Two Disciplines of Science That Feed from Each Other

We are amazing creatures, we are such complex beings that we formed disciplines in order to understand ourselves, to study profoundly how we operate and function. By this I mean Psychology as a discipline of science, which came into being approximately 100-150 years ago. Apart from social sciences, one can say that the focal point of all the disciplines of the humanities is human beings yet one differs from the others in that it meticulously examines and observes one’s feelings, emotions, thoughts, actions, what leads to what (from thought to action etc.) and puts them on paper with its concern to understand and depict human beings so that other wondering minds have a chance to hear about themselves, understand themselves, feel heard, understood and seen in those lines, the words of which are carefully chosen. This discipline is Literature.

Psychology and Literature are compatible in many ways. They can surely differ, but they have common points as well. Psychology operates by diagnosing, labeling a person’s condition as a result of their analysis whereas Literature portrays people in depth without labeling them. Many syndromes, disorders and complexes take their names from literary figures as the well-known psychoanalysts were inspired by their literary readings. For instance, “the White Bear problem” which is known as “Ironic Process Theory” in psychology was first mentioned by Dostoevsky in his travel accounts “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions”, which was later studied by psychologist Daniel Wegner.

Another important example comes from the renowned playwright Shakespeare’s Othello (1604). “Othello Syndrome” was named by the English psychiatrist John Todd (1914-1987) inspired by the character Othello to describe pathological jealousy.

Some people hate him and some still benefit from his theories in analytical essays in literature departments. Some of his theories, nevertheless, might still be acknowledged. Yes, I am talking about the famous Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the owner of contradictory yet to-some-extent-enlightening theories. Many people are familiar with the terms “Electra and Oedipus Complex,” coined by Freud and Carl Gustav Jung. The terms originate from the plays (Electra and Oedipus the King) of a creative mind; the great ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles.

Generally, authority figures in Psychology and Psychiatry claim that spending time in solitary confinement can cause a person to lose health after a while, and therefore it is not advised to do so. Let’s look at a great example of this in Literature, an author who reflected this brilliantly in one of his novellas. An Austrian author Stefan Zweig describes how a person is on the edge of losing his mind between the intervals of cell time and interrogations in his delicate novella “Chess Story (1943).”

In his essay “Is It Possible to Apply Literature to Psychoanalysis?” the French professor of Literature, Pierre Bayard states: “…Freud, inspired by literary texts, constituted psychoanalysis.” As it is seen from the many examples, one can claim that Literature precedes Psychology in many ways with its careful observations and discoveries of human nature in its works put forward way before Psychology did. However, when one reads a little bit about Zweig, one learns that he read a lot of Lacan’s and Freud’s theories and thus, in his descriptions of human psyche, he was able to go deeper along with his observations and reflections. Therefore, it can be said that the two disciplines feed from each other.



References used in the essay