Just a review first: The single greatest influence on popular American thinking about psychology is Freud. That’s sad, because we know that Freud was a sick, twisted pervert. Not only did he inject his perversion into his theory, but forced his clients to confess to the same perversions that filled his tormented soul (psychologists call it “projection”). His treatment of them was limited to his obsessions. But he was brilliant in one respect: His id-ego-superego is a very smart reduction of Western mythology. It sounds like truth to most Americans simply because it blossoms from the same soil as Western Christian mythology. There is a vast library of Christian teaching that rests on Freud’s theories, some of it openly so.
As Freud’s most famous disciple, Jung never seemed to suffer Freud’s worst perversions. There was a clean break between them eventually. Jung went on to become a major American influence at a less popular and more academic level, but his assumptions about reality weren’t that different from Freud’s. He simply included a much wider understanding of the same Western culture. He made the same mistake as most Western thinkers: Failure to notice the difference between common human traits and those peculiar to Westerners alone. His anthropology was distinctly Western, which is how he came to be still one of the strongest influences in Western academic thinking today. He did, after all, study European mythology in depth. He did have some pretty good ideas, but they are best understood as contextual working models, not fundamental theory.
For example, we can blame him for the foundations of the Myers-Briggs Test and the resulting image of personality types. For most people, it’s not a bad frame of reference, but for the heart-led it is highly frustrating. The test forces heart-led people to choose between a collection of falsehoods on some questions. Those who take this test end up being lumped into categories that may not fit, and it offers nothing to help them understand internal mechanics that are outside the neat little framework. Myers and Briggs left no room for the heart-led psyche, in part because Jung didn’t either.
Jung continues to have a powerful influence in American academia. I want to cite a peculiar example here: a video embedded in a comment here on the blog. I want you to notice Dr. Peterson is both somewhat a fan of Jung, but also much better educated about Ancient Near Eastern thinking. This video offers a parable of human existence, and while Peterson doesn’t specifically emphasize the Fall, he notes that fallen existence is best viewed as a substrate of chaos on which we can choose to build order and insulate ourselves somewhat from the threats of human evil. He equates such efforts at order as trying to obey God. He warns that any attempt to cheat on the individual level threatens the whole effort at keeping order and goodness. We are networked invisibly, so nothing we do in private can be kept to ourselves in that sense.
This is wholly consistent with our doctrine of connection via our participation in Creation. We must emphasize that connected-ness against the common Western assumption of the individual. Peterson emphasizes that you can discern the effects of the connection even if you can’t possibly understand its nature. We are morally accountable to the whole cosmos. This concept is a long step down the path of heart-led awareness. I doubt Dr. Peterson would embrace our teaching wholesale, nor should we embrace his, but there are glimpses of truth here that we can use.
The heart-led way is path, not a place. I once thought the Myers-Briggs test was okay, but now I hate it because it’s so frustrating and confining. As is typical of anything Western, that test makes no room for the shepherd soul. My position is that it may do you some good, but don’t take it too seriously because you will surely break out of the matrix sooner or later. It’s for the heart to discern what fits today, and what does not, but to keep the reference for later when it might be okay. We don’t treat human knowledge and reason as any kind of route to reality, but as a working model that sometimes fits and sometimes is your enemy. Reality is a real person with all the same expectations of variability from day to day.
There are other schools of psychology, and the best ones don’t take themselves too seriously. For example, Transactional Analysis doesn’t presume to establish a final theory, only a working model within Western culture. There is something called Logotherapy that works quite well among mainstream American Christianity, but it recognizes its own limits. Logotherapy can help believers grasp the notion of conviction as stronger than the flesh. We can learn a lot from the Rosemead School of Psychology, too, because it seeks a functional integration with other branches of academic pursuit.
But the bottom line is learning to hear and trust your own heart. Not as the guide to truth for all the world, but trust it as truth for your own life. It won’t always make sense to your head, but if it brings a sense of peace with God, that’s the ultimate good.