What It Is and What It Is Not
We have always been fascinated with human behavior, so many books have been written with the goal of being able to explain and understand the human psyche. Philosophers and scientists alike have wanted to delve into the deeper parts of our consciousness and minds. The result of which is the myriad of theories and concepts that expound on every thought, feeling and actions that we have. Psychology is the study of mental processes and human behavior and it is a collective body of knowledge that seeks to provide insights into what makes us human and why we do the things that we do.
The fascination with psychology appears to stem from the desire to understand ourselves better, but popular culture have also contributed to the misinformation about human behavior. For example, we always highlight the bizarre, the macabre, the illness and the psychosis because we are led to believe that they are different from us and the seemingly abnormal behavior are brought about by being different, by being a freak. This popular belief shared by many who fear what they do not understand is just one of the ways psychology have been undermined by popular culture.
For the most part, the study of psychology has been influenced by the biomedical model, in which a behavioral disorder is considered a disease which should be treated. But we know that not every strange behavior is a disease, rather a quirkiness or a peculiarity. This perspective has dominated how we even think about normal behavior, how we need to get rid of sadness, how we must manage our anger, how we must increase self-esteem and self-confidence.
It is a reality that what we know of psychology is its attempt to fix what is wrong and broken in us. Thankfully, there is now a differing perspective that aims to focus on the positive aspects of the human psyche and to figure out how one person can be resilient and the other depressed when facing the same issues. Positive psychology attempts to explain how human beings have been able to rise above every tragedy, difficulty and the direst of circumstances. It study concepts like happiness, altruism, faith and spirituality, resiliency, grit, perseverance and well-being. However, as much as the efforts of positive psychology are revolutionary, it still offers only one perspective, not any much different from the biomedical approach.
Integral psychology is an emerging field in psychology, it integrates the scientific and empirical perspective in psychology with that of the humanistic, existential and other systems of thought in psychology. Integral psychology believes that the unification of the different schools of thought in psychology and their methods would provide a more complete understanding of the human psyche. Integral psychology benefits from using the strengths of the various perspectives. The integration of similarities of each school of thought will create a more complete and insightful means in which to view humanity.
As a new and exciting field, there is still so much to learn about the framework of integral psychology and pursuing a master’s degree in this field will be a challenging one. At the outset a student who wish to study integral psychology must change his/her paradigm and world view regarding psychology. It will make him/her think critically about how we use existing concepts and theories in psychology to further our understanding of the human condition. It is therefore a given that when you embrace integral psychology there will be no turning back to the old ways but rather a transformation is inevitable.
Integral psychology is transformative in the sense that students who pursue this specialization will also transform their personal lives. It will enable the student to practice self-inquiry, to attain holistic development and the integration of the body-mind-spirit. It will cause students to question their own biases and stereotypes, it will make them wonder about the meaning and purpose of their lives and how they will be able to contribute to the empowerment and betterment of the human condition.
Integral psychology provides a metatheory in which to dissent the most basic and most profound aspects of our being, personality and inner self. Through this, the student will be able to gain a deeper understanding of their place under the sun. Life is complicated and the threats to our psychological well-being and mental health abounds, we should only look at our environment and we will see that the problems and crisis we face are brought about by the lack of connection between our inner and public selves. Integral psychology offers us a way to understand our realities without reducing it to statistics, p values and DSM-V codes and other empirical measures. It hopes to achieve the wholeness and completeness that we seek and to be able to experience that through embracing who we are.
Integral psychology may be a new perspective, but it is built from the strengths and knowledge derived from previous systems of thought in psychology, so that it will be both new and familiar. Students of integral psychology might finally be able to answer the most important question that have never been answered before in psychology. On the other hand, integral psychology is not a fad, it is not just a theory or a concept that will be disproven in the future or one that will leave a bad taste in our mouth just by thinking about it.
Integral psychology is not about just combining different perspectives and calling them a new name, or a recent development that will wane in the future, rather, integral psychology is a framework, a subfield and a macro level perspective. Being a macro-level theory that will provide a means to understand various psychological concepts and human behavior, integral psychology is a scientific discipline and not just a way of presenting oneself to the world but rather a unified whole. Integral psychology can be the means in which we see the world differently and our place in it and how we can contribute to its growth and progress.