A Personal Perspective: How does psychology deal with cultural problems?
Yesterday there was a serious societal crisis. Today there is another one. And tomorrow? Are they connected or separate? Climate change. Covid virus. Civil rights. Women’s rights. Domestic violence. Street violence. Assault and murder. Insurgency.
The list goes on and so do we. What price do all these simultaneous crises exact from each individual? What response does this seemingly interminable series of stressful events and trauma demand from psychology and psychologists?
When a society is in significant transition, possibly collapse, do the psyches of its citizens collapse in equal proportion or in some relation?
We are entering a period of cultural chaos that we have never seen before, especially in the very non-United States. Perhaps the dinosaurs were the last to experience such disaster and, as we all know, it did not end well for them.
For humans, however, psychological insults accrue. Of course, they will affect some more than others, but, in sum, the effect is undoubtedly going to be harsh and widely felt. To be effective and helpful, psychology must prepare for more widespread and group or community-sized interventions. We must prepare ourselves not just to treat, but to train, large numbers of individuals in protocols to manage anxiety, depression, anger, and other consequences of traumatic disorders that can no longer be designated as “post.” We no longer have the luxury, if we ever did, to treat normal psychological responses to social chaos individually.
In my opinion, even small group interventions will not reach far enough. We must instead utilize the communication media of our age to take to interventions on television, radio, social media, and other online communications alternatives. We must be able to reach almost the entire populace if we are to help them survive this societal period with minimal psychological and functional damage.
I have, in recent years, advocated for a cabinet-level position for a Psychologist General or its equivalent to managing a Department of Psychology, dealing with this increasingly important aspect of modern life. It would focus on the psychological health of the country, much as we currently commit to its physical health or national defense. I also propose a Truth and Reconciliation project to deal with various factions that have arisen. Such a high-level strategy is crucial if our country is going to survive and thrive in the long run.