Towards a literary account of mental health from James’ Principles of Psychology
|Sullivan, Paul W.
|Sullivan PW (2017) Towards a literary account of mental health from James’ Principles of Psychology. New Ideas in Psychology. 46: 31-38.
|The field of mental health tends to treat its literary metaphors as literal realities with the concomitant loss of vague “feelings of tendency” in “unusual experiences”. I develop this argument through the prism of William James’ (1890) “The Principles of Psychology”. In the first part of the paper, I reflect upon the relevance of James’ “The Psychologist’s Fallacy” to a literary account of mental health. In the second part of the paper, I develop the argument that “connotations” and “feelings of tendency” are central to resolving some of the more difficult challenges of this fallacy. I proceed to do this in James’ spirit of generating imaginative metaphors to understand experience. Curiously, however, mental health presents a strange paradox in William James’ (1890) Principles of Psychology. He constructs an elaborate conception of the “empirical self” and “stream of thought” but chooses not to use these to understand unusual experiences – largely relying instead on the concept of a “secondary self.” In this article, I attempt to make more use of James’ central division between the “stream of thought” and the “empirical self” to understand unusual experiences. I suggest that they can be usefully understood using the loose metaphor of a “binary star” where the “secondary self” can be seen as an “accretion disk” around one of the stars. Understood as literary rather the literal, this metaphor is quite different to more unitary models of self-breakdown in mental health, particularly in its separation of “self” from “the stream of thought” and I suggest it has the potential to start a re-imagination of the academic discourse around mental health.
|© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. Full-text reproduced in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
|Mental health; Principles of Psychology; Binary star; Metaphor; William James; Psychologists' Fallacy
|Towards a literary account of mental health from James’ Principles of Psychology