology. That approach suited Mowrer just fine, so he threw himself wholeheartedly into his studies with apparent disregard for the conservative Christian principles on which he had been taught. Science was the cure all for his condition and he was out to prove it.

He left the University of Missouri in 1929 after considerable protest over a research survey project he conducted on acceptable sexual practices for a course in sociology. He then entered Johns Hopkins University and conducted research under Knight Dunlap as part of his doctoral studies. There at Johns he also underwent Freudian psychoanalysis Hopkins for the first time in his life. According to him, the treatment was unsatisfactory, and he continued to struggle with bouts of depression.

As time passed, Mowrer's confidence in Freudian psychology faded. Yet, despite his doubts he underwent a more analysis while he was at Harvard culminating with a final series with the prominent Freudian disciple Dr. Hans Sachs.

Regrettably, none of this had any real lasting effect on Mowrer's depression.

From Johns Hopkins University Mowrer accepted a position in 1944 as a psychologist at the Office of Strategic Services. His assignment was to develop assessment techniques for potential intelligence agents. Naturally, as a behaviorist he developed environmental constructs in which he could assess the potential agents' ability to handle stress.

This procedure without a doubt added to his understanding of human behavior as it relates to environmental and culturally produced stress. Perhaps people are insane or bad because of conditioning? Who knows? So, the search continued.[iv]

In any event, as part of his work there, he participated in a seminar led by Dr. Harry Stack Sullivan.

Dr. Harry Sullivan's studies concentrated on the role of disturbances in interpersonal relationships with "significant others" in mental disorders. Sullivan's suggested etiology for the progression of mental disorders had a lasting effect on Mowrer's ideology.

Mowrer returned to Harvard with a renewed vigor and enthusiasm for counseling. So, he began to counsel students in addition to his faculty duties. His methodology was simple and straightforward, he used the principles he had learned from Sullivan, questioning them about their interpersonal relationships and confronting them when he felt they were being dishonest.

Again notice, however, that the standard was established on the basis of accepted culture within interpersonal relationships. In essence then, man was still determining right and wrong. Godly defined sin had little or nothing to do with mental or emotional discomfort, except within the context of acceptable culture.

Then in 1948, Mowrer and his family moved to Urbana, Illinois, where he conducted research and was professor of psychology from 1948 to 1975 at the University of Illinois. His research assignment which was directed primarily to learning theory but was no doubt greatly enhanced by his work in aversive conditioning or avoidance learning.

During Mowrer's tenure at the University of Illinois in Urbana his interest in clinical psychology was primarily an avocation throughout the 1950's-after all, he had lost faith in Freudian psychotherapy following his the failed attempts to cure him at Harvard.

Furthermore, Harry Stack Sullivan had also convinced him that the real answer to mental health was in healthy, meticulously honest relationships, not in the intrapsychic dynamics of the mind. Mowrer had tested Sullivan's theory by confessing to his wife that he had engaged in unacceptable sexual practices as an adolescent and had furthermore had an affair during the marriage. Understandably, Molly was unset, but she as well as he agreed that his dirty secrets most probably were the cause of his severe bouts with depression. The remission lasted for 8 years.

In 1953 he was elected to the presidency of the American Psychological Association but just before he was to ascend to the position he experience the most severe psychological collapse of his life. He was hospitalized for three and a half months with psychotic like symptoms, but upon discharge he continued to battle depression until a few years later he was treated with a tricyclic antidepressant-which, in my opinion, simply masked the underlying problems without providing a cure as is evidence by his eventual suicide some twenty-some-odd years later.[v]

Overtly, for most of his adult life Mowrer showed little personal interest in religion. There is no doubt, however, that he did recognized that his theories on the role of guilt in the drama of life were similar to traditional religious ones.

Freud, in Mowrer's opinion, failed to understand the positive corrective role that guilt feelings plays in mental health. Mowrer was convinced that many mental disorders-including schizophrenia, were the result of real, not imagined guilt. For Mowrer, however, a guilt complex was not a phenomenon of religious beliefs, but rather feelings of disappointment because of poor socialization.

His focus was on studying the causes of mental distress in relation to man vis-à-vis man, not man vis-à-vis the Creator.

However, in 1955 Mowrer read the Magnificent Obsession a religious novel by Lloyd C. Douglas a former Congregational minister. The characters in the book all shared one common secret. The secret was that each had found great spiritual and material success in practicing the admonition of Jesus to "do your alms in secret" without letting anyone know that you were the benevolent donor. The act proved to invest almost magical power in the fictional characters.

The book had a power effect on Mowrer. Through a quirk in his thinking, he negatized the concept and turned the entire premise upside down, reasoning that if good secrets could have such profound effects on the psyche, then guilty secrets (a Christian would say, secret sins) could have just the opposite effect. Eventually, Mowrer incorporated this idea into a counseling therapy which he called "Integrity Therapy."

The central theme in integrity therapy can be summed up in the phrase, "You are as sick as your secrets" or more generally, "You are your secrets."

Shortly after reading a few more books written by Lloyd Douglas, Mowrer joined the Presbyterian Church, but was soon disappointed and left. The disappointment that he had with psychoanalysis for being soft on sin, he immediately sensed in modernistic churches. Mowrer also had difficulty with the doctrine of justification by faith which he saw a way to white wash guilt and irresponsibility without an appropriate corrective effort on the part of the counselee.

That conclusion launched Mowrer on a self-appointed righteous crusade to restore churches to the consciousness of person sin and the attending guilt which he felt they had lost. Fortunately, for him, the Lilly Foundation Endowment Fund committee agreed to sponsor a fellowship in morality and mental health.

The response from seminarian was modest but significant. Among those who attended were John W. Drakeford and Jay E. Adams[vi] who joined him on Champaign-Urbana campus to study counseling and group techniques under him.

According to Drakeford, the three basic principles of Mowrer's integrity therapy are:[vii]

(1) All individuals have a conscience, or value system, and when they violate this conscience they become guilty. Guilt is not a sickness but a result of their wrongdoing and irresponsibility.

(2) A common reaction to personal wrongdoing is to cover up and deny the experience. In this secrecy guilt gives rise to symptoms that may upset the balance of life.

(3) As secrecy causes people's troubles and separates them from others, so openness is the beginning point on the road back to normality. This openness begins with one person, then moves to "significant others."

There is little if anything here with which a counseling pastor can disagree.

Furthermore, according my Drakeford notes, Dr. Mowrer established the following ground rules for integrity groups:

Do threats or physical violence is permitted.

No person may leave a group session because they are upset or to avoid a integrity challenge or line of questioning.

No group is allowed to gang up on a member, or give unwarranted emotional support.

No restrictions are placed on what can be said, including non-violent nonverbal expressions as long as they non-aggressive and appropriate socially acceptable ones. (In a secular context this would include curse words to show disgust).

The group is not allowed to subgroup into smaller segments in or outside of the group to discuss issues that should be shared with the total group.

Confidentiality is a must. However, members are allowed to share their group experience with others outside the group.

All members are required to subscribe to the core values of honesty, responsibility, and involvement and to practice these virtues in and outside of the group.

The following 10 Commandments were developed by Integrity groups.

They are revised as follows:

1. Don't interrupt! Hear the other person out.

2. Don't blame! Accept personal responsibility for your actions. The other person may be at fault, but you are only responsible for your reaction, not theirs.

3. Don't "smart off"! Smarting off may come off as cleaver or funny, but it is most times hurtful.

4. Don't pare off to discuss something with another member of the group. If you do outside the group setting, as for instance on the telephone, share the discussion with the group at the next meeting.

5. Don't "Yes ......but"! This is also known as a "cop out." You can never justify bad behavior. It is bad. Period.

6. Don't "talk back"! If guilty, when corrected, your immediate and final response should be "Thank you!"

7. Don't try to second guess or expect some to second guess what you are thinking. Be open and honest. Expect others to respond likewise.

8. Don't cheat or fudge! If you make an agreement, keep it, and expect the other person to do likewise. You may renegotiate the agreement, but you are never allow to unilaterally change it.

9. Don't double-talk! Or blow a lot of hot air. Playing word games shows a lack of integrity and inconsistency. Words must express the truth.

10. Don't tit-for-tat! Getting even is not acceptable.

What can we as pastoral counselors gain from O. H. Mowrer's approach to counseling? Well, a lot, that's for sure. His behaviorist approach to psychology in general has a sound scientific foundation and reflect much of what we believe is the nature of mankind. Mowrer, however, is not the first to discover that human nature is sinful, secretive and tries to cover up their faults. Adam and Eve are our first example, and, of course, the Gospel provides the answer to our dilemma.

Psychology In Search Of A Soul continued . . .

Finally, in our list of three, let us consider the counseling theory of Psychiatrist and learning theorist, Dr. William Glasser, M.D. (May 11, 1925-present).

William Glasser was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1925. He graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering and a master of arts in clinical psychology. Following that, he studied medicine at The University of Los Angeles and graduated with as a medical doctor, and following that he completed his residency in psychiatry and set up practice.

Although, originally trained in Freudian psychoanalysis he soon became dissatisfied with that approach as a viable therapy and switched to an eclectic therapy of his own which he originally referred to as Reality Therapy-later changed to "Choice Therapy" to distinguish Reality Therapy from the "Perceptual Control Theory" of William T. Powers.[viii],[ix]

Now, let's consider a brief overview of Dr. Glasser's position.

Psychologists in general assume that people have certain basic needs and, broadly agree that these needs fall into identifiable categories. In the hierarchy of human needs Glasser identifies these core needs as:

The power to preserve and protect ourselves and to reach desired goals. The power to preserve and protect ourselves and to reach desired goals is primary. In short, people want to view themselves as winners.

People also want to love and be loved by all, and to have a sense of belonging.

The sense of freedom is also a deep desire and need. People want to be independent, function in autonomy, and basically have their own ‘space' physically and mentally.

Pleasure or fun is likewise a basic need. That includes the ability to enjoy life in general.

And lastly, the ability and opportunity to survive. This includes the basic needs for proper nourishment, shelter, and reproductive sex.

According to Glasser, these five core needs are foundational to sound mental health.

So, according to Choice Therapy counseling principles for the emotionally or mentally disgruntled the first process should be to meet the psychological needs for power, belonging, freedom, fun and survival. Albeit, usually, in today's society survival needs are generally met-perhaps not as affluently as we prefer, but none-the-less met. Meet the other four basic needs, however, and an individual will generally be content.

There is little to argue with here-except, there is no mention of meeting the spiritual needs of man wherein lies much of the problem.

However, to continue. Choice Therapy bottom-line question is "What do you want?" Because what one generally wants out of life is an expression of a basic or core psychological need.

We generally don't think of these core needs as needs, but rather as wants. Yet, according to Glasser, in we are simply voicing a need expressed as a want.

Of course, this is a simplification of the process, but it does illustrate ways we perform to meet our needs.

Therefore, taking all of this into consideration, the counselor in Choice Therapy would run a check list to see if the counselee’s basic needs are being met by asking three simple questions:

  1. What do you want?
  2. What are you doing to get what you want?
  3. And, is that plan of action working for you?
In essence, the basic desire of the counselor in Choice Therapy is to help the client implement a workable plan based on components over which the counselee has real control to meet these needs.

Consider these scenarios and their solutions as examples:

Case one: The need to belong and/or be loved.

Scenario-your wife is angry with you and refuses to tell you why.

Response-you can ask for forgiveness, if you are in the wrong. Or you can bring her a bouquet of roses, and ask her to help you understand the problem or talk though the problem with you.

Results-this may work, or it may not work. The point is that is all you can do. If it isn't and you can think of another logical approach, try that. It nothing works, then you should assume no further responsibilities.[x]

Caution-worrying or fixating over the problem will not bring about a solution over which you have no control. So, you must resolve yourself to the inevitable. Wishing for a better solution solves nothing.

Case two: The need for power to preserve and protect.

Scenario-your teenage daughter is on drugs and sasses you and refuses to pick up her clothes or help with chores in the home. You have tried every peaceful means you know of but she still refuses. You have put her in drug rehab and she repeatedly runs off and comes back home. In essence she wants to continue her lifestyle in the comfort of a place to call home.

Response-you can exercise ‘tough love' and show her the door and tell her that she is welcome back home when she stops taking drugs and assumes her responsibilities in life.

Results-this may work, or it may not work. The point is that is all you can do, and it is the only answer unless you wish for her and the family to both suffer under these circumstances.

Caution-again, worrying or fixating over the problem will not bring about a solution over which you have no control. So, you must resolve yourself to the inevitable. Wishing for a better solution solves nothing.

Case three: The need to survive.

Scenario-your boss refuses to give you a raise, even though you know he has the money to do so.

Response-you can look for another job, or think of some creative way to encourage him to pay you more.

Results-this may work, or it may not work.

Caution-consider the consequences of quitting. Your new job may not be as secure as the current one. Or, you may not like your new job, and an increased in income may not compensate for that. However, bemoaning your current misfortunate will solve nothing.

The point is, Choice Therapy endeavors to help the counselee by calling attention to what the counselee has the power to do. Once that is established, then it is up to the counselee to implement a workable plan. ‘Doing' is therefore at the heart of Choice Therapy.

Sometimes, ‘doing' simply involves a change of one's attitude.

William James, M.D., the father of psychology understood this years ago and wrote:

"The path to cheerfulness is to sit cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there."[xi]

And, we might add, if sitting cheerfully, acting cheerfully, and speaking cheerfully works-do it!

Further, William James advised:

"We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we the acquisition of a new habit, we must take car to launch ourselves with as strong and decided initiative as possible. Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life."[xii]

Choice Therapy, recognizes that we live in a real world, with real difficulties. We can never make life perfect. We can, however, change our attitude and assume our responsibility to change what we have the power to change, and leave the rest alone.

To help the counselee understand that process, Glasser and his colleagues have delineate ten axioms of Choice Therapy. These axioms are:

The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.

All we can give another person is information.

All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.

The problem relationship is always part of our present life.

What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.

We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World[xiii].

All we do is behave.

All behavior is Total Behavior and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.

All Total Behavior is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.

All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.

Dr. John W. Drakeford (1914-2004), an eminent professor of pastoral counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, summarizes Glasser's understanding of the cause of mental instability in the following way,

"[According to Glasser] The person normally called neurotic is afraid of reality, while the so-called psychotic denies reality-but the label makes little difference. In the process of "reality therapy,"[xiv] all cases ranging from delinquent girls to psychotic veterans are in their condition because they have acted irresponsibly in the past [italics mine] and, as a result, continue to behave badly in the present."

The weakness in Dr. Glasser's position -at least from what I can tell - is the failure to give definition to what constitutes irresponsibility. The Bible labels irresponsibility as sin, and as pastoral counselors we must do likewise.

So, as Dr. John Drakeford[xv] noted years before, psychology as well as psychiatry is still in search of a soul.[xvi]

Yet, there are concomitant similarities between the secular theorists like Menninger, Mowrer and Glasser and many competent pastoral counselors. Perhaps, those similarities are best illustrated in the words this poem written by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr who wrote:

"The Serenity Prayer"
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

Now, in light of this, what if anything can psychology contribute to pastoral counseling. Well, the answer is obvious-a lot, if science is employed and not the quasi-religion of scientism which, in the case of some secular psychologists results in psychology as a religion.

In any event, science has much to offer as long as it remains scientific, and not scientism, which is simply another form of religion. I hope this give us something to think about. JMR

[i] 1973. Whatever Became of Sin?. New York: Hawthorn Books.
[ii] Below is a selected sample with their corresponding dates of publication:
1930. The Human Mind. Garden City, NY: Garden City Pub. Co.
1931. From Sin to Psychiatry, an Interview on the Way to Mental Health with Dr. Karl A. Menninger [by] L. M. Birkhead. Little Blue Books Series #1585. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Press.
1938. Man Against Himself. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
1950. Guide to Psychiatric Books; with a Suggested Basic Reading List. New York: Grune & Stratton.
1952. Manual for Psychiatric Case Study. New York: Grune & Stratton.
1958. Theory of Psychoanalytic Technique. New York: Basic Books.
1959. A Psychiatrist's World: Selected Papers. New York: Viking Press.
1968. Das Leben als Balance; seelische Gesundheit und Krankheit im Lebensprozess. München: R. Piper.
1968. The Crime of Punishment. New York: Penguin Books.
1972. A Guide to Psychiatric Books in English [by] Karl Menninger. New York: Grune & Stratton.
1973. Whatever Became of Sin?. New York: Hawthorn Books.
1978. The Human Mind Revisited: Essays in Honor of Karl A. Menninger. Edited by Sydney Smith. New York: International Universities Press.
[iii] Szasz, Thomas (1997 (1987)). Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0815604602.
[iv] This of course is my interpretation, but it is consistent with the logical conclusions of behaviorist psychology.
[v] Hunt, J. McVicker (August 1984). "Obituary, Orval Hobart Mowrer (1907-1982)". American Psychologist.
[vi] I am relying on memory on this, but I did studied under John W. Drakeford at Southwestern Theological Seminary, Forth Worth, Texas, and remember him talking about meeting and collaborating with O. H. Mowrer. And, of course, Jay E. Adams is a well known participant in Dr. Mowrer's Champaign-Urbana program that was sponsored by the Libby Endowment fund.
[vii] Drakeford, John W. (1978). "People to People Therapy," NY: Harper Row, p. 78.
[viii] In essence, Powers views behavior is goal directed and purposeful, not mechanical and responsive. Thus, according to Powers, behavior is a means of controlling perception, rather than a function of perception. In other words, human behavior is not a knee jerk reaction, but rather a thoughtful process with many variables. Whereas, with Glasser by-in-large, perception controls us. And, although action is not ipso facto simply a programmed reaction to a particular response, it very easily can be. Therefore, in human affairs, since one can not force change in someone else, they can none-the-less change their own behavior or attitude to create a more pleasant quality of life. Naturally, this an over simplification of two very complex theories of cognitive psychology, it does give us a fundamental understanding of Glasser's approach to counseling therapy.
[ix] For a good site to further explain the theory behind PCT visit
[x] As a friend of mine, Dr. Charles E. Greenaway used to say, "If you don't have the answer, don't become part of the problem."
[xi] Source:
[xii] Source:
[xiii] The phrase "Quality World" represents a person's worldview.
[xiv] i.e., choice therapy
[xv] Psychology in Search of a Soul. John W. Drakeford. Publisher: Broadman Press. Date: 1964.
[xvi] 2 Timothy 3:7. Although this reference may stretch hermeneutics a bit, I feel it is appropriate to acknowledge that man in general without God, and unwilling to accept his Word are left to analyze and read symptoms are the real cause; whereas, in medicine as well as in theology, symptoms are only an expression of what is causing the illness.