Modern day psychiatry is poised on the cusp between studies of the brain and the mind. The first is called neuroscience: the latter is psychoanalysis. Casey Schwartz’s memoir depicts her academic adventure into both sides of the divide. By doing so she helps us recognize how and why we need to meld both disciplines together to truly understand sociopathy and other mental disorders. This new discipline is called neuropsychoanalysis.
Not a nerdy look at psychology
Schwartz fascinates and entertains us with her experiences and witty personal anecdotes about the most revered players in the field; those with whom she lived and learned while pursuing a unique advanced degree. She spent a year immersed in psychoanalysis at the Anna Freud Centre in London and a second year studying the science of the brain at Yale. She also studied in South Africa at the elbow of the foremost creator of neuropsychoanalysis, Dr. Mark Solms.
We can feel her transitional struggle as the pendulum swings from Freudian theory to modern day, cutting edge neuroscience. It’s intriguing to know that even Freud, back in 1895, predicted that scientific research would one day become so advanced that the secrets of the brain, those he could only theorize about, would be measured and explored by technologically advanced instruments. We seem to be well past the starting gate of that effort.
So what do we gain by combining brain research with the study of human behavior? And why is that important to this blog’s followers?
Just yesterday I read an interesting article about the possibility of an oxytocin nasal spray that will enable people with autism to become more sociable. And perhaps one day, treatment protocols can be developed to deal with the brain’s infrastructure that causes psychopathy and sociopathy, reducing crime, and making the world a safer place for everyone. Complex PTSD and other anxiety-related ailments could be more readily treated by understanding the impacts of trauma on the brain.
Romantic brain chemistry made a swift appearance in Ms. Schwartz’s story; not an analysis of why we do the crazy things we do when we fall in love, but none-the-less a validation of its scientific merit.
The brain vs. mind conundrum
Ms. Schwatrtz left me curious about why there is so much antipathy between scientists who explore the workings of the brain and analysts who delve into the emotional aspects of the mind. To me, it seems they’re both necessary. My personal armchair philosophy is that the brain is the processor that creates thoughts and feelings, and the mind is the housing and voice for that information.
If something is awry in the processor of a computer, the output will be askew in much the same way that a person having infrastructure issues in their brain will affect their thoughts and behaviors. It seems that some issues could be addressed by focusing on the processor itself, but because we form patterns of behaviors based on our past experiences and interpretations, some issues would require analysis and/or cognitive behavior modification.
A truly skilled therapist with interdisciplinary knowledge of neuropsychoanalysis should be able to determine wherein lies the problem and use whatever solution best applies. In the future, once mental health professionals can put their tug of war to rest, I believe certification to practice will require the study of the scientific aspects of the brain as well as the emotional issues of the mind in order to deal more holistically with a patient’s problems.
“In the Mind Fields” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Reviews help the world know whether a book is a good investment of time and money. So please provide Ms. Schwartz with a fair review when you finish reading.