the ultimate treatise on psychology

Someone asked about a book on psychology, and I thought of posting my reply here as a post. Here is a good simple book that I’d come across around a decade ago… Games People Play by Eric Berne

In the beginning he describes three aspects of a personality: child-parent-adult, and how they are interacting with each other forming the person’s reactions in various situations. This was labelled as transactional analysis. It was pretty interesting in its initial chapters. Berne considered how individuals interact with one another, and how the ego states affected each set of transactions. He labelled common counterproductive social interactions as “games”.

Some commonly found games:

IFWY: If It Weren’t For You
WAHM: Why does this Always Happen to Me?
SWYMD: See What You Made Me Do
UGMIT: You Got Me Into This
LHIT: Look How Hard I’ve Tried
ITHY: I’m Only Trying to Help You
LYAHF: Let You and Him Fight

As the pages turned, it started dragging and it looked too mechanical, and I don’t remember even completing the book. But would say atleast the beginning i.e. the perspective of oneself as three ego states, was really interesting.

Have read a bit of Freud here and there but there were some really amazing relevations on the wiki page on Freud.

According to Freud, people often experience thoughts and feelings that are
so painful that they cannot bear them. Such thoughts and feelings-and
associated memories-could not, Freud argued, be banished from the mind, but
could be banished from consciousness. Thus they come to constitute the unconscious.

But the understanding was mostly through intellectual rationalisation. What an unfortunate irony, that none of that nor his vast knowledge could help him face the very same thoughts and feelings that he might’ve seeked to escape through smoking. That the final failure of which is said to have led him to seek the ultimate in false escapism – suicide:

Freud was an intense smoker, and had to go through more than 30 operations
during his life, due to mouth cancer. Eventually, he was so tired of the
illness that he asked his doctor to help him with assisted suicide.

Western treatise of psychology to a large extent is intellectual, and even though they may be genuises, the human intellect is merely skin deep.

An Eastern approach goes more in depth below the superficial truth. The ultimate book of psychology on these lines would probably be the Abhidhamma by Gautama Buddha. I haven’t read it end to end, but just have come across an overview… it seems to cover like a grid/matrix of all possible permutations and combinations of mental circumstances. Kind of like seeing the “source code” of our in-built programming 😉

What’s the point of it all – apart from mere intellectual entertainment, one may ask.

Only if we develop in the heart and not just the intellect, then the knowledge of psychology can lead to peace of mind and happiness. It can be used to solve problems of the mind. Else it only ends up as mere games. The most important implication is how humbling it is to realise just how predictable we are inspite of our grand opinions of ourselves and our uniqueness 🙂 Perhaps it also implies that all our experiences come down to just that matrix, so we might as well stop giving undue importance to past or future ones, and stay in the present moment which is the only one in reality.

This reminds me of an elderly gentleman who gives a public talk about the abhidhamma in the most simple layman’s language every weekend. Audience is generally a small group of around 10 people or so – anyone can just walk in and sit down. I’ve attended quite a few times whenever I’m in that area and its always been really refreshing
and invigorating, in the Maha Bodhi Society in Gandhinagar. (Location: Its pretty much a stone’s throw from Kamat Yatrinivas Hotel and Sapna Book House – anyone would be able to give directions from either of these).

Timings: 3 to 5 PM on Saturdays, 12 to 1 PM on Sundays

This 93 year old retired army colonel from Kerela is affectionately called Daduji. Its relatively easy to sit in a corner and speculate, or go around studying psychology and write major books about it. But there are not that many people we come across who’re like a living book – in fact an encyclopedia. Who can speak more than from mere logic/memory/theory, but in depth from their own personal experiences.

Anything I say about him would look like an exageration when one encounters him, considering his down to earth nature. But I must say that with his intense sparkling eyes, his brilliant wit and articulation make him a truly amazing individual. He’s one of those ordinary yet extraordinary people whom one can bump into around a corner in India, living a quiet simple retired life with his wife.

I had once recorded one of his classes and here are some short video clips taken by mobile uploaded over the weekend. They’re not actually of the class itself but more of generic post-class discussion, just gives an idea of his style of speaking.

More videos clips of Daduji from Maha Bodhi Society:

Video Clip 2,
Video Clip 3,
Video Clip 4,
Video Clip 5,
Video Clip 6,
Video Clip 7

6 Responses to “the ultimate treatise on psychology”

  1. preethi Says:

    What you have written is very true about western psychology.The theories of Carl jung where he uses a humanitarian approach of sirutuality and psychology is the perfect mix of east and west.Scott Peck,his book “the Road less travelled” is also a classic which bridges the gap between pasychology and spirutuality.

    Freud theories of crowd behaviour were used by hitler to control masses and wage wars.His nephew used the same theories to start PR agencies and the papparazzi cult in America was started.Brands of clothes,food were marketed using this theory.The ad’s used to focus on the unmet desires of the individual.If you dont have happiness or love is lacking in your life may be the new branded shoes can help you over come the grief.Capitalism thrives beacuse of this.Sadly India is also progressing in this direction.
    A good link for videos of this thoery is available here

    Best online documentaries

    Antropology section …The century of the self…

  2. msanjay Says:

    Had heard of Carl Jung’s name only so far – will check out his literature, it sounds good. The book sounds familiar, then recalled had come across it mentioned in one of Shruthi’s posts.

    Beginning of video looks pretty fascinating preethi, thanks for the link! First time I’m seeing any video of Sigmond Freud. Video quite a while to download so will bookmark it for viewing… (a good trick I think is to pause the video and keep the window open for a whle doing something else and then watch it after it downloads completely)

  3. anoop Says:

    was looking up the exact thing – a good book on Psychology. have not read many, ‘the road less traveled’ and ‘Sigmund Freud’ being the only ones. couldn’t complete freuds book. for me, psychology need not be in the form of such books. I feel psychology is better presented in the form of a well written story rather than a detailed analysis, the reason why i started liking ‘bhyrappa’ and ‘shivram karanth’ books. I still feel that a detailed analysis on the Indian psyche is due for a long time, as the so called psychology books (mostly western) analyse in detail things like intellect, thought process and various other things in the context of a westerner, which cant be appplied directly to an indian psyche. anyway, will take a look at the abhidhamma link.

  4. bellur ramakrishna Says:

    Really happy to see this blog up again.
    Feels nice to be here, Sanjay!
    Waiting for your Recipe posts…

  5. msanjay Says:

    thanks bellur! As I’m just starting to learn to cook it may be quite a while before I can write posts on it… but I’ve already made a lot of trivial but nice discoveries on ingredients and their proportions, shopping for them, heat, ecological waste management, dealing with pests non-violently, long list… 🙂

  6. trip to himavad gopalswamy betta | a common man ಸಂಜಯ Says:

    […] the temple, I remembered Daduji’s words… “what do Gods eat? They do not eat the fruits or flowers you offer […]

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