Do You Think Your Life Is a Complicated Mess? Take a Look at the History of Psychology

A short story about developments in the field of psychology—told in a fun & chill way.

Photo by David Lezcano on Unsplash

I thought there was nothing more complicated than my life. “Write for your readers, you moron.” Okay, then your life.

But wait to get your mind blown away by the mundane topic of the history of psychology.

I know you don’t want to read it. “Who reads history? Who reads psychology? And who reads about the history of psychology?” But it’s quite useful in understanding how we have come so far in figuring out our own minds.

So sit back and relax while reading this not-too-hard-on-your-brain article.

I was reading about the origin and history of psychology and god, it’s so frustrating. It was like someone instantly teleported me a year back to where we were learning how the modern periodic table came into existence.

It was so similar. Someone discovers a new way of arranging elements and a decade later, it’s proved wrong. So why do you teach all this, sir? Cut the crap and skip straight to the modern periodic table.

If it were that simple. It turns out that the history of any subject is crucial to understanding the later developments and the present scenario. Or maybe storytelling went wrong?

The same is the case with psychology. Every decade, there comes a new hot perspective in the town and psychologists go gaga over it.

And before the short-lived craze is over, there’s another new thing waiting.

The history of psychology is this only

Everything started with William Wundt, who conducted the first-ever laboratory experiment.

He brought objectivity to our attention. As everyone (philosophers?) was probably going “heart and soul and god and heaven” before Wundt.

Then came Titchener, who expanded on Wundt’s original ideas and called his new viewpoints structuralism.

He put forth the idea of structuralism, which in its simplest form is the study of the structure and the basic elements of the mind.

After some time, psychologists were like

“Hey, isn't it getting too boring and monotonous?”

Let's introduce a new concept.

Then came the concept of functionalism. This was the time when Harvard University became the first school in America to offer classes in psychology in the late 1870s.

This time the focus is the field shifted from studying only the structure to focusing more on functions—how the mind allows people to adapt, live, work, and play.

Bored again? Welcome to the new approach

Gestalt psychology. Gestalt is a German word meaning “organized whole” or “configuration.”

As the name suggests, it focused more on studying the subject as a whole instead of breaking it down and understanding everything independently.

The famous slogan, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” originated from here only.

Then enters a noted physician from Austria, Sigmund Freud.

He was fed up with both structuralists and functionalists because the former were arguing among themselves and later were too busy specializing.

He would have also been in arguments with Gestaltists for I don't know what reasons.

That's why he came up with his own idea of psychoanalysis: the study that emphasized the revealing of unconscious conflicts in order to better understand how the mind works.

In the early 1990s, psychologist John Watson came to the rescue, but not the rescue, with his own theory of behaviorism.

Aghhhhh.

I think the word speaks for itself: the science of behavior that focuses on observable behavior only.

Fast forward to the present, and we still have debates and different groups of psychologists agree on different ideas.

Wait, but why? That’s why!

As this is an article for Lessons from History, what is our lesson here?

It is: “Everything is complicated. So is your life. And history. And psychology. And the history of psychology.”

See you soon, complicated fellas! Meanwhile, you can check out my Substack for cool and fascinating stories.

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Vritant Kumar

Vritant Kumar

I write about things I know, I don’t know and I’d have never known had I not written about them. 6x top writer and a 16-year-old bio.link/vritant