Four Assumptive Worlds of Psychopathy V: The World of Mental Illness

Four Assumptive Worlds of Psychopathy V: The World of Mental Illness

All of this homogenization leads to one simple conclusion: there is no need at any time in the near future for a radical revision in our perspectives. We don’t need to “rock the boat.” Our existing assumptive world four paradigm shall remain intact for many years to come. We may be doing some minor modifications from time to time (probably every decade) in DSM and will be demanding that old versions of this manual be destroyed since we are now closer to the truth. All is well in the world of mental health illness. Or is this true? Are we really any closer to the truth about psychopathy? How do we deal with the trouble-makers – someone like Thomas Szasz who many years ago began criticizing the prevailing paradigm?

Thomas Szasz and the Myth of Mental Illness

The critique offered by Thomas Szasz is not new. It can be traced back to his most influential book: The Myth of Mental Illness that was published in 1974. Yet, his observations and critical appraisal of the fourth assumptive world still seems to ring true. In seeking to give Szasz’s critique a fair hearing, I will offer both a “Weak Szasz Hypothesis” and a “Strong Szasz Hypothesis” (in keeping with the Weak and Strong Whorfian hypothesis I offered in the first essay). I will first offer the weak version – which most contemporary observers of mental health operations around the world can probably accept.

The Weak Szasz Hypothesis

This critique is directly in line with the social constructivist perspective I offered in the first essay: mental illness is a social construction and not an absolute “reality” At the very beginning of The Myth of Mental Illness, Szasz offers a quotation from Karl Popper (a noted philosopher and historian of science): “Science must begin with myths and with the criticism of myths.” In making this statement, Popper (and Szasz) are aligned with Thomas Kuhn and his structure of scientific revolution. Though Popper and Kuhn differ in many important regards in their narrative about science, they seem to agree that science is not simply (or even complexly) and compilation of proven, verifiable truths. There is a whole lot of speculation, bias and self-fulfilling prophecies lingering around the halls of science – and especially around the halls of those behavioral science practitioners who like to think of themselves as being rational, systematic and open, as Popper suggest, “to the criticism of [prevailing] myths [and paradigms].”


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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