Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Why a Jewish Interest in Psychology?

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                    
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

A science of the mind?  Many people do not believe that such a thing is possible.  They accept doctors who can set bones, but not changing one's mind to something in better condition.  How did Jews come to break this barrier?                                                                                                                                            
Jews have been persecuted for centuries and this has made Jews unusually sensitive to his environment and the conduct of other men.  It even started with living during the Greek times.  Jews believed in one G-d and Greeks believed in a pantheon of Gods with families of them and amazing stories.  They even intermarried with humans at times.  Jews believed in circumcision and Greeks didn't.  All this made Jews stand out as being different, enough reason not to be accepted and thus were persecuted.

The Talmud speculated as to individual differences among men as found in Avot 5:14, and indicated signs by which mental deficiency could be recognized in Hagigah 3b-41.  It commented upon criteria for analyzing human behavior in Eruvin 65b.
There were 2 Talmuds, the Babylonian and the Palestinian in which are collected the records of academic discussion and of judicial administration of Jewish Law.  This covered several centuries of work after 200 CE which was the date of completing the Mishnah.  Each Talmud consists of the Mishnah together with the gemara which is both a commentary on and a supplement to the Mishnah.  Now, the Mishnah is the legal codification containing the core of the Oral Law compiled by Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi and arranged logically. Rabbis who dealt with such problems had to have great minds as a lot of discussion and debate went on in groups.
Jews have played a disproportionate part in the evolution and progress of the science of the mind. "The fundaments of several psychological movements can be traced directly to Jewish values, ideas, and practices, and Jews in the 20th century were at the forefront of research about the psyche and the varieties of human behavior.  “Jews differ from many cultural groups in that they place less value on self-reliance and are less suspicious of taking their problems to professionals.” Thus, the traditional role of rabbi/rebbe involves extensive counseling or psychotherapy."

1. SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939) was the founder of psychoanalysis and the man who did most to illuminate the dynamism of the forces at work in the various levels of the mind. Most of his life was spent in Vienna, Austria which he left when the Nazis invaded in 1938 for London.  He was a neuropathologist and clinical neurologist.  He became interested in hypnosis and in treating people's neuroses by hypnosis.  He developed the technique of free association. He considered all religion as an irrational manifestation of the human mind traceable to early personal internal conflicts like other individual neuroses.  That included his own family's religion of Judaism.  "Freud based his rules of therapy on the Rabbi-student relationship in orthodox Jewish culture (he and his wife were decendents of hassidim. While he was decidely irreligious, an author argues that he would have been strongly influenced by Jewish teachings based on Jewish living situations in pre WWII Europe). For example, in orthodox Jewish culture, the Rabbi is seen as having special knowledge and many religious individuals go to the Rabbi for advice and share thier most painful memories and dilemmas. The Rabbi dispenses sagacious advice based on his special knowledge and insight. This is similar to the psychoanalist who has "special knowledge" and "procedures" that help him see and interpret the patient's unconcious conflicts. 
The year he died was when he presented his case that Moses was an Egyptian based on his psychoanalytical concepts.   His daughter became a child psychologist.

2. JOSEPH BREUER (1842-1925) was a Viennese neurologist.  He collaborated in the study of catharsis with Sigmund Freud.  However, he differed with him on the theory of psychoanalysis. He  was a distinguished Austrian physician who made key discoveries in neurophysiology, and whose work in the 1880s with a patient known as Anna O. developed the talking cure (cathartic method) and laid the foundation to psychoanalysis as developed by his protégé Sigmund Freud.er was then a mentor to the young Sigmund Freud, and had helped set him up in medical practice. Ernest Jonesrecalled, "Freud was greatly interested in hearing of the case of Anna O, which made a deep impression on him"; and in his 1909 Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Freud generously pointed out, "I was a student and working for my final examinations at the time when Breuer, first (in 1880-2) made use of this procedure.  Never before had anyone removed a hysterical symptom by such a method."  Breuer's granddaughter, Hanna Schiff, died while imprisoned by the Nazis.

3. HUGO MUNSTERBERG (1863-1916) Born in Danzig, Germany,  He set up a laboratory for experimental psychology at Harvard University. "Hugo Munsterberg was a pioneer in the fields of Industrial (I/O), Experimental , and Clinical Psychology. Also, he championed behaviorism, investigated the value of prayer, and challenged the effectiveness of eye witness testimonies. He was a famous Harvard professor who helped redefine Wundtian psychology into its modern form. However, the last years of his life were spent in stress and sorrow, and in his last years was barely ackowledged.  A genious, "in 1885, he received his Ph.D. degree in psychology with his dissertation on the doctrine of natural adaptation. Then, he went to Heidelberg to continue his medical studies and in the summer of 1887, he received his medical degree and passed an examination which would allow him to lecture as "privatdocent" at Freiburg. During this time, he lectured mainly on philosophy. There was no psychological laboratory at the University so Munsterberg equipped rooms in his own house with certain apparatus and attracted many students from Germany and other foreign countries. He had a hard time in WWI and defended Germany.   William James invited him to the USA in 1916.  He and his brother were later converts to Lutheranism.  At his death, the general attitude toward Münsterberg had changed and his death went relatively unnoticed. This was because of his pro-German attitudes and his support of German policies. He did try to talk about the inaccurate stereotypes held by both the Germans and Americans.Münsterberg's support of the supposed efficiency and modernity of the German autocracy caused him to be suspected of being a German spy, and many of his more liberal Harvard colleagues disassociated themselves from him. There were also threats against his life. He remained at Harvard as a professor of experimental psychology and director of the Psychological Laboratory until his sudden death, possibly due to stress, in 1916 while on a lecture platform.

4. CHARLES SAMUEL MYERS (1873-1946) was an English psychologist and professor at London .  He was largely responsible for the development of industrial psychology. He wrote the first paper on shell shock in 1915, but did not invent the term. He was co-founder of the British Psychological Society and the National Institute of Industrial Psychology.  He was active in English Jewish communal life.

5 MAX WERTHEIMER  (1880-1943)  Psychologist, taught in Germany until 1933 and Nazism came, and then immigrated to New York and taught at the New School for Social Research. . He was an Austro-Hungarian-born psychologist who was one of the three founders of Gestalt psychology, along with Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler in 1912.  He had attended the University of Prague.  

6. KURT LEWIN ((1890-1947) Psychologist, professor of psychology and philosophy in Berlin, saw Hitler, immigrated to USA in 1932. In 1944 he established and headed the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Mass. Institute of Technology.  He was a student of minority problems, conducted basic research into their social psychology and so founded the system and studies in topological psychology and explained authoritarian and democratic group behavior. He  opened a new field in the application of physics to psychological phenomena and investigations into the behavior of children.

7. ALFRED ADLER  (1870-1937)  founded the school of Individual Psychology. He was from Austria and was a psychologist and a physician.  Originally he was a disciple of Freud but formulated his own theory of Individual Psychology which influenced medical, educational and social theory.  He immigrated to the USA in 1934 and taught that human nature is influenced by the conflict between the individual's will to survive and his social feelings; and by the necessity of reaching a compromise between them.  An inferiority complex results in self-assertive tendencies and opposition to society and this causes psychological disturbances and demoralization.  

8. OTTO RANK (1884-1939) Psychoanalyst and was a founder of the International Psychoanalytic Institute in Vienna and its director from 1919-1924.  At first he was a disciple of Freud but broke with him in 1925 over the importance of the conscious and the unconscious.  He developed his own theory of the birth trauma as it being a source of the neuroses.  Otto  immigrated to USA in 1935 when Nazis were acting out against Jews.   He studied the influence of myths.

9. THEODOR REIK (1888-1969) Psychoanalyst who taught in Europe until 1938, then immigrated as Nazis were clamping down on Jews.  He wrote books on popular psychology including interpretation of Jewish customs, and  applied psychoanalytic concepts to explaining Jewish ceremonials. From 1946, he was president of the National Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology.

10. CHARLES GABRIEL  SELIGMAN (1873-1940) He was a  "British physician and ethnologist.analyzed anthropological data in the light of psychological research. " His main ethnographic work described the culture of the Vedda people of Sri Lanka and the Shilluk people of the Sudan." "He was a proponent of the Hamitic hypothesis, according to which, some civilizations of Sub-Saharan Africa were thought to have been founded by Caucasoid Hamitic peoples."

11. KURT Goldstein (1878-1965) Neurologist and psychiatrist who was born in Poland, settled in the US in 1935 when Nazis were bearing down on Jews.  He propounded the neurobiological theory  known as "holism" which sees the mind as a single unit in all the functions of which the total personality is reflected.  He summarized his philosophical views in The Nature of Man."  

11.HAIM GINOTT, (1922-1973) Israeli clinical psychologist dealing with parents and children.  Gives advice as to what to do. Wrote a book on Parents and children that I used as a teacher and parent.

12 DANIEL  Kahneman: (1934) in Tel Aviv,   (Hebrew: דניאל כהנמן‎, ) is an Israeli-American psychologist   notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, as well as behavioral economics, for which he was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (shared with Vernon L. Smith). His empirical findings challenge the assumption of human rationality prevailing in modern economic theory.
With Amos Tversky and others, Kahneman established a cognitive basis for common human errors that arise from heuristics and biases (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973; Kahneman, Slovic & Tversky, 1982; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), and developed prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979). He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work in prospect theory.

13. DAVID GOLDFOOT (1942-)American  Psychologist in Wisconsin in his clinic,  created an app for cell phones  for people in therapy and out  to use in helping their willpower in controlling urges and gives them the support they need.  Earlier he received fame by being written up in Playboy Magazine about odors and sex.

Go figure, gentlemen.   As one Jewish mother said,
                                                         " Is one Nobel Prize
                                                  so much to ask from a child
                                                         after all I've done?"

Resource: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

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